Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Featured neighborhood: St. Elmo



Mocassin Bend flight of beer
From hipsters to homeschooling parents to members of the Covenant College Presbyterian community, what ties St. Elmo residents together is a hip funkiness. It was one of Chattanooga's earlierst suburbs, formed in the late 1800s when yellow fever made many Chattanoogans leery of living downtown. Situated in a beautiful valley cradled by Lookout Mountain and the Tennessee River's famous Moccasin Bend, St. Elmo quickly filled with beautiful Victorian homes, from large wrap-around-porch ramblers to Craftsman style bungalows. It also served as an important link between downtown and homes on Lookout Mountain when the Incline Railway was the only convenient means of getting from valley to brow. For an indicator of just how important St. Elmo has been in Chattanooga history, look no further than the historic Forest Hills cemetary, where some of Chattanooga's most important figures are laid to rest.



The view from the Incline
Today the Incline serves more tourists than commuters, but it is still the centerpiece of St. Elmo's main square, which is ringed with eclectic businesses and restaurants. Some have been St. Elmo institutions for as long as anyone can remember, such as Mr. T's Pizza, The Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe and Tennessee Bouldering Authority rock climbing gym. Others are more recent, but have come to define the offbeat nature of modern St. Elmo, including Blacksmith's Bistro, Pasha's Coffee and Tea, Mojo Burrito, Mocassin Bend Brewery, and Collective Clothing. Set back from downtown proper, St. Elmo has also developed its own unique set of events. In March, a DIY St. Patrick's Day parade is put on by business owners and denizens. Every few weeks Mis En Scensters film society has a movie screening, bringing art films, Sundance hits, and foreign flicks to town that otherwise Chattanoogans would miss. For the past five years, the Incline Summer Concert Series has been a huge hit, offering free local bluegrass and world music in a family-friendly setting.

With so much to see and do, it's no wonder St. Elmo is a popular neighborhood. Homes for sale include rambling, well-restored turn of the century homes and smaller places in need of a little TLC after years as rentals. There's something for everyone, from DIY rennovation enthusiasts to those who want to quickly settle in to historic Southern charm. St. Elmo's unique pizazz makes it Chattanooga's equivalent to Atlanta's Little Five Points or Denver's Capitol Hill. For anyone looking for a historic home, a neighborhood close to downtown with its own attractions within walking or biking distance, a slightly offbeat community experience, or all three, St. Elmo is a great place to set your sights and set down roots.