Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Featured Chattanooga Areas: Signal Mountain

The view from Signal Point towards downtown Chattanooga
Signal Mountain is a unique and growing part of the larger Chattanooga community. It is not part of a mountain proper, but is instead located along portions of Walden's Ridge. Signal Mountain refers to the community along the edge of Walden's Ridge that overlooks Chattanooga, the Moccasin Bend of the Tennessee River, and the rest of the Tennessee River Gorge. The first neighborhood is from the late 19th century, when yellow fever and cholera epidemics in downtown Chattanooga drove those who could afford it to seasonal retreats. This historic neighborhood, Old Town even included a grand hotel, now converted to part of the Alexian Brothers senior living complex, and street car tracks that connected the increasing number of homes to the valley below, both for commuters and tourists staying at the Inn.

Over time, especially after cars became more common, Signal Mountain continued to grow. Growing backward from Old Town and the road up the front of the mountain, you can see Signal Mountain's development in the 1960s and 70s suburbs and, further back, more recent home from the 80s, 90s, and contemporary construction. What was once a small town of 200 homes has now expanded to the borders of other communities, such as the once-distinct town of Walden. Signal Mountain has gotten large enough to have its own school system. For years it was limited to Thrasher Elementary and Nolan Elementary, but in 2010 the Signal Mountain high school opened, transferring the district's students out of Red Bank High which Signal Mountain originally shared. Today Signal Mountain has some of the best schools in the Chattanooga area. The high school is the only IB Baccalaureate school in the area.  Signal is also close to Baylor School, one of the co-ed private schools in town and one of only two that take boarding students.

Signal Mountain is largely a middle and upper middle class community, ranging from modest historic bungalows and family-oriented split levels to spectacular luxury homes lining the brow overlooking the Tennessee Valley. On a clear day the view from the brow and Signal Point is unparalleled, offering views over 30 miles in range. To serve this comfortable demographic which is somewhat removed from downtown Chattanooga, there are a number of shops, restaurants, and services either on the mountain itself or at its immediate base.

A Wal Mart and an especially well-stocked BiLo serve the community at its foot, along with Shufford's Smokehouse, The Big Table, and some basic takeout restaurants-- Mexican, Chinese, Pizza. Atop Signal Mountain is a fantastic little Italian place, The Pastaria, and the Signal Mountain Pizza Place, which has phenomenal specialty pies like chicken cordon bleu pizza. There are also numerous other shops and restaurants that have really blossomed in the past 10-15 years. Signal Mountain even has its own farmer's market, saving residents from long trips to the markets downtown or in Brainerd. There are also many activities and entertainment options on Signal, from the Mountain Opry to the Signal Mountain Playhouse to extensive hiking trails. The trails on Signal, most notably those that run beneath Alexian and along the golf course from Signal Point past Rainbow Lake to Edwards Point and on into the sections of Cumberland trail that snake through the Tennessee River Gorge and Prentice Cooper national park.

An average home in the Fox Run subdivision on Signal Mountain
Signal Mountain's popularity and growth have taxed the infrastructure somewhat. The mountain only has two roads that provide access from the valley, and one, the W Road, is challenging to drive in foul weather and is sometimes closed for safety. The other road, Taft Highway, has suffered maintenance challenges in the past several years. The area also needs a city sewage system installed, as the area's rapid growth and increased density is heralding the end of Signal septic-only days. Despite these challenges and the longer commute to downtown, Signal only grows more popular for families looking for an established community that still feels like the small towns of yesteryear, without giving up on the amenities and employment opportunities of a larger city like Chattanooga. As an added bonus, Signal Mountain is one of the only areas of Chattanooga to receive regular snowfall, making it an especially unique community both in its unique personality, great natural wonders,