Support Us Button Widget

Meet the Community Association of Historic St. Elmo

We’re back with another edition of our Neighborhood Association series, diving into the historic St. Elmo and what the goals of the CAHSE are.


Learn about one of Chattanooga’s oldest neighborhoods. | Photo by NOOGAtoday

At the base of Lookout Mountain sits one of Chattanooga’s oldest suburbs with a rich history. So, sit back and get ready to meet your neighbors, because we’re diving into the Community Association of Historic St. Elmo (CAHSE).

Current President Nathan Bird (who some of you might recognize from Chattanooga Civics) said that the beginning of an association in St. Elmo began back in the 1970s. Let’s take a look at a quick timeline.

Late ‘70s
Originally known as the St. Elmo Improvement League, an interest in starting a neighborhood association was driven by folks who saw the disinvestment as the once vibrant area declined.

“Talking to people who lived here at the time, it was not the best place to be,” Bird said. “But people recognized the charm of the neighborhood, the historic value of the neighborhood.”

A white historic home in the St. Elmo neighborhood.

Fun fact: St. Elmo began as an independent municipality before being incorporated into the city in 1929.

Photo by NOOGAtoday

In the ‘90s
Around this time, CAHSE was helping the effort of designating St. Elmo as a historic zoning district. Bird said that this was the beginning of the area becoming a premier neighborhood again.

“People really invested in these historic homes, bringing them back to life,” he said.

Bird also said CAHSE would invite people to tour the historic homes in the neighborhood — something they are hoping to bring back.

Early 2000-2010s
Major focus points for the association during these years included working with the city to preserve Hawkins Ridge from development + turning an abandoned lot into the neighborhood’s playground.

Bird said CAHSE raised the money to build the park which has since been renovated by BlueCross BlueShield in recent years + serves as a community hub.

In 2015, CAHSE also built the branding package and logos you see around the neighborhood to help build its identity + unity.

Present day
Bird (who moved to the neighborhood around three years ago) said that CAHSE was in the process of trying to revamp after the COVID-19 pandemic + that he immediately began helping.

“I knew neighborhood associations are kind of where people can put their boots on the ground and start getting involved with their neighborhood,” he said.

Now, CAHSE acts as a six-person charter board with a fluid committee system to respond to the changing needs of the area. These are:

  • Zoning + Development | Looking at the way St. Elmo is being developed and giving feedback to agencies and the district council member.
  • Traffic Safety | Putting together a strategy for comprehensive neighborhood traffic safety (reporting to 311, holding meetings with CDOT, etc.).
  • Safety + Security | Corresponding and relaying information to the Chattanooga Police Department in relation to crime + solving hazards like gaps in park fences.
  • Advancement | Finding grant opportunities to further the efforts of CAHSE.
  • Events + Civic Engagement | Organizing community events like Hello, St. Elmo and the Corgi Parade + conducting a survey to identify priorities for the residents.
Folks walking in the Hello, St. Elmo! Corgi Parade

After neighbors spearheaded the Corgi Parade and Hello, St. Elmo, CAHSE adopted the responsibilities of the events.

Photo provided by CAHSE

What is CAHSE focusing on currently? Bird said a long-term goal is to curb the major traffic hazards affecting the neighborhood. St. Elmo is working with the city + state to bring down speeding and bring in traffic calming solutions.

He added traffic calming is in the works for Tennessee Avenue + that CAHSE is working to get Virginia Avenue, the local greenway, better protected and more crosswalk designations.

“My passion and the reason why I ran is the traffic issue,” Bird said. “If you’re driving through St. Elmo, we love having you here, [...] but please drive slowly and watch out for pedestrians.”

Bird said other goals CAHSE is focusing on is making Hello, St. Elmo sustainable for years to come, looking at bringing back certain events like the Makers Market + looking into creating a St. Elmo business league.

New to the neighborhood or still not involved? Sign up for the St. Elmo email list or hit up a monthly meeting to hear from CAHSE + community partners to learn about resources right outside your front door.

“The neighborhood association has been able to act as a middle ground between different levels of government,” Bird said. “It allows us to kind of act as that liaison to filter problems up to a city or county level.”