… People in St. Elmo show their positive, generous, pay-it-forward attitude on a day-to-day basis.
There are many unique attributes about the St. Elmo community located at the foot of Lookout Mountain — like a bustling and revitalized commercial area and the several historic churches and homes that have withstood the test of time since the neighborhood's founding in 1885.
Perhaps one of the more hidden and distinctive features, though, is the neighborhood's electronic mailing list, or email listserv.
The brainchild of 25-year resident Jeffrey Cross, the first message to be sent out on the St. Elmo listserv was in June 2002, and over the past 17 years or so, it has also withstood the test of time. With the era of Facebook groups and neighborhood apps such as Nextdoor, it's a bit of an anomaly that the email listserv is still the first stop for many people who need help finding a lost dog or cat, those selling furniture or their children's old toys, others needing recommendations for house painters or builders, business owners running specials and more.
St. Elmo in 3 words:
"Friendly, historic, eclectic."
— Jeffrey Cross
With about 7,500 messages sent a year, or 20 per day, Cross acknowledges it's a good representation of what the St. Elmo community is all about.
"I've just tried to encourage people to be positive," says Cross, who moderates and approves messages sent to it. "I think the kind of people who want to live in St. Elmo are already community-oriented people because they are not looking for a pretentious, super-well-groomed neighborhood where everybody's better than everybody else."
Over the years, the listserv has gained 1,500 members, which represents about half of the neighborhood's total population. In addition to the everyday matters discussed via the venue, Cross says it has also brought residents together in difficult times.
In November 2012, neighbors started a bank account and made donations to a family whose home was swallowed in a fire. A month later, a St. Elmo man was killed in a hit-and-run accident and neighbors took to the listserv to help raise funds and donations for his family in the accident's aftermath. They delivered meals and raised enough money to repair the family's heating system.
"Those were both big, notable events, but really, people in St. Elmo show their positive, generous, pay-it-forward attitude on a day-to-day basis: helping people track down lost cats and dogs; lending ladders or tools; providing assistance with computer problems; and of course, offering all manner of furniture, food, coupons, vintage house parts and appliances for free or a good price for anyone who can use them," he says.
As with all things on the internet, arguments have taken place on the listserv, too. Cross says he usually lets people express their viewpoints on contentious topics for a few days before shutting it down.
"Personality-wise, I've always been a fence-straddler," he says. "I'm the sort of person who sees both sides, so maybe that's part of the reason why I have been a pretty good person to [moderate] it. I'm always trying to put myself in other people's shoes."
Cross and his wife moved to the neighborhood when the makeup of the community was very different. Even through the immense changes in the last several years — new construction, rising home prices and an influx of new residents — St. Elmo has still kept a strong sense of community, he says. Cross and his wife raised four children in their home off Alabama Avenue, and his youngest daughter rides her bike around the neighborhood and cares for neighbors' beloved pets.
"People see examples of other people being generous on the email list," says Cross. "I don't want to claim a huge amount of credit for that, but I think it really has helped maintain the positive vibe of neighbors being neighbors."
3 of his favorite things about St. Elmo
2. Historic architecture
3. Sense of community
BY THE NUMBERS
WHO WE ARE
Median income: $39,699
Median age: 38
Two or more races: 4.9%
*2017 estimates. Since St. Elmo is unincorporated, information is for entire 37409 ZIP code, of which St. Elmo accounts for a large swath.
Source: 2017 American Community Survey
WHERE WE LIVE
Median home price: $186,000
Average rental price: $992
Source: NeighborhoodScout, U.S. Census Bureau
South Broad District
The nearby South Broad Street area, at the entrance to St. Elmo, is seeing significant development and activity. The South Broad District Study, released in early 2018, offers a vision and policy guide for the area, and several developments are already under construction.
A new ballpark for the Chattanooga Lookouts is envisioned to anchor and spur an even greater surge in development. The plan calls for a mix of retail and diversified housing in the 400-some acres between The Howard School, Interstate 24, Chattanooga Creek and the former Wheland Factory.
With proximity to St. Elmo as well as the growing Southside and all the infrastructure in each community, the South Broad area will be connected to both via upgraded sidewalks and dotted with parks. And, situated just off the newest portion of the Riverwalk, the area offers easy access to downtown via bike or walking.
Calvin Donaldson Elementary (preK-5)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 3/5 overall, 2/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 5/5 in science
» Building on a community push to add art to area schools, popular music sensation Usher Raymond, in partnership with State Farm and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, supplied Calvin Donaldson with art and music equipment and a full-time art teacher, enabling the school to provide all its students an art class each week.
East Lake Academy of Fine Arts (6-8)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 4/5 overall, 3/5 in language arts, 3/5 in math, 5/5 in science
Lookout Valley Middle/High (6-12)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 5/5 overall, 4/5 in language arts, 2/5 in math, 5/5 in science
Average ACT score: 20 composite
» Lookout Valley High is the site of several small, targeted learning communities, called Future Ready Institutes. Launched by the district in 2018, the Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education within each high school. LVHS is home to the Institute of Technology and Multimedia and the Institute of Automotive Maintenance and Manufacturing.
The Howard School (9-12)
Proficiency (TVAAS): 1/5 overall, 1/5 in language arts, 1/5 in math, 3/5 in science
Average ACT score: 15 composite
» In an effort to get more local students career-ready, the district debuted Future Ready Institutes at high schools in 2018. The Institutes partner with the local business community to offer career-themed education through small, targeted learning communities within each high school. Howard is home to the Erlanger Institute of Healthcare and Innovation, the Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the Institute of Robotics and Welding and the Institute of Architecture and Construction. The school's principal, LeAndrea Ware — a Howard alumnus — was named Hamilton County's Principal of the Year for 2018. Around the same time, Ware also celebrated the groundbreaking of the school's new track and stadium, slated to be completed in time for a fall 2019 grand opening.
Source: 2018 State Report Card, HCDE
*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.
The Howard middle school, which was closed in 2009, will be renovated and reopened as a magnet school in 2019 and serve The Howard High School feeder pattern, with students coming from Battle Academy, Clifton Hills and East Lake elementary schools.
A recently completed section connects 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.
» Two ongoing projects — one to fully connect the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway and the other to extend the system into residential areas in St. Elmo — will complete the 25-mile central hub of the Tennessee Riverwalk by the end of the year. So project leaders are shifting their focus to extending the trail system into neighborhoods to make it more accessible. The Trust for Public Land and its partners foresee a trail that doesn't stop at the Tennessee River but continues across into Hixson, Red Bank and the North Shore. One that also stretches south through Chickamauga and other towns in North Georgia and back up to Camp Jordan. The project could be 10-20 years from completion, but initial planning is already underway.
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 5 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.
Times Free Press readers especially love 1885 for its brunch and outdoor dining — they voted it one of three finalists for Best Outdoor Dining and Best Brunch in the 2018 "Best of the Best" readers choice awards. They also declared it the Best All-Around Restaurant. The restaurant bills itself as Southern coastal and offers a fusion of Southern and Gulf favorites. 3914 St. Elmo Ave. Call 423-485-3050.
This popular homegrown Tex-Mex restaurant recently expanded to offer more inside seating and a spacious patio overlooking St. Elmo and the mountain beyond. Sundays feature 99-cent tacos. 3950 Tennessee Ave. Call 423-822-6656 (MOJO).
St. Elmo Tap House
The neighborhood tap house features 30 taps with rotating beers, including local brews, ciders and gluten-free options. The bar also offers light fare such as sandwiches and meat-and-cheese plates. 3800 St. Elmo Ave. #114. Call 423-682-8234.
This new eatery is located right next to the Tap House in the same renovated building and is the venture of three local businesses: Mama Crunk Pies, Plus Coffee and Belle Chocolates. The large seating area is a great place to grab a cup of coffee, a snack and get some work or reading done. 3800 St. Elmo Ave., Suite 111. Call 423-805-0736.
Naughty Cat Cafe
In March 2019, St. Elmo became home to Chattanooga's first cat cafe. You can play games, read books, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and enjoy a locally baked good with a cup of coffee or a local craft beer — with a cat on your lap. The animals come from local shelters and rescues. In addition to connecting the cats with potential adopters, the mere socialization they receive at the cafe is said to help in the process. Reservations are highly recommended; only 15-20 people are allowed in at a time. 3742 Tennessee Ave., Suite 100. Call 423-541-4316 or visit naughtycatcafe.com to book.
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.
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.