A Tale of Two Laundry Sizes on Cameron Hill in Chattanooga


The opening paragraph of the “Laundry” entry on Wikipedia includes this observation: “Laundry has been a part of history since humans began wearing clothes, so the methods by which different cultures have dealt with this universal human need are of interest to several branches of scholarship.”

Our method of doing laundry when I was growing up was a Maytag washer-extractor whose operation fascinated me at age five. It was interesting to see the water being forced out of the clothes by the rollers. My mother was much less fascinated because of the time it took. She quickly upgraded to a more modern, less glamorous but more automated Maytag washer than the washer-extractor she was replacing.

Chattanooga’s urban pre-renewal, Cameron Hill, featured two laundries that used different formats. There was the Johnson Hand Laundry whose staff worked very hard to wash clothes using washboards, bar soap and manual labor. A later arrival was the 30-minute self-service laundry which used coin-operated machines.


Johnson’s Laundry first appeared in the Chattanooga City Directory in 1928. Charles H. Johnson was the owner of the company and employed various managers over time. He lived above his laundry business, according to the 1928 directory

The clothes were washed and air dried at 221 West Ninth St. near the Read House and near Chattanooga’s old five-point intersection of West Ninth, Chestnut, and Carter streets. It was a busy downtown area. Passengers arriving at the Union Depot across Ninth could have their laundry done at Johnson. The Arch L. Fox furniture store was an adjacent neighbor on West Ninth. You could buy a sofa while the laundry was soaped up.

On October 23, 1944, the Chattanooga Times reported that 26 Chattanooga businesses were replacing traditional coal-fired boilers with coal-fired boilers. Johnson Hand Laundry was on the list. The goal was to reduce air pollution in the Chattanooga area and was mandated by a July 1942 city ordinance.

The Johnson Hand Laundry continued through the late 1950s before its building was claimed by the Urban Renewal shaving.


Max Schleifer owned this establishment which started after the end of World War II. It was located across West 12e Street at 1224 Poplar St. Mr. Schleifer resided at 520 1/2 Arcadia Avenue on Cameron Hill, several blocks north of his business.

The laundromat era included automated washers and dryers that did most of the work once done by hand. After putting a few coins in the slot and loading laundry into the washer or dryer, one could shop next door at 1222 Poplar for groceries at Jake’s Food Market. Jacob Goldstein owned the neighborhood grocery store, one of many in Cameron Hill.

Mr. Schleifer was active in several business and religious activities in Chattanooga.

If you have any additional information about these companies and their owners, please email me at [email protected]


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