St. Elmo, nestled at the foot of Lookout Mountain, is one of Chattanooga’s oldest suburbs and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded during the exodus from Chattanooga proper during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878, St. Elmo remained an independent municipality for many years before being incorporated into the city of Chattanooga in 1929. While at the turn of the century St. Elmo was a vibrant community, marked by burgeoning commerce and residential life, it fell into a state of disrepair by the 1970s.
Over the past few decades, however, an interest in revitalizing the community has taken root. Historic houses are being restored to their original splendor, and small businesses thrive in the commercial district. As part of the renewal movement, the Chattanooga Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency drafted a St. Elmo Community Plan in 2001 in an effort to establish the direction and vision for the historic district. According to the plan:
The goal for the St. Elmo community is to create and maintain a vibrant neighborhood in which residents of different ages as well as various racial, social, and economic backgrounds can live together in harmony, appreciating and enjoying each other’s differences as well as commonalties. It is the community’s ambition to make St. Elmo a neighborhood where people desire to live and visit.
Due to the efforts of St. Elmo’s greatest strength – its people – great strides have been made toward seeing this plan become a reality. From a community built playground to public art, the St. Elmo community is made up of individuals who understand the impact of working together toward a common goal and what can be accomplished with a little vision.
Additional Planning Efforts
In January 2014, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), through funding from Benwood Foundation and Lyndhurst Foundation, held a series of community charrettes to generate ideas for the St. Elmo "Town Center" and the adjacent community and civic facilities that connect St. Elmo to the Alton Park neighborhood. Mike Watkins, Architect and Town Planner, led the charrettes. "An Idea Share for St. Elmo" (hashtag #ideasforstelmo) took place over the course of a week and will result in a plan for the study area. Video of the charrettes can be viewed on CNE's youtube account.
In September 2013, St. Elmo's Virginia Avenue was one of two focus areas for the ThinkBike Workshop, a community-driven bicycle design workshop led by three Dutch bicycle transportation professionals, the City of Chattanooga Transportation Department, and the Regional Planning Agency. The 2-day workshop was funded through Benwood Foundation and the Dutch Cycling Embassy, with additional support from Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga. The Virginia Avenue team included neighborhood residents and business owners, as well as planning and engineering staff from City of Chattanooga, Regional Planning Agency, and TDOT. The teams presented their ideas at the 4th Floor, with over 150 people attending (hashtag #ThinkBikeCHA). The presentation and final report are on the Transportation Department's Transportation Resources Page. As a result of the workshop, the City Transportation Department recently applied for funding of the Virginia Avenue Neighborhood Greenway from TDOT and expects to hear whether this funding will be awarded in March 2014.
The Historic Zoning Commission is also responsible for overseeing property owners' exterior remodeling or new construction projects. Through consultation with their volunteers or through fines homeowners are encouraged to make their houses look the way these volunteers want them to. Non-compliance with the CHZ can mean having to demolish a remodel or face paying fines, and in some cases even double fines have been issued by Sarah Kurtz-Walker, historic planner for Chattanooga. Some volunteers for the board have also been known to insult and threaten the neighbors they represent through e-mails and unfriendly confrontations.
St. Elmo has an extremely active mailing list on st-elmo.org. Residents post asking for things like recommendations for hair dressers, offering free furniture, or just putting in their two cents. The mailing list has inspired its own parody Twitter account, StElmoMail.
A List of Businesses in St. Elmo
Food & Drink
- 1885 Grill
- Mojo Burrito
- Pasha Coffee and Tea
- Mr. T's Pizza & Ice Cream
- Slick's Burgers
- Purple Daisy
- St. Elmo Deli & Grill
- Sawasdee Thai Cuisine
- Moccasin Bend Brewing Company
Beauty & Wellness