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!

Mountain Spotlight: Junior League Washboard Band

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If you want to play on Lookout, you gotta have a washboard in the band. But anything can be repurposed as an instrument for The Bandana Babes, artists formerly known as the Junior League Washboard Band.

“We’d sometimes say, here are some dried beans I was going to make for dinner – think I’ll put them in a jar and that will be my instrument today,” jokes Margaret Ann Bentley. “You can make music with anything; a cheese grater with a whisk, wooden spoons.”

She’s sitting in the lobby of the Fairyland Club with band mates Cheryl Stinnett, Emily Brown and Eleanor Dobson. They’re pouring over pictures from their 38 years of playing music together at schools, nursing homes, civic functions and more. They’ve played the zoo, the library, Creative Discovery Museum…even a grocery store grand opening.

“We’ll burst into song anywhere,” laughs Cheryl.

This includes the time they were walking to their Riverbend gig, instruments in hand, and ran into a wedding party on the street. They gave an impromptu concert, singing “Going to the Chapel” as the couple walked from ceremony to reception.

The band started in the late ‘70s as a Junior League placement. The League’s choral group was losing steam and member Anne Rittenberry suggested they convert their talents into a washboard band like the one she was in at the University of Georgia.

The Junior League Washboard Band was born, and would play under that name for several decades. Participating meant committing to three-hour practices and half-hour performances each week. Even so, the placement was so popular at one point they tried to limit the number of years you could participate. The group became known as the friendly and fun ambassadors of the League.

Over the years, about 30 women from all over Chattanooga have participated. Now they’re down to the dedicated core of 13: Margaret Ann Bentley, Emily Brown, Amanda Cauthen, Susan Colmore, Eleanor Dobson, Imogene Konvalinka, Anne Rittenberry, Cheryl Stinnett, Anne Thomas, Sandy Webb, Robin Wheelock, Peg Willingham and Charlotte Witry.

They each sing and play myriad instruments including the bass ukulele, triangle, a bucket with brushes, sand blocks, kazoos, tambourine, a wash tub/broomstick instrument named “Geraldine” and of course, a washboard.

They downplay their musical aptitude, saying their friendship is the glue that kept the band together through children and now grandchildren. While their animated stage presence is undeniable, their talent has kept them booked with gigs ranging from the Walden Club to the Fairyland Festival, where they were the opening act for the Dismembered Tennesseans.

“I remember once a little girl was bragging to my kids about her mother’s high powered job,” recalls Emily. “They said, ‘Well my mom’s in a band.’ She went, ‘Whoa, that’s so cool!’”

The group is still dreaming big, naming The Bluebird Café, the FloraBama and possibly even the Grand Ol’ Opry as possibilities for the future.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” smiles Margaret Ann.

“We’re still dreaming,” adds Emily.

For more images of the Bandana Babes through the years, visit our Facebook page.

Update: Residents on Top of Lookout Mountain Not Affected by Water Main Break

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At 10:30 a.m. today, Tennessee American Water notified Lookout Mountain residents of a water main break that required them to shut off water at the main tanks. Residents were asked to not use any water and that repairs would take five to six hours to complete.

However, company spokeswoman Daphne Kirskey recently confirmed that the only residents affected are those below Ruby Falls, on Winterview Lane and parts of Scenic Highway. Houses on top of the mountain have water thanks to what's left in the reservoir tanks.

Even so, because it's not being replenished there's only about 7 hours worth of water at typical usage rates. Residents are asked to conserve water until news of the repair has been made this evening.

The affected line is currently being welded, a process that takes 3-4 hours. They hope to have everything restored by 5:00 p.m., says Kirskey. The pipe they're repairing is made of steel, which takes longer to weld. Steel pipe is required for the high pressure volume used to pump water up a mountain.

Stay tuned to LivingOnLookout.com, or the Living On Lookout Facebook and Twitter pages for updates. @NewsOnLookout

Lookout Mountain's Ice Truckers

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Public Works Department for Lookout Mountain, Tenn

When snow hits Lookout Mountain, there are a few brave souls who don’t hunker down in front of a warm fire. In fact, the salt truck drivers don’t sleep until the storm passes.

There was one year we plowed 40 hours straight,” recalls Daniel Kates, public works director for Lookout Mountain, Ga.

The year was 1996, and a vicious ice storm knocked down trees and power lines all over the mountain. Kates recalls camping out with his crew for a week at City Hall, sleeping on army cots when not plowing or clearing limbs.

Working for Lookout Mountain since 1979, he can fill your ear with winter storm stories. His first year on the job a salt truck spun out on ice, ripping the door off a brand new Cadillac parked in the street and filling its back seat with salt. At the time, all plowing was handled by a private contractor but the incident prompted the city to bring it in-house.

Of course these are extreme examples. In fact, Lookout Mountain residents are fortunate to have such well organized plowing teams – particularly for a small Southern town. There have been storms in the past where the mountain roads were clearer than downtown.

“Usually we don’t have anything longer than a 10 hour snow, but we don’t stop until we clear every single road,” says Johnny Bowen, public works assistant supervisor for Lookout Mountain, Tenn. “If we have to push all day and night, we will.”

We don't stop until we clear every single road. If we have to push all day and night, we will.

The Georgia and Tennessee sides of the mountain handle their own road clearing – each about 22 miles of road. Bowen’s team includes six guys operating three trucks simultaneously. One dedicated truck is always ready to go, fitted with tire chains, plow and salt spreader. The other two are brush trucks converted into snow plows/salt trucks in under an hour.

In Georgia Kates usually drives their one salt truck solo. For larger storms he receives assistance from other Public Works employees, converting fire trucks if needed. Wearing several hats is nothing new for either state’s team. Public Works does whatever it takes to keep our city going including mowing, garbage and brush pick-up, road repair, signage and limb removal.

One day I might be on the back of a garbage truck; the next day I’m under it,” says Kates. “That’s what I love about this job – no day is the same.

For snow, they start to plow as soon as there’s enough to push (generally 1 inch). Each team focuses on main thoroughfares until the snow stops, at which point they move to secondary streets. If there’s ever an emergency, they escort fire trucks or ambulances to the scene and down the mountain.

The entire process of salting and plowing often takes up to 24 hours. Everyone is expected to come in, even though most live at least 30 minutes away. They often report before the storm starts, and work until roads are clear. With such Spartan crews on both sides of the mountain, they don’t work in shifts to allow for sleep.

One of the main things about working here, if the weather’s bad, you’re on call,” says Bowen.

Uber Cool Taxi Service Comes to Lookout

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Lookout Mountain, your ride is waiting.

Uber is a unique transportation company available in over 200 cities worldwide. This November it rolled into the Scenic City, bringing an affordable and trusted alternative to taxi cabs. This comes just in time for winter nights out on the town. You don’t have to worry about waiting in the cold for a cab or driving winding, mountain roads late at night.

Here’s everything you need to know about hitching a ride with this Uber cool service:

  • Chattanooga welcomes UberX, an affordable alternative to the original Uber in which drivers pick you up in luxury black sedans. UberX is a ridesharing program where local drivers (hired through Uber) provide rides in their own vehicles. Don’t worry – each driver still undergoes stringent background checks and must submit a complete driving history.

  • To use, all you have to do is sign up on the Uber website and download their app (available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry). Sign into the app, set your pickup location then request and wait for your driver. There is no extra fee for rides to/from Lookout Mountain.

  • Your credit card is securely linked to your account, so you never have to worry about having cash on hand. You don’t have to tip Uber drivers, and a receipt will be mailed to you. You can even split your fare. Once your friends opt in, each persons’ credit card is charged equally.

  • Uber uses your phone’s GPS to detect your location and connects you with the nearest available driver. You can get picked up anywhere even if you don’t know the exact address.

  • Once you request a ride and are matched with a driver, you can track their location on the map. But no need to glue your eyes to your phone – Uber sends you a text when your ride arrives. Your driver’s name and car details appear in the app and you can message or call them if you need to.

Fairyland Elementary Ranks 20th in the State

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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.

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