As has been noticeable in recent weeks, some street sign “toppers” saying “Historic Riverview” have been put above the regular street signs at different places throughout the community.
While some of these historic signs in other longtime neighborhoods in Chattanooga were put up with more direct help and guidance from the city of Chattanooga, this was done primarily by the Riverview Neighborhood Association. According to Falmouth Road resident Marcy Porter with the association, it was done simply to remember the original boundary of the neighborhood dating to the early part of the 20th century. “We thought it would be nice to designate the original outline of the Riverview community, and that is why we named it Historic Riverview,” she said.
They simply chose the old boundaries at the time Riverview became its own municipality in 1913 before later becoming part of the city of Chattanooga. The date 1913 is also on the sign. The area recognized with the signs includes that within the Tennessee River on the east side, the area up near Bright School on the north, Hixson Pike on the west, and Hanover Street and Dorchester Road on the south end.
The idea for the signs, she said, came from fellow association member Mark Harman. “He organized it and raised the money from the neighbors, and he ordered the signs,” she said. “He is the one that led the charge.”
This area just north of the river, plenty of which has been documented in detailed stories in the Mountain Mirror by Judy Rowland, is almost as full of mystery as history, at least in determining its exact timeline and factors regarding development. That is, unless one takes the time to go through some old deeds or newspaper articles about apparently multiple ownership changes and land use ideas for this part of town.
Long before the town of Riverview was formed in 1913, much of the land had been owned for decades around the Civil War by the Beck family. But in about the late 1880s, as Chattanooga was starting to expand, the Chattanooga Land, Coal, Iron and Railway Co. was formed. It had as investors such people as H.C. Beck from the family, noted developer C.E. James, newspaper publisher Adolph Ochs, members of the prominent Montague family, architect and builder J.W. Adams, and a Creed Bates, perhaps an ancestor of the City High principal by the same name.
They had bought 5,000 acres around Hill City in North Chattanooga, 6,000 acres near the point of Waldens Ridge on Signal Mountain, and about 8,000 acres of coal-rich lands in the Chickamauga gulch, or valley. The latter is apparently up where North Chickamauga Creek begins near Soddy Daisy and Montlake Mountain.
The original investors evidently ran into some economic-related issues, although some such as C.E. James apparently continued a couple of decades later with plans to develop Signal Mountain with an inn, some cottage-like homes, and a golf course.
Around 1896, the North Chattanooga/Riverview part of the operation was now affiliated as the Chattanooga Land Co. with headquarters in Manchester, England, and was managed by a T.J. Nicholl. The British connection might be why many of the streets in this area have English names. They include Dorchester, Falmouth, Hanover, Tremont, Dartmouth, Lexington, Concord, Devonshire, Sterling and maybe some others.
And some of the names like Hillcrest and Riverview roads came after those streets originally had other names.
The English connection also might have been why the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club was founded in 1896 in that area along the river. More research might be required to see if the company and early club official Mr. Nicholl had pushed the golf course idea to help spur residential development in that area, or if some of the original club members who had been exposed to the game in the Northeast were more the innovators. Or maybe it was a little of both.
The firm, or similar Riverview development firms, were also involved in such projects as the development of a “normal” university near where Normal Park School was built, the old White Oak cemetery that was at the site of a spring and became Chattanooga Memorial Park, and the streetcars that ran to Signal Mountain and to Riverview Road near where No. 2 tee is now on the course. Some other Nicholl family members were also involved in some of these operations.
There was also an old drama house where the streetcar line ended in Riverview and which was used as the first clubhouse by the golfers on what was believed to originally be a nine-hole course.
An old quarry was also behind the current clubhouse, and rock from it was used for the Walnut Street Bridge piers and the old First Methodist Church on Georgia Avenue, the steeple of which is all that remains. And a sawmill for wood was evidently in front of the current No. 17 green, with a hole that was a course hazard until it was covered in the 1970s.
Places that were part of the original acreage owned by the development firm might have also included the area where the Frank Harrison family farm was and the Lupton City/Dixie Yarns mill and golf course, built years later. An amusement park had also been where the Chattanooga Country Club golf course was. Figuring out how or if all these fit together with the development company would require a little more investigation by a historical researcher.
Regarding the 1913 decision that was the inspiration of the current signs and that years ago allowed Riverview to become a municipality, it had evidently come about following a move by the state legislature, according to some newspaper articles found at the Chattanooga Public Library. Coca-Cola bottler J.T. Lupton of the new Lyndhurst mansion, Judge M.M. Allison, and Frank Spurlock were named the original commissioners in October 1913, and Mr. Allison was chosen as mayor two weeks later at the Allison home. The article discussed the boundaries, mentioning the John A. Patten Minnekahda home property on the north end, and a road named “Roxbury,” another English name, but now changed to something else, as another marker.
The story also mentioned that Riverview had 79 adult males who could vote in municipal elections. Among them was C.E. James, who would later become more connected with Signal Mountain. Women at that time were still seven years from having the right to vote.
It was a different era, but the olden times for this still very desirable neighborhood have come back to life again with the new signs.
by John Shearer