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John Culpepper poses outside of the Walker County Regional History Museum in Chickamauga. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter
It's a little island in a crazy world; a kinder, gentler place to live.

Chattanooga native John Culpepper is one of Chickamauga, Georgia's biggest cheerleaders, though as its former city manager for 35 years, he comes by his favoritism honestly.

Culpepper, 73, moved to Chickamauga in 1958 and describes his hometown as "the jewel of Walker County."

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The historic Gordon-Lee Mansion. / / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

"I think we promote ourselves as two things with our history with the Battle of Chickamauga. First, we promote ourselves as the 'Gettysburg of the South' and, No. 2, as 'Mayberry,' because we're a small, quaint little town, easygoing, and downtown has had no major changes in 80 years," he says.

Chickamauga is a "step back in time" for visitors, and a small-town home for people who choose to live there, says Culpepper.

"One of the things that holds the city together is the school," he says of the town's centerpiece campus for Gordon Lee High School. Originally built in 1930 on land left by local businessman Gordon Lee, the school gained a new main building several years ago.

"You can pretty well walk anywhere you want to. You can walk from the residential areas to downtown, and you don't have to worry about walking at night." Chickamauga is "a bedroom community of Chattanooga, and Dalton to a certain extent," he describes.

"The natural course of things is a large percentage of young folks when they graduate and get on their own they normally move, but after they get their life made they seem to drift back home," Culpepper says. "It's a little island in a crazy world; a kinder, gentler place to live."

Chickamauga attracts people who are looking for a close-knit community where neighbors know each other. "It's a perfect place for young couples to start their families and a perfect place for retirees to settle in. It's got everything you need in walking distance."

 

THREE OF HIS FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT CHICKAMAUGA

1. Small-town atmosphere

2. Quality of life

3. Good schools and recreation facilities

 

LOCAL FLAVOR

When it comes to mealtime, something smoky and juicy from Thatcher's BBQ and Grill or a rich, spicy offering from Los Potros Mexican Restaurant is at the top of Culpepper's list.

Thatcher's BBQ and Grill

505 W. Ninth St. Call 706-375-9269.

» Culpepper isn't the only one for whom Thatcher's is one of the best restaurants in town. Its babecue and ribs each claimed the respective first place in 2019's Best of the Best Chattanooga Times Free Press' readers' choice awards. The Grind Coffee Shop, also located in Chickamauga, won for Best Local Coffee Shop.

Los Potros Mexican Restaurant

201 Lee Ave. Call 706-375-4111.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Median household income: $48,469

Population: 3,139

Median age: 35.9

White: 96.8%

African-American: 2%

Two or more races: 1.2%

Hispanic: 0%

Asian: 0%

*2017 estimates.

Source: 2017 American Community Survey

 

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John Culpepper poses outside of the Walker County Regional History Museum in Chickamauga. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

WHERE WE LIVE

A recent search on Zillow showed 109 homes for sale in Chickamauga with a median home value of $110,300, comparable to neighboring Flintstone and higher than neighboring LaFayette. Home listing prices in Chickamauga generally ranged from $75,000 to $600,000, and home values were expected to rise 3.4%.

Source: Zillow

 

OUR SCHOOLS

Chickamauga has its own school district for city residents and tuition-paying non-residents.

Chickamauga Elementary (K-5)

Enrollment: 538

Report Card (2017-18): Schoolwide grade D (69.5)

» Overall performance is higher than 41% of schools in the state but is lower than the Chickamauga City Schools district.

» Academic growth is higher than 54% of schools in the state.

» 54.9% of CES third-graders are reading at or above grade level target.

Gordon Lee Middle

Enrollment: 331

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (77.2)

» Overall performance is higher than 66% of schools in the state and similar to the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 29% of schools in the state.

» 54.8% of GLMS eighth-graders are reading at or above grade level target.

Gordon Lee High

Enrollment: 436

Report Card: Schoolwide grade B (89)

» Overall performance is higher than 91% of schools in the state and higher than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 94% of schools in the state.

» Four-year graduation rate is 99%, which is higher than 98% of high schools in the state.

» 87.2% of GLHS graduates are "college and career ready."

Source: 2017-18 Georgia School Grades Reports

 

WHAT WE DO FOR FUN

Candlelight Forest

Situated on a ridge adjacent to private getaway and residential community Cloudland Station, the Forest encompasses 250 acres filled with babbling brooks, sparkling mountain lakes and sun splintered coves connected with hiking trails and old mountain roads. Three short-term rental houses are located on the property, which welcomes recreational users, either through day passes or annual memberships. The new event venue, Candlelight Ridge, just debuted its "Adventure in Dining Supper Club" in March, with the second and third events coming up in June and late fall. Each session is open to the public and has its own theme, features a different chef, and includes a different outdoor activity on the scenic grounds of Candlelight Forest. 9862 Ga. Hwy. 193. Call 404-297-4350.

Chickamauga Battlefield

This sprawling park — the largest military park in the country — memorializes the turning point of the Civil War and those who died there. The Battle of Chickamauga was one of the bloodiest battles of the war; there were 30,844 casualties among more than 100,000 men engaged on both sides. More than 1,000 markers scattered across the battlefield show the ebb and flow of fighting. They were placed by Union and Confederate veterans after the end of the war as part of the dedication of the nation's first military park in 1895, which today draws more than 900,000 visitors each year. 3370 Lafayette Road. Call 706-866-9241.

Gordon-Lee Mansion

Today a popular wedding venue, construction of the antebellum home was completed in 1847 for the family of James and Sarah Gordon. The mansion is open for spring, summer and Christmas candlelight tours offered by the volunteer Friends of the Gordon-Lee Mansion group, which supports the historic home's upkeep. The house was used by the Union Army for Gen. William Rosecrans' headquarters. It was here that the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was conceived when former Union and Confederate troops returned to smoke the peace pipe during the Blue-Gray Barbecue, an event commemorated annually through the town's Blue and Gray BBQ. 217 Cove Road. Call 706-375-4728.

Lee and Gordon's Mills

Beginning in the 1830s, this served as a gristmill and general store for those in the area, making it one of the oldest mills in North Georgia. An important site for both Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War, it served as the headquarters for Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg in in September 1863 before he moved south and Union forces occupied it. The mill today houses the Veterans of All Wars Museum and is open Tuesday-Sunday. 71 Red Belt Road. Call 706-375-6801.

Veterans Memorial Park

A Huey Helicopter, a symbol of the Vietnam War, stands sentry in the middle of this community park, which features a walking track and trails, a pavilion, playground and beach volleyball court. Spring through fall, the park is the site of the community Movies in the Park series. Corner of Crittenden Avenue and West Eighth Street.

 

DETAILS

BIG EVENTS

Every May, the city hosts Down Home Days, which includes music, a parade, dancing, food vendors and crafts. Each summer, family friendly movies are shown in Veterans Memorial Park. In September, the city hosts the Blue and Gray BBQ, with living history demonstrations, tours, a quilt show and a barbecue contest. October brings the Merchants Pumpkin Fest, with pumpkin-themed contests, kids' activities, live music and vendors. In December, the city hosts a Christmas in the Streets parade with activities at the Chickamauga Depot and Welcome Center before the parade.

 

LOCAL LIBRARY

Chickamauga Public Library

306 Cove Road; 706-375-3004

Monday, Wednesday: Closed

Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thursday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday: 9 a.m. to noon

 

CITY SERVICES

The Chickamauga City Council meets the first Monday of every month at 7:30 p.m. City Hall is at 103 Crittenden Ave. and can be reached at 706-375-3177.

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