There are few people who will vouch for their neighborhood as much as Chelsey Breedy does hers, but as president of the St. Elmo Neighborhood Association, she's got more reason than most to take pride in her community.
Breedy says she bounced around Chattanooga for a while when she came to the Scenic City back in 2012, but finally landed on the small, residential neighborhood which sits between the Southside and the Georgia state line.
"I first moved to Signal Mountain and then Chickamauga, but I worked in Hixson so I was driving through St. Elmo every day to get to work, and I thought it was a cute neighborhood with a lot of personality," she says. "I wound up finding a surprisingly affordable rental in the neighborhood, and I got this place last May."
Breedy says there were a lot of things that attracted her to the neighborhood, but one of the biggest factors is how interconnected neighbors are with each other. There are fewer than 3,000 people who call St. Elmo home, but it's an eclectic group with strong interpersonal connections, she says.
"It's a close-knit community feel we have. It really feels like everybody knows everybody," Breedy says. "We have all ages living here, young families, retirees; all races and ethnicities. You see a lot of these neighborhoods close to downtown Chattanooga almost being gentrified, and it takes a lot of the multicultural differences away, but this remains a diverse community."
With a group like that, it's not hard to find people willing to step forward and play a larger role in St. Elmo's future. Breedy says all that civic engagement is what pulled her into her current role in the neighborhood association.
"We have a group in the neighborhood who likes to put on special events and they're all for that whenever we want to have a block party or a chili cook-off, and then there's another group that's really into historical zoning and they've formed what is almost their own committee," she says.
"When I first joined the neighborhood association, I was the recording secretary, and I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I thought, if I love the neighborhood so much, why not use some of that time to put something into it?"
Part of the reason people want to invest so much in St. Elmo, she says, is that by preserving the neighborhood, people are preserving history — most of the homes were built in the early 1900s. St. Elmo is also home to the bottom station of the world's steepest passenger railway, the Incline, built in 1895.
"Just knowing the age of the neighborhood when you buy your house creates almost this kind of unique pride in owning this piece of history," Breedy says.
But there are more than enough modern attractions to pull in and keep new residents. Between the nearby trailheads, shops and restaurants to suit any palate, there's something for everyone.
"You don't have to leave St. Elmo if you don't want to," Breedy says. "Everything is here."
BY THE NUMBERS
WHO WE ARE
Average age: 45
WHERE WE LIVE
Median home price: $167,513
Average rental price: $935
Battle Academy (K-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 4/5 overall, 4/5 in literacy, 4/5 in numeracy
» Recognized as a Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America in 2006 & 2013; demand exceeds the number of spots available each year. Last year, Battle third-grade teacher Katie Baker was one of about 35 educators nationwide to receive a Milken Educator Award for accomplishments in the classroom.
Calvin Donaldson Elementary (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 4/5 overall, 4/5 in literacy, 3/5 in numeracy
East Lake Academy of Fine Arts (6-8)
Proficiency (TVAAS):1/5 overall, 3/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy
Lookout Valley Middle/High (6-12)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 3/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy
ACT scores:21.2 composite, 20.4 in English, 20.8 in math, 21.6 in reading, 21.3 in science
The Howard School
Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 2/5 in literacy, 1/5 in numeracy
ACT scores:15.4 composite, 14.1 in English, 16.1 in math, 14.6 in reading, 16.1 in science
» Howard could soon see a middle school returned to its campus and its stadium and track refurbished as part of a new sports facility. The safety of both have been questioned, though last year the local Kiwanis Club pitched in to install 14 fitness stations and a 1.5-mile trail surrounding the athletic fields that are open to the community.
Source: 2017 State Report Card
*The Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System scale runs from 1-5, with 1 denoting the least effective schools/districts and least amount of progress toward the Standard for Academic Growth.OUTDOOR RECREATION
A recently completely section connects the outskirts of St. Elmo to downtown and points beyond via a scenic, paved path popular with cyclists, joggers and those simply out for a stroll. Public bikes are available for rent at the Wheland Foundry trailhead behind Crust Pizza on Broad Street. The free Tennessee Riverpark Mobile App offers both iPhone and Android users interactive maps, videos and more to enhance the experience along with their understanding of Chattanooga's industrial history, the Civil War and the birthplace of Bessie Smith.
The area also has a more rugged side in the number of nearby trailheads and paths of varying difficulty. The Guild Trail, for example, stretches five miles from St. Elmo to the top of Lookout Mountain, connecting hikers and mountain bikers of varying abilities to the spiderweb of trails atop Lookout — an overall network that continues to grow and connects with others that will one day stretch from Alabama to New York as part of the Great Eastern Trail. Similarly, the Riverwalk is planned to extend from the Wheland Foundry to a trailhead in St. Elmo to more easily connect users to trails farther afield.
The Boulders at Old Wauhatchie
Already a popular though under-the-radar spot for climbers, the experience has been given the formal green light as Lookout Mountain Conservancy, which owns the property, works to make it safer. Five boulders officially opened to the public Oct. 1. Work continues to get the rest of the 26 up to snuff safety-wise.
WHERE WE LIKE TO EAT
3914 St. Elmo Ave. | 423-485-3050
Times Free Press readers especially love 1885 for its brunch and outdoor dining, voting it a finalist in the 2017 "Best of the Best" contest in both categories. The restaurant bills itself as Southern coastal and offers a fusion of Southern and Gulf favorites.
3950 Tennessee Ave. | 423-822-6656 (MOJO)
This popular homegrown Tex-Mex restaurant recently expanded to offer more inside seating and a spacious patio overlooking St. Elmo and the mountain beyond.
Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe
4001 St. Elmo Ave. | 423-822-6477
This popular lunch spot serves an all-American menu of barbecue, sandwiches, burgers and more, even offering Kool-Aid and family picnic baskets.
Mr. T's Pizza
3924 Tennessee Ave. | 423-825-6787 (MRTS)
Known as much for its heaping ice cream scoops as for its scratch-made pizza, Mr. T's offers limited delivery as well as in-house dining.
St. Elmo Deli and Grill
3931 St. Elmo Ave. | 423-825-5555
This small shop elevates sandwiches with ingredients like housemade pineapple chutney and fresh bread from local Bluff View Bakery.
St. Elmo does not have its own municipal government, and is instead governed by the city of Chattanooga.
The Chattanooga City Council meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Council Building behind city hall, located at 1000 Lindsay St. The meeting is live-streamed, as are the preceding agenda session and department reports which start at 3 p.m. View meetings at ustream.tv/channel/chattanooga-council-meeting. View agenda sessions at ustream.tv/channel/city-council-committee-meeting.
Recycling: The city offers free curbside recycling and provides containers for the single-stream service. Save for glass, most household items are accepted. Call 311 to see if your address lies within the pickup area and to start service.
South Chattanooga Library 925 W. 39th St.; 423-643-7780
Monday, Thursday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.