Neighborhood Guide: St. Elmo

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We like to think of St. Elmo as a not-so-hidden gem — it’s out of the way from downtown, but still close enough to stumble upon, and certainly not out of sight. It’s also a little bit of everything — quirky, hip, historic, and as long as you’re not there on the day of the corgi parade, relatively quiet. If you haven’t explored in a while, it might be time to rediscover why so many people — maybe even you — love to call it home.

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Ride the incline then head next door for a scoop of ice cream at Clumpies. | Photo by NOOGAtoday

Need to know

According to Walk Score, St. Elmo is a fairly car-dependent neighborhood, but the community offers a variety of nearby coffee shops, restaurants, and fun activities nearby that many neighborhood residents can walk to. Bonus: Earlier this year, the Riverwalk extension from the Blue Goose Hollow Trailhead to the beginning of the St. Elmo area was completed, meaning residents can get from St. Elmo to downtown without a car.

The community of ~2,692 people is well-known for its historic homes, location at the base of Lookout Mountain, and as the site of the Incline Railway.

The early days

Once called “Lookout Town,” in the days before Chattanooga was known as Chattanooga, St. Elmo was occupied by Cherokee warriors who had migrated to the area and became known as Chicamaugas.

Later, Scottish immigrant Daniel Ross + his wife Mollie McDonald Ross built a home in the area, where they raised their son John Rossthe John Ross. The name St. Elmo came many years later, after much of the land was acquired by Colonel Abraham Malone Johnson + his wife Thankful Whiteside Johnson — it was taken from the title of a novel written by Augusta J. Evans Wilson, who had spent several summers on Lookout Mountain and thought the view was comparable to that of St. Elmo Castle in Naples, Italy.

In 1890, Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park was established + gave way to the growth of St. Elmo as a residential community.

Can’t miss

Running low on time? A trip to St. Elmo isn’t complete without a stop at the highest-rated cat café in the world, Naughty Cat Café, a ride on the Incline + a scoop of ice cream from Clumpies Ice Cream Co., so be sure to factor them into your day. You’ll thank us later.

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Riding the incline is a St. Elmo must-do (as long as you’re ok with heights). | Photo by NOOGAtoday

Outdoors

Beyond the historic charm of St. Elmo is its proximity to Lookout Mountain, where a mecca of outdoor activities await. If you’re looking to get outside closer to town, you can:

Eat + drink

St. Elmo’s got something for everyone to enjoy — ice cream, pizza, burgers, beer, coffee, outdoor seating + more.

  • Stop by The Tap House + Empyreal Brewing for one of the best burgers in town + a solid beer selection, plus trivia on Wednesdays and comedy on Mondays.
  • Grab a slice of (in our opinion, seriously underrated) pizza with homemade dough from Mr. T’s — there are even vegan options.
  • Take your pup to 1885 Grill — rated one of the best restaurants to bring your dog by Forbes — and enjoy the patio + delicious southern coastal dishes.
  • Get your morning cup of joe at Goodman Coffee Roasters — this location is attached to the roastery, so the smells are fantastic.

Entertainment

Looking for a way to spend an evening out in St. Elmo, or wanna try something new? This neighborhood has lots of unique entertainment options.

  • Enjoy a glass of wine or lay back with a beer while listening to various artists play live at neighborhood bar + music venue The Woodshop Listening Room — soon, the spot will also be breaking into the daytime scene.
  • Hang out with 30 cats — all adoptable, btw — while sipping on locally-brewed coffee at Naughty Cat Café. See how our own experience at the café went.
  • On the hunt for adventure + history? Take a ride on the historic Incline Railway that boards in St. Elmo — once you get to the top of the mountain, be sure to check out Point Park. Pro Tip: Editor Brianna’s mom would probably advise you not to ride if you have a fear of heights.
  • The first sign that you’re entering St. Elmo is catching sight of the International Towing Museumthe world’s only towing museum, actually.

What’s new

St. Elmo is steadily growing. Beyond the Riverwalk extension, several new businesses recently opened or are preparing to open — their doors.

  • Amigos Mexican Cocina just opened its St. Elmo location right in the “downtown” area with menu items like jalapeno bacon dip, grilled carnitas fajitas, and spicy veggie enchiladas.
  • A St. Elmo Farmers Market is set to get started soon at the foot of the Incline Railway.
  • While Mojo Burrito closed down its iconic St. Elmo location last year, we’re anticipating the arrival of a new Niel family concept (of Main Street Meats + Easy Bistro) in the space, Little Coyote, set to open in “late 2022.”
  • A new yoga studio is also set to take the place of former plant shop The Secret Garden (but don’t worry, the plant business is still kicking).
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There’s no shortage of beautiful, historic homes in St. Elmo. | Photo by NOOGAtoday

Where to live

If you’re sold + looking to buy a home in the area, here are some housing options currently on the market:

  • 106 Everett St. | 5 BD, 3 BA | $499,000 | This 1930s home with all new electrical, plumbing, insulation, doors, windows, appliances, roof, floors, and sewer lines is beautiful + perfect for a larger family.
  • 1313 W. 46th St. | 5 BD, 3 BA | $379,000 | This home has a spacious backyard for kids, pets, or an outdoor hangout + beautiful mountain views.
  • 1605 W. 54th St. | 2 BD, 1 BA | $179,900 | Looking for a fixer-upper? This historic home (only a ~3 minute walk to The Woodshop Listening Room) in the area is a great option.
  • 4202 St. Elmo Ave. | 8 BD, 6 BA | $1.195 million | St. Elmo’s old Masonic lodge became this updated duplex that’s ready for a new owner and/or tenants.
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