Neighborhood: Alton Park

Neighborhood: Alton Park

March 27th, 2011 in Chattanooganow2011

Children play checkers at the Bethlehem Center. Alton Park has launched many black leaders into public life in Chattanooga.

* Rough borders/geographic area: North, 33rd Street; south, State Line Road; east, Chattanooga Creek; west, South Broad/Tennessee Avenue.

* Date founded/organized: Incorporated into Chattanooga in 1917.

* Landmarks or geographic features: The Bethlehem House traces its roots to 1920 when the Wesley Center program was founded near Polk and East 16th streets. The Bethlehem Center at Phillips Temple CME Church was founded in 1921. The center was established in its present location in 1960 and incorporated in 1967 as United Methodist Neighborhood Centers Inc. Bear's Barber Shop, off Alton Park Boulevard, has been part of the neighborhood more than 40 years.

* Unique characteristics: The Villages, 57 acres of mixed-income family housing, was developed on the former McCallie Homes public housing site - named after Spencer J. McCallie, who in 1905 started the McCallie School with his brother, James Park McCallie, and their father, T.H. McCallie.

* Famous residents: In 1998, Alton Park Middle School was named after John P. Franklin Sr., the school's first principal. The son of the founder of Chattanooga's first black-owned funeral home, he launched a political career in 1971 when he ran for commissioner of health and education and later was vice mayor. He became the city's first black elected official since Reconstruction. Roy Noel, precinct chairman, teacher and community activist, was among 10 people who helped found the Chattanooga African-American Museum in 1982.

* Historic information: In 1901, Alton Park was an all-white neighborhood with 635 residents. Manufacturing was key to the economy. Chattanooga Glass was among the factories whose workers lived in company housing in the late 1930s and early '40s. Urban renewal and the development of public housing in 1950s and '60s brought many blacks to live in McCallie Homes and Piney Woods.

* Odd/unique traditions: The Southside Family Reunion, usually in June and centered on Harris Johnson Park. The celebration includes T-shirts, food and performers.

* Schools: Calvin Donaldson Elementary and Howard School of Academics and Technology. It is also zoned for East Lake Elementary, Orchard Knob Middle and East Lake Academy.

* Best-kept secret: It used to make or break local elections.

* Fun fact: Hawkins Ridge is a natural border between Alton Park and St. Elmo.