The tract of land on which Covenant College is located has been a pioneer’s home place and a plush resort. Under a treaty in 1819, the land lay along the northern boundary of the Cherokee Nation. After the Indians were forced westward along the Trail of Tears, the land was seized by the federal government and was ordered auctioned to benefit the widows and orphans of the War of 1812.
Robert M. Parris took the bid on a large portion of land, later adding to his holdings through purchases from a widow and her two daughters. In 1856 he sold 400 acres to C. C. Jackson for one dollar per acre. Jackson settled with his family in a cabin near Frontier Bluff. (The family cemetery remains in a protected area below the College.) Sallie Jackson remembered hearing the cannon and musket fire from the Battle of Chickamauga; family members watched the battle from the top of Jackson Hill. Later, federal troops used the Jackson land as a camp.
The Lookout Mountain Hotel (now Carter Hall) was built in 1927 as a posh resort at a cost of $1,450,000. Paul Carter’s plans called for 200 guest rooms, the South’s largest ballroom, and a tower to stand ten stories high. The hotel opened in 1928 offering swimming, tennis, horseback riding, dancing, hiking, golf, and elegant meals. The Great Depression proved its downfall, however, and two more attempts to salvage it as a hotel failed.
Hugh Smith of Huntsville, Alabama, learned of the property in the early sixties and saw its potential as a college site. He recommended the idea to the Covenant College trustees, then in St. Louis. Since the College had outgrown its facilities there, the decision was made, after much debate and some delay, to move to Lookout Mountain. Smith was assisted by Harold Finch.
Renovations were made and the dedicatory service was held September 19, 1964.
A two-year exterior restoration of Carter Hall was completed in the summer of 2017.