Tow truck legacy alive at Chattanooga's Tow Truck Museum

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WVLT) -- t's a little known fact that the tow truck was invented in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

If you find yourself driving the streets of downtown Chattanooga, you'll likely come across a nondescript building with blue letters that read 'Towing Museum.' But don't let the look of the building fool you, because inside lives the legacy and history of how the modern day tow truck came to be.

In 1916 a Chattanooga native by the name of Ernest Holmes came up with an idea to use a truck to help tow other vehicles. Until that point, there was nothing available to help stranded vehicles other than raw horse power, so Holmes put his idea on the four wheels of his 1913 Cadillac. The rest, as they say, is history.

But that history is alive and well in Chattanooga's Towing Museum.

"We house 19 tow trucks actually in here, and memorabilia. And we have a lot more. We have trucks downstairs," said the Towing Museum's executive director, Angela Roper.

The museum not only houses a replica of Holmes' first invention, it's jammed full with trucks that show off how the original has advanced.There's also a video presentation for visitors to watch to learn about how the tow truck came to be. There's also a wall dedicated to Holmes and how his idea revolutionized the world as we know it today.

"Without Ernest Holmes, we wouldn't have an industry. There might have come along after that...but he's the one who actually had the initiative to have it patented and go forward. And it's become a great industry. He was a very talented man," Roper said.

Another landmark the museum is proud to display actually sits outside the building, in front of the parking lot. Every year tow truck drivers are killed while responding to emergencies, and because of that, the museum has erected a wall to memorialize the lives that have been lost. To date, there are 392 names on that wall. Roper said there are an average of 60 drivers killed each year.

"The industry is very important. We're responders. A lot of people don't understand that. We're the last person that you want to see, but we're the ones that are going to help you and save you on the side of the road. It's important because that's our history, and for the people who are in our industry. It's important that you have a place you call home," Roper explained about the memorial wall.

So the next time you're driving through Chattanooga, Tennessee, stop and take a look through the world's only museum dedicated entirely to tow truck drivers and their dedication to helping others. It's an important stop because there's nothing else like it, and because it's a 100 year old invention that was Made in Tennessee.

"This is where we began. You have a place you can come and see what happened back then... it's here, how things were built, where it was created from, and it happened right here in Chattanooga," Roper said.

You can get more information about the towing museum, including visiting hours and how the city of Chattanooga is celebrating the tow truck's 100th birthday, by clicking the link to the museum's website.