Glenwood: A Community Jewel

About the historic Glenwood Neighborhood in downtown Chattanooga, TN

Glenwood is located on the east side of downtown Chattanooga between the historic Missionary Ridge and Orchard Knob National Military Parks (Civil War).  The deep history, rich heritage, and charming appeal make the historic Glenwood Neighborhood the “community jewel” that it has been known as for decades.

The Glenwood Neighborhood has a deep history because the area as a key site for Native American settlements and the Battle for Chattanoogaduring the Civil War.  A settlement of Mississippian Native Americans lived around the Glenwood Neighborhood about 1000 years ago, as did a Cherokee settlement in the 1700’s. And during the Civil War, the Battle for Chattanooga cut right through the area known today as the Glenwood Neighborhood, as the battle transitioned from Orchard Knob mount to Missionary Ridge.  

The Glenwood Neighborhood’s rich heritage comes from its innovative & welcoming street layout as well as the distinct architectural styles of its homes. Glenwood’s street layout was innovative for its time because it was one of the first planned & developed subdivisions in Chattanooga, and it is welcoming & innovative because it was one of the first neighborhoods in the United States to be planned with curvilinear streets in order to accommodate pedestrians & residential living alongside automobile traffic in metropolitan areas. Glenwood was planned 2 years before influential urban planner Clarence Perry's nationally popular book The Ideal Neighborhood Unit Concept that pioneered neighborhood designs within urban areas.  Glenwood’s rich heritage also comes from the unique & diverse architectural styles of its homes including an outstanding concentration of bungalows, Classical & International styles, and neo-Tudors.  The Glenwood Neighborhood has 158 homes on the National Registry of Historic Places. 

Glenwood’s charming appeal comes from the unique character its homes and how the neighborhood accommodates pedestrians & residential living in a metropolitan area.  The unique & historic architectural styles of the homes transport you to another time, and the curvilinear streets welcome pedestrians & residential living into the downtown bustle.

History of the historic Glenwood Neighborhood

Glenwood and Citico Creek Before the Twentieth Century

While the current residential configuration of Glenwood is a twentieth century phenomenon, the area occupied by our neighborhood was significant for Native American history and American Civil War activity. About 1000 years ago, significant Mississippian urban settlement was located nearby, leaving behind a large mound that seems to have served as the center for the community. Unfortunately, the mound was never properly excavated, and was leveled to provide fill for Riverside Parkway in a mid- twentieth century fit of “urban improvement.”

When the Cherokees repopulated the Chattanooga area in the eighteenth century, it soon became the focus for European missionaries, such as David Brainerd and his coworkers, who focused their work in the area just through the Missionary Ridge tunnel. The last remains of the Brainerd mission, its cemetery, can still be found near the Eastgate shopping area a few miles away.

The next direct connection between the Glenwood community and to Native American history is also a tragic one. During the Cherokee Removal, in 1838, one of the holding areas was next to Citico Creek, near the current Memorial Hospital. The Cherokee were kept here until they were driven down to Ross’s Landing and forced onto a barge to float down through the Tennessee Gorge on the first part of their forced march to Oklahoma. During the early part of the twentieth century the mouth of Citico Creek, near where Notre Dame High School is today, was called “Indian Springs,” partially due to this enforced encampment.

Twenty-five years later, the land Glenwood currently occupies was in the middle of the Battle for Chattanooga. Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge were the coveted high points, and Union soldiers rushing up to the Confederate positions on the Ridge criss-crossed the land that would become Glenwood.

Many of these Union soldiers were from the Northeast and Midwest and were so attracted to the Chattanooga area’s beauty and resources that they settled here after the war. Chattanooga, and Missionary Ridge in particular, benefited from the investment of these Northerners, many of whom had first seen Chattanooga during the battles for Orchard Knob and Missionary Ridge. Glenwood occupies the very attractive valley between these two high points in the city.

Glenwood, for the first sixty years after the Anglo-American settlement of Chattanooga in the 1830s, was filled with trees and meadows, and a creek, and provided a green space for the growing city of Chattanooga as it looked to expand. 

Planning and Developing Glenwood before World War II

Chattanooga’s boom years in the 1880s resulted in plans to connect larger tracts of land to the city through streetcar and railroad construction. The Edward Betts Engineering Company tried to take advantage of the growth of the city by getting a jump start on the plans for new neighborhoods. An otherwise mysterious entity called The Glenwood Company engaged them to lay out the area now called Glenwood into residential plots, but the first homes weren’t built for 20 years.

The first home built is also Glenwood’s most famous: former Tennessee Governor James B. Frazier’s Classical Revival style residence at 211 Glenwood Drive. In 1914 only 14 houses had been constructed, but they were connected to the city by an electric

street car line that ran along what is now Glenwood Drive and also along Third Street. In 1924, however, residents were unhappy enough with their amenities to ask to be annexed by the city of Chattanooga in order to have better streets, sewage treatment, and fire and police protection.

The annexation by the city prompted another round of neighborhood planning for Glenwood, again by the Edward Betts Engineering Company. This time, creativity and foresight were brought in to plan for a community that would provide green spaces, pedestrian and motor traffic compatibility, a good mix of residences and civic institutions, and concerns for long-term livability. Clarence Perry, an influential

urban planner in the 1920s, took these ideas and made them nationally popular in his book The
Ideal Neighborhood Unit Concept,
which came out two years after Glenwood was planned. It appears
that Glenwood was one of the first neighborhoods in the United States to be planned with curvilinear streets in order to maintain the importance of pedestrians and residential living alongside automobile traffic.

The 1920s were a boom time for building in Glenwood, especially between McCallie and Third Street. The Bungalow and Tudor Revival styles

predominated, with Arts and Crafts details like off-center porches, overhanging eaves, decorative brackets, and the use of many different kinds of natural materials. Many of the Tudor Revival homes use diamond paned windows, arched entrances, half- timbering, and have steeply-pitched roofs.

During the Depression, the WPA built several bridges and roads in Chattanooga, and one of their bridges can still be seen in Glenwood on Parkwood Avenue. The roads in Glenwood were intended to link residences to institutions and to make it possible to have foot traffic alongside motorized transport. Glenwood School was opened, and churches and businesses moved to this area.

Clearly, Glenwood still benefits from the vision and creativity of these pre-Depression-era planners who were ahead of their time in thinking about ways to make urban spaces green, sustainable and appropriate for a variety of uses. The remnant of Citico creek that runs in front of Memorial Hospital is just one of the public green spaces laid out in the 1920s. The curvy streets that slow down traffic and add to the attractiveness of the community were also planned before most people understood how much vehicle traffic would transform neighborhoods.

The distinctive architecture that sets Glenwood apart from other adjacent communities demonstrates how intentional all this was from the very beginning. Those who drew up these plans wanted a unique neighborhood with a specific look and boundaries. 

Glenwood MidCentury: Integration and Institutions

After World War II, Chattanooga began to grow rapidly. The expansion of the use of the automobile caused the development of suburban communities such as Brainerd and Hixson. Because of this, the city of Chattanooga experienced what many urban centers across the nation were going through: the movement of middle class white families to the suburbs. New construction of bridges and highways helped foster an urban planning environment that was quick to tear down old buildings and to segregate residential and retail spaces.

In Glenwood, there was another building boom, mostly between Third Street and what is now Memorial Hospital. Larger homes in Tudor Revival, Classical Revival and Mission Revival styles were added. Memorial Hospital was developed. And in the 1960s, the first African- American families began moving to the area.

The earliest African-American residents remember being welcomed to the community, although at least one white family selling their home asked the prospective owners to look through the house at night to avoid comment by the neighbors on their race. Many of these first black residents recall that the “sisters” who ran Memorial Hospital were not only warm and gracious, but were happy to have people from Glenwood working in the hospital in various capacities.

In 1970, the Glenwood Neighborhood Association, one of Chattanooga’s earliest neighborhood associations, was formed. It brought together both black and white residents to protect the residential status of the community and to make sure that the homes and properties stayed in good condition. Because of the very active work of this association for over 40 years, Glenwood never experienced the urban decay that many of the surrounding communities fell victim to.

Glenwood became one of the primary communities with extensive middle class African- American home ownership in Chattanooga. As the demographics of the neighborhood changed, its pride in its strong civic activism and commitment to maintaining the Glenwood tradition of community cohesiveness continued unabated. It was this group which, in the 1980s, worked so hard to make Glenwood part of the National Register of Historic Places. This designation recognizes the unique heritage of this neighborhood for the city of Chattanooga in paving the way for controlled and sustainable urban living. 

Glenwood in the 21st Century

As Glenwood looks to the future, we seek to maintain our tradition of community coherence, a commitment to diversity and a sustainable residential lifestyle.

In 2006, the Glenwood community started a four-year partnership with Community Impact of Chattanooga, a non-profit structured around neighborhood revitalization. During this time, Glenwood saw a flurry of activity structured around the four core objectives: physical revitalization, social revitalization, safety, and community empowerment.

Under the physical revitalization objective, Glenwood has accomplished many projects such as ornamental street toppers on all street signs, a new gateway sign, beautification of our public green space – Jewel Park, and assistance to many residents with façade projects.Our community leaders also participated in the establishing a “Day of Service” for East Chattanooga, which recruited over 800 volunteers into Glenwood and the surrounding communities. This has evolved into a series of “Polishing the Jewel” days over the course of each year wherein service agencies work with Glenwood residents to repair and beautify their homes, inside and out.

Glenwood’s crowning achievement in the social revitalization arena is the establishment of the “Glenwood Jazz Festival.” The festival is free to the public and features local musicians along with world- renowned artists. Each year the festival continues to grow and has become one of Chattanooga’s most popular jazz venues. Glenwood also enjoys other social events such as a “Senior Fling” for our retired population, “Back to School” parties for our youth, and an annual “Festival of Trees” which is an open house holiday party. 

Glenwood is fortunate enough to have crime rates below the city’s average. We believe a well-organized neighborhood association and neighborhood watch are the key to this success. Glenwood has established a “Block Leader” program that has each block covered by a resident volunteer. Glenwood also collaborates with the Chattanooga police department by hosting a National Night Out cookout each summer to socialize with local law enforcement. Many of our residents have participated with the Citizen’s Police Academy.

Lastly, through the efforts of the Glenwood Neighborhood Association, the community has taken great strides in community empowerment. The Glenwood Neighborhood Association became a non-profit 501(c)(3), developed a website (, communicated with residents through a quarterly newsletter the “Glenwood Voice,” established a phone tree, and successfully raised funds to offer great events and services to the community. Also, Glenwood has completed a Historic Homes of Glenwood hardback coffee table book, porch banners, and an official brochure.