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1951-1963 Peter Rudolph "Rudy" Olgiati

PR Olgiati 2 1951(Lived August 24, 1901 – August 6, 1989)

Rudy Olgiati’s mother moved the family from Gruetli (Grundy County), Tennessee to Chattanooga after his father died in 1913.  Olgiati grew up in the Alton Park and St. Elmo regions of Chattanooga.  Olgiati briefly attended the Chicago Technical Institute.  Olgiati worked for the Chattanooga Glass Company before going into construction work.  Olgiati began construction as a bricklayer but worked his way up to being superintendent of a very large construction company.

In the late 1930s, Olgiati joined the city’s department of Public Utilities and became superintendent of Warner Park.  Olgiati served in the United States Corp of Engineers during World War II, making the rank of major before being discharged in 1945. 

Less than a year after Olgiati returned to Chattanooga and his job at Warner Park, he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Chattanooga Commission.  Appointed Department of Public Service Commissioner in 1946, Olgiati ran for the seat the following year and won.  Four years later, Olgiati sought the Mayor’s seat and defeated incumbent Mayor Wasson.

Early in his first term, Mayor Olgiati announced a $100,000,000 “Program of Progress,” that he hoped to fund through federal grants.  Mayor Olgiati was successful in this and today is credited with laying the modern infrastructure of Chattanooga.  As the country planned for the national interstate system, Olgiati worked to assure that Chattanooga kept pace and under his guidance the city became the first in Tennessee to have a completed interstate system.

Mayor Olgiati sought re-election and won in 1955 and 1959.  He sought the Democratic Nomination for Governor of Tennessee in 1962 but lost to incumbent Buford Ellington. 

The list of major municipal projects completed during Mayor Olgiati’s include construction of a second tunnel through Missionary Ridge beside the McCallie Avenue Tunnel, the widening of Rossville Boulevard, completion of a third downtown bridge across the Tennessee River (named the Olgiati Bridge in 1959) and the modernization of the Lovell Field Airport.  Mayor Olgiati’s development of the city’s west side through the Golden Gateway Project included the controversial project of removing the top half of downtown landmark Cameran Hill.  Upon construction of an overpass on Dodds Avenue and  completion of the second ridge tunnel near McCallie Avenue, the city converted many of the city’s streets to one-way in an attempt to improve traffic.  At this time, McCallie, Bailey, and Martin Luther King Boulevard (at the time Ninth Street) became one-way.  Relocation of the railroad from downtown, and modernization of the city’s sewer system were also completed during Mayor Olgiati’s three terms.

Mayor Olgiati sought a fourth term as Mayor in 1963 but lost the election.

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea