What makes Lookout Mountain home

What's on your summer bucket list? A hike to Glen Falls? A mountain bike ride on the Cloudland Connector Trail? Or maybe a road trip to Nashville to see Alan Shuptrine's new watercolor exhibit?

The season has already kicked off with Community Movie Night. There's another in August and here's 5 reasons you can't miss it. Get ready for the fun, because summers on Lookout are anything but lazy!

Fairyland Elementary Ranks 20th in the State

image description

Parents and students at Fairyland Elementary know their school is special. But a recent statewide assessment let everyone else in on the secret.

Recent College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI scores rank Fairyland 20th in the state for K-5 Elementary Schools (out of 1,172) and 27th out of ALL schools.

The score of 96.7 was especially meaningful since Georgia elementary schools saw an overall decrease this year from 77.8 to 72.6. It was also a six point improvement from FES’ score last year. CCRPI is a fairly new assessment, instituted in 2012 to replace pass/fail system under No Child Left Behind.

I am amazed, humbled, and proud of this score as it is a testament to the amazing things our teachers, staff, administration, parents, and community do when we all embrace and support this wonderful school,” says Principal Jeremy Roerdink.

And while scores are meaningful, a picture’s worth a thousand words…or video in this case. Lee Wright, senior producer at Wadel Media and FES parent created the promotional video “We Are Fairyland” as a gift to the school. Roerdink says they plan to showcase it on their upcoming PTO website and school website.

WATCH NOW on Vimeo or YouTube

Construction Begins for Largest Lookout Mountain Development in Decades

image description

Source: Frank Brock

If you’ve driven past Brow Wood development lately, you’ve noticed quite a change in the landscape. Across the street, nearly every tree has been cleared to make way for one of the most exciting developments Lookout has seen in decades – the Village at Brow Wood.

“Everyone is really astounded at how different it looks,” says founder Frank Brock. “I think it reminds people how big this project really is.”

Gen Tech Construction will build the buildings for the $10.5 million project, utilizing state-of-the-art technology to ensure a relatively quick turnaround. Clearing the site in just two-and-a-half weeks, they hope to complete the project this time next year.

“Technology has really changed the way construction is done,” explains Brock. “For example the bulldozers are equipped with GPS devices that allow them to survey the land as they go, grading within a few inches of precision.”

In six to eight months, Thrive aims to hire the Village’s director so he or she can meet fact-to-face with potential new residents and interview employees before the facility opens. Within the next month or so, Brock hopes to have the Village’s website live so people can sign up for more information.

The Village at Brow Wood will offer eight different room types. And while prices have yet to be set, Thrive is confident their rates will be competitive in the Chattanooga market, says Brock.

“People keep asking if the pricing is available or if there is a waiting list,” he says. “The answer is ‘not yet.’ But we hope to have both available within the next four to six months.”

The Assisted Living and Memory Care community will feature 49 rooms (including 15 for memory care), luxuriously appointed resident apartments, a spa, beauty salon, fitness center, doctor’s office, two courtyards, a dining room with three meals a day, and home theater. Rich wood and granite details will accent the warm-toned décor, reflecting the natural beauty of its Lookout Mountain setting.

If this doesn’t sound like your typical assisted living facility, that’s precisely the point. Brock and his partners selected Atlanta-based Thrive Senior Living to operate the facility because of their innovative approach to senior care.

“They strive for a resort-style, home-like atmosphere, which really appealed to us,” says Brock. “We’ve always thought of the Village as an informal place where people can be together and have experiences that will enrich their quality of life. Being at home alone with sitters is not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Lookout Mountain Welcomes "World's First" Hotel

image description

Source: Treehouse Project

In a few short months, Lookout Mountain will welcome a high-rise unlike any other in the world. But instead of steel and concrete, this one will be made of mostly reclaimed wood and antique windows, and it will blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings. In fact, it’s going to be in a tree.

“Our goal is to have a really unique space that provides outdoor reconnection,” says co-founder Andrew Alms. “It will be a place that allows you to rest, get back to the basics, and dream about what’s possible in the future.”

For an exclusive first look at the property, there will be tours TODAY, December 16 beginning at 4 p.m., followed by a bonfire this evening.

Alms and his partner, Enoch Elwell are two entrepreneurs with lofty ambitions – to become treetop hoteliers. There are treehouse hotels throughout the world. But what sets this one above the rest is it will be Living Building Challenge eco-certified – the first tree house in the world to earn that designation.

We expect this project to have a lot of ripples in the area, and we feel the sustainability side will really appeal to Lookout Mountain residents,” says Alms.

So far the duo has secured several noteworthy partners including Rock City, EPB, GreenSpaces, PlayCore the Lamp Post Group, and the Chattanooga Publishing Company.

Their KickStarter campaign is fully funded before its Wednesday deadline, but you still have the chance to secure a special “timeshare” backer reward of 8 nights in the first year for $1,500 (a 43 percent discount) or 4 nights for $950 (a 34 percent discount) by visiting SleepInATree.co.

A Living Building Challenge designation means their unique accommodations will actually produce more electricity and water than they consume – at least five percent. They will likely utilize rainwater as well as the nearby spring, install geothermal and solar energy units, and reuse electricity for the nearby condo where Elwell and his wife currently live (and possible future property manager’s apartment). This, alongside eighteen other demanding imperatives, is why no other area building has yet obtained this prestigious certification.

Part glamping, part boutique hotel, the tree houses will be a grown-up version of every kids’ dream – a hidden, leafy oasis complete with luxurious beds, climate control and the fastest internet in the Western Hemisphere. There will be a full bath – small shower, sink and toilet – and stairs or foot bridge as opposed to a ladder.

Our goal is to have the first door open in March 2015,” says Alms. “From there we can let demand dictate the build out, but long-term plans include 8 to 10 units as well as a small event venue.”

The idea came just three months ago, when Elwell and his wife spent the night in a tree house in the middle of Buckhead Atlanta. They loved the different vantage point and creative space the tree provided, but felt it could be better (i.e., cleaner and with built-in bathrooms). The idea was rattling around in their heads when they learned that a friend was interested in selling their property in Blowing Springs, right below Rock City.

They brought in Alms and began researching tree house escapes throughout the world, including Treehouse Point in Washington state, Out’n’About “Treesort” in Oregon and eco-lodges in Costa Rica and Africa. They knew a canopy concept was solid, but that Lookout Mountain could take it one step further.

First, the tree houses have the benefit of being located in an urban oasis. Although nestled in some of the last old growth forest in Tennessee, the Lookout Mountain location puts it less than 10 minutes from downtown Chattanooga.

Within five to 30 minutes in any direction, visitors can be rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, biking OR touring museums and galleries, enjoying five-star cuisine, seeing national bands perform, shopping or sipping cocktails.

Second, the tree houses will be a shining beacon of eco-tourism in a town dedicated to sustainability. Like the tree houses of so many Lookout Mountain childhoods, they will be an escape from everyday life located in our own backyards.

As Covenant undergrads, we love the beauty that the mountain hosts,” says Alms. “We want to showcase everything Lookout has to offer, and understand we all want that environment around for future generations.

To support this project or secure a timeshare opportunity, go to SleepInATree.co.

Why I Love Lookout: Michelle Coakley

image description

Sometimes you don’t go searching for change; it finds you. That was the case for Michelle and Sean Coakley. The two never imagined they would leave Michigan – a state in which they both grew up, went to college, got married and had kids. When a head hunter contacted Sean about an opportunity in Chattanooga, the initial thought was “no thanks.”

“We loved where we lived,” says Michelle. “We were both happy in our careers, our kids were happy in their schools. We definitely were not seeking change.”

And then, he asked Sean to describe the perfect city for his family. The list of requirements included a place that was outdoorsy with big-city amenities, a family-friendly environment, and a climate with four seasons but milder winters.


When the Coakleys discovered such a place existed, they began to seriously consider relocating to Chattanooga. They looked at several neighborhoods, including Riverview and Signal Mountain, but something about Lookout Mountain immediately struck them.

We loved the quaintness,” recalls Michelle. “When we first looked at houses, people were out in the neighborhood. You could tell the strong sense of community and family.

On one of their visits, the Coakleys happened to catch Lookout Mountain School Principal Ruth White as she was leaving for the day. She turned around and gave them a tour. “She was so excited to talk to us,” says Michelle. “We were really impressed.”

In July of 2011, the family moved into the very first house they toured on Lookout. Within a few weeks neighbors were knocking on their door, offering play dates for their kids to meet future classmates.

This is the most personable place I’ve ever lived,” says Michelle. “Everybody knows everybody and genuinely cares about their neighbor. When you take all of that and drop it into a place as naturally beautiful as Lookout, I think it makes it one of the best places in the world to raise a family.”

The Coakleys jumped right in to life on Lookout. They joined the Fairyland Club and Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church, where Michelle serves as president of Parish Council. She is also heavily involved at LMS, serving this year as PTA president.

While they sometimes miss their home state, they don’t miss their snow blower, which is currently in storage collecting dust according to Michelle.

“Every time we get people down here to visit from Michigan they say, ‘Ok, I get it,’” she smiles.

Why I Love Lookout: Krissy and Will Hirtz

image description

Krissy and Will Hirtz had never lived anywhere but Houston, TX. In fact, Will’s family has lived there for six generations. Their boys, ages 8 and 11, were happy in their schools and the couple’s jobs were tied to the area (Krissy in real estate and Will in the oil business). And then, they moved to Lookout Mountain.

“It’s completely insane how the whole thing happened, start to finish,” says Krissy.

It all started last summer when the family took a whirlwind trip across the Southeast, traveling from Houston all the way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Along the way, they fell in love with the cool mountain air of North Carolina and for the first time started to consider life outside of Texas.

While thoroughly ensconced in Houston, the family had ties to the area. Krissy’s mom moved to Lookout more than 20 years ago, her aunt lives a few doors down, her sister is on Signal Mountain and her brother is in North Chattanooga. When they left last August, everyone was in tears and the kids were begging to stay longer.

When they visited Lookout again at Thanksgiving, they looked at houses. As an afterthought, they put in an offer. The deal came together on their drive back to Houston and their moving day was December 23. The only thing they had that first Christmas was their beds and a tree they had ordered from the Barn Nursery.

“We found the Christmas lights at about 4:00 in the morning,” recalls Krissy. “Luckily Santa brought Kindles to the boys that year, which kept them occupied as we tried to make sense of all the boxes.”

Leaving Texas wasn’t an option until Will’s side business turned into a full-time gig, allowing him to work virtually from anywhere. His business still takes him back to Houston on a regular basis, but already his heart remains on Lookout.

He was just in Houston last week and came home saying it was so miserable with the traffic, congestion and nothing pretty to look at,” laughs Krissy. “He got in and out as fast as he could.

Even so, moving has been an adjustment, including an unprecedented winter that brought two weeks’ worth of snow days. “When we first moved up here it was a complete and total culture shock,” Krissy recalls. “I didn’t know how to drive in snow and ice. I think we survived that first winter on Fairyland Country Club, Café on Corner and the Mountain Market.”

But nothing beats Lookout Mountain’s quality of life, she says. While they lived in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Houston, their house was surrounded with security cameras, they never were in the house without the alarm set and several neighbors had been held up at gunpoint during early morning jogs.

“We wanted to be away from that – it’s no way to raise your children,” she says. “We’re absolutely loving it. My husband and I are kicking ourselves thinking, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’ Although I don’t know if we would have appreciated it.”

My husband and I are kicking ourselves thinking, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’

When they made the move, neighbors came together to welcome them. “Alicia Oliver – who we didn’t know before – put together a gigantic play date for the boys to meet other kids in their class before school started,” says Krissy. “In Houston I was always the one to do that kind of thing for people. It was a different feeling. But selling real estate for so long, it made me appreciate what my customers went through when relocating.”

Her son, William can probably sum it up best, however.

“The next door neighbor asked him ‘How are you liking it?’” says Krissy. “He responded, ‘Oh, I love it; I’m living here until I die.’”

How Do You Give Thanks?

image description

Community Thanksgiving Service
Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

This week millions of Americans will sit with loved ones to break bread at the Thanksgiving table. But before you meet your family, why not celebrate with the entire community? Every year the churches of Lookout Mountain come together for the Community Thanksgiving Service, a nondenominational opportunity to reflect and give thanks for the blessings of the year.

Started years ago by Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, this year is the first time the service will be held the evening before Thanksgiving (rather than morning of). Organizers hope the new time will encourage even greater participation. It’s also the first time in many years that Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church will host.

"Church unity among all denominations is a particular interest of mine,” says Father Tom Shuler, who gave last year’s homily at Lookout Mountain United Methodist Church. A relative newcomer to the mountain, he is particularly thankful for his placement at Our Lady.

“I think Lookout Mountain is probably as close to heaven as I’ll get in this life,” he says. “It’s exactly what I was looking for in terms of landscape as well as people.”

Another recent Lookout Mountain resident, Reverend Mac Brown, Assistant to the Rector of Church of the Good Shepherd, will deliver the homily. Priests and Pastors from all of Lookout’s communities of faith will be present and/or participating.

“In days when we can get lost in the stress, anxiety and hurry of the holidays, it’s imperative to our walk in faith to gather – regardless of divisions – and celebrate our complete and utter reliance upon the grace of God and His creation," says Brown. "We are all children of God, and we are all called to give God thanks.”

We are all children of God, and we are all called to give God thanks.

In addition to prayer, scripture readings, meditation and thanksgiving, Rebecca Whelchel, executive director for Metropolitan Ministries, will speak briefly about their work. As the “financial emergency room” of Chattanooga, MetMin assists those living on the edge of homelessness – often covering a utility bill or medical expense that could cost someone their home.

The end of the year is a particularly important time for the agency, and the offering from the service will be donated to their cause. Learn more about their work.

Mountain Spotlight: Rick Dockery

image description

For more than 30 years, Rick Dockery has been coaching Lookout Mountain’s youth. He was not far from a kid himself when he started, hired in 1981 as an intern his senior year at UTC. His advisor said he had a “special place he wanted him to visit” and introduced him to then Recreation Director Buck Stamps. He was hired virtually on the spot.

He barely interviewed me but I remember him asking, ‘Can I expect you to take care of this place as if it were your own?’" recalls Dockery.

His answer was yes, and he’s been doing so ever since. In addition to overseeing all after-school rec sports such as wrestling, football, basketball, baseball and soccer, he’s also Physical Education Director of Lookout Mountain School. While the pace is hectic, to say he loves his job is an understatement.

“In 30-something years, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to come to work,” he says. “I recently had a former student visit from Washington state. He sat in my office with his fiancé and told story after story. That’s the best part of the job – to know you helped create some good memories.”

In 30-something years, I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to come to work.

Dockery and his Assistant Director Scott Shell juggle as many as 300 kids per sport each season. During the school year they coordinate daily PE classes at LMS; in the summer it’s Commons Camp.

While Dockery doesn’t manage all extracurricular programs such as karate or robotics, everyone goes through him to coordinate space and schedule. Acting as air traffic controller of after-school activities is often the most challenging part of his job.

“Kids today almost have too much going on – they don’t have time to just play,” he says. “We always try our best to do the right thing and consider the whole family when deciding times and length of practices. Everyone needs a little more rest…including myself,” he laughs.

There was very virtually no downtime when he first started the job. In the early ‘80s he and Stamps personally coached every sport, working six days a week for 10 years without a vacation or sick day.

Dockery says he learned his work ethic from Stamps, “one of the most influential people in his life.” But team sports also helped shape his character. Although his parents weren’t athletic, Dockery played almost every sport in middle and high school. After practice each day he’d walk to work then stay up late finishing homework.

Throughout the years Dockery has watched many of his students go on to play collegiate or professional sports. While it’s nice to know he helped play a role, his focus for the Lookout Mountain rec program has always centered on one very important thing – having fun.

Communities all over the country are trying to professionalize kids’ sports,” he says. “That creates a lot of stress and leaves some kids out when the only focus is winning. I’m a big believer in teaching skills but also focusing on making it fun.

Holiday Open House at the Cravens House

image description

You don’t have to be Ebenezer Scrooge to be visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past. On December 5 and 6 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m., the National Park Service will open the Cravens House for a special step back in time.

Rangers will take groups of 12 through the historic home, while living historians in each room will talk about Christmas traditions of the Victorian era. All six rooms will be decorated in Civil War period Christmas decorations, styled by the Lookout Mountain Beautiful Garden Club.

“I got involved when I joined LMBGC nearly 25 years ago and it was always such a highlight,” recalls LMBGC President Eve Soltau. “The Park Service discontinued the tour over 10 years ago, with this year marking the third season since its return. It is a magical night, bathed mostly in candlelight, with the city lights twinkling in the distance.”

It is a magical night, bathed mostly in candlelight, with the city lights twinkling in the distance.

Considered to be the first year-round resident of Lookout Mountain, Robert Cravens built his now-famous home shortly after moving to area in 1838. During the Civil War it served as Confederate Headquarters, but when the war turned in favor of the North, Union soldiers tore out the floorboards and wall boards for firewood, souvenirs and various other purposes.

Cravens rebuilt his home after the war in 1866, where it stands as a monument to Lookout Mountain’s first settlers. The Cravens Holiday Open House is the only time you can tour the home outside of its regular summer hours. Reservations are required due to capacity constraints.

I like that people get to see Christmas from a time period and experience what people did 150 years ago,” says Anton Heinlein, the park ranger coordinating the event. “It’s kind of remarkable to see the similarities from then to now.

To make your reservations, call the Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor’s Center at 423-821-7786.

Cafe on the Corner Update

image description

This Thanksgiving will be very different for Ruth Oehmig. She won’t gather with the Oehmig and Davenport crew at her restaurant – the only place large enough to accommodate the extended families. Still, she has much to be thankful for, like starting construction to rebuild her beloved eatery, Café on the Corner.

No one is more excited than me,” she says. “We’re shooting for a spring opening depending on what kind of winter we have.

In the meantime, you can still get your Café on the Corner fix with a catering order. In fact they’re now accepting orders for Thanksgiving side dishes like Masson’s Oyster Dressing, corn pudding or sweet potato casserole. Or, grab a made-from-scratch pumpkin pie or Triple Chocolate Khalua Cake to take to your gathering (we won’t tell you didn’t make it).

While Oehmig is staying busy with catering, she’s still enjoying some down time compared to her 12-hour days almost 7 days a week at the restaurant. While she’s grateful for the time and opportunity to do some different things, like nonprofit catering requests, she’s ready to be back in her kitchen.

After sorting out insurance claims and demoing the burned shell of a building, Oehmig is finalizing plans and submitting bids to contractors. She hopes to begin within three to five weeks.

Originally hoping to salvage part of the 100-year-old building, the damage was determined to be too extensive. Last month workers cleared every brick from the site, which now sits as an empty dirt lot – the perfect blank canvas for an even bigger and better Café. While the building will be new, Oehmig pledges to stay true to the former architecture and style.

It’s going to be beautiful,” she promises. “We’re very excited.

Place your Thanksgiving order by November 19 by calling 423-825-5005 or emailing ruth_cafeonthecorner@comcast.net. For a menu and pricing, visit Café on the Corner’s Facebook page.

Fischer Evans Donates to Lookout Mountain Conservancy

image description

Diamonds are forever…but so are land trusts. So it’s fitting that downtown jewelry store Fischer Evans chose the Lookout Mountain Conservancy as beneficiaries of their Nanis Jewelry trunk show. The event was a raving success, with owner and designer Lauren Bicego flying in from Italy to showcase her 18k gold, diamond and colored stone designs.

It’s exciting to be able to combine my two passions,” says Taylor Watson, Fischer Evans certified gemologist appraiser and LMC board member. “The things LMC is doing with the Howard Student Program are so incredible that other conservancies across the country are using it as a model.

The almost $4,000 raised by the Fischer Evans event will go toward the landmark program, which connects at-risk high school students with land conservation through a unique paid internship program. All of the work done by the students is going toward LMC’s long-term goal of connecting the Riverwalk to Lookout Mountain.

Long term, the vision is to create a greenway from the Chickamauga Dam all the way to Mentone, Al. Right now that plan is a diamond in the rough, but LMC continues working one parcel at a time toward their lofty goal.

“We’re so fortunate to have community partners like Fisher Evans,” says LMC CEO Robyn Carlton. “Our work is very much a collaborative process, and wouldn’t be possible without support like theirs.”

For women who attended the event, one thing is certain – conservation can be a very beautiful thing.

Community calendar