Seasonal visitors had always been drawn to the mountain in the summer to enjoy its cool summer breezes. But in the late 19th century, with the advent of cholera and yellow fever epidemics, affluent families in the valley fled to the mountains surrounding Chattanooga to escape. One seasonal visitor, C. E. James, saw an opportunity. He bought the land near and around Signal Point and began selling parcels for the building of summer homes. By 1913, Mr. James had built the Signal Mountain Inn—a grand hotel—and a trolley for transportation between the valley and the top of the mountain. In 1918, Mr. James completed his resort community with a golf course.
For generations, pioneer settlers in the valley had brought their livestock to graze unfettered on Walden’s Ridge each summer. Farm animals had already found neighborhood lawns to their liking, but the grounds of the new golf course were irresistible. Soon cows and pigs were nibbling in fairways and lazing on soft golf greens. Residents found the animals both difficult to manage and reluctant to relocate.
As a result, the community requested a charter from the state legislature. On April 4, 1919, the charter was granted, and the first order of business for the newly elected government was to outlaw animals in the Town and hire a man with a horse to corral the animals and enforce the law.
By 1925, two hundred homes had been built, and the year-round Town of Signal Mountain flourished. The location of Mr. James’ development is now known as the Old Town District. The Inn was purchased by the Alexian Brothers in 1936 and has become the Alexian Village, a nationally recognized retirement community. The promontory, which gave the town its name, is now Signal Point National Park. The park is enjoyed for its panoramic view and is recognized as the smallest park in the National Park System.
Today the Town is a progressive, full-service community with almost 3,000 homes and a population of 8,852, 68% of whom are college-educated. Residential in nature, the Town of Signal Mountain is approximately ten miles from downtown Chattanooga with its many major employers and attractions such as the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the Hunter Museum of Art and the Tennessee Riverfront and Aquarium.