Why “Glass”? Why “Normal”? We investigate.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
When Shakespeare penned these famous lines for the doomed diva Juliet, he was definitely not waiting on a 911 operator to dispatch someone to rescue her from the balcony. In Hamilton County, though, our 911 services take names very seriously—particularly street names. Since response time can mean the difference between life and death, they should.
Here at The Pulse, we love questions and we know you want answers, so we went in search of the how and why of naming streets in our area and
tracked down the history of some of our more strange and interesting names.
The Hamilton County GIS Department is, literally, putting Hamilton County on the map. The Hamilton County GIS (HCGIS) staff assigns all new addresses in Hamilton County (except for the City of Soddy-Daisy) and coordinates with 911, USPS and other local government agencies to correct addressing problems. Some of these problems include addresses that are shared by more than one structure, duplicate road names, nonsequential address numbers and road names with inconsistent spellings.
Some of the guidelines for street names include:
• Duplicate street names are not allowed.
• New street names should be unique, should not reference existing street name suffixes and should be without directional words.
• More than one suffix should not be used in a street name.
• Hamilton County street names cannot be more than 13 characters and private street names in Chattanooga cannot be more than ten characters.
• Streets in the City of Chattanooga cannot be named after a living person.
• Even addresses are on the south and east sides of the street and odd addresses are on the north and west sides of the street.
In the early days, our streets were numbered and named for founding families or foliage. Pine Street gave way to Cherry Street, Oak Street and Walnut Avenue. From Railroad Avenue, the former name of Broad Street, to the Brainerd Mission were vast woods, and Missionary Ridge got its name because the missionaries from Brainerd Mission were the only people seen making the journey along the ridge to the trading post on the Tennessee River. Now, as our city has grown, so have the numbers of our streets and roads and so has the need to catalog them in order to ensure that our people can be reached safely by emergency services.
We have a lot of streets that have the same name with different suffixes, and those confusing addresses present a challenge to the E 9-1-1 systems. The HCGIS exists to help address that. For example, Northwoods Drive was next to Northwoods View and, as a part of this campaign for clarity, 911 and HCGIS needed it changed to ensure safety. A Chattanooga radio legend, “Hey Earl” Freudenberg lived in the neighborhood—so it became Stardust Trail in homage to his radio program. (“Hey Earl” served with the American Forces Network and started his broadcasting career in Chattanooga in 1962 and spent over 40 years on WDOD.)
We’ve tracked down the history of some of the other interesting street names that our friends and readers asked about:
Amnicola Highway: Thomas Crutchfield bought a farm along the Tennessee River just before the start of the Civil War. He was the proprietor of the Crutchfield House on the site now home to the Sheraton Read House. He called his farm “Amnicola” (Latin for “dwelling by the river”) in reference to the location.
Citico: The Citico Mound was a prominent landmark on Tennessee River before our recorded history. The imposing mound was oval-shaped, 158 feet long by 128 feet wide and stood 19 feet tall. The mound was studied by the Smithsonian in 1865 and was said to have been the site of a ceremonial and village center. A bone recovered near the mound was identified by radiocarbon dating to have come from between 790 BCE and 420 BCE. The mound was used as a recreational site by soldiers during the Civil War and much of it was utilized to grade the Dixie Highway and, later, Amnicola Highway.
Cowart Street: Cowart Street is said to have been named for an early Cherokee leader known as Esquire John Cowart.
Curtain Pole Road: The H.L. Judd Factory and community opened in 1880 near the intersection of Chickamauga Creek and the Tennessee River. They manufactured drapery poles and other turned-wood products, and as their business grew they built houses and a school for their workers and their families. Look for Curtain Pole Road when you visit the Chattanooga Area Food Bank off Amnicola Highway.
Forest/Forrest Avenue: Hill City grew after the Civil War as the Walnut Street Bridge improved access across the Tennessee River. Forrest Avenue, a very steep street that begins where the Walnut Street Bridge ends, was a part of that early growth and may very well have been named for the controversial Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest. Recently, people have noticed that when street signs were replaced, the spelling was changed to “Forest”. There are still areas along the picturesque avenue where the name is spelled “Forrest” on one side and “Forest” on the other. According to Hamilton County spokesman Michael Dunne, in 1928 the Chattanooga Real Estate Board commissioned C.W. Chadwick, a civil engineer from Michigan, to draw up maps of the community. Chadwick identified it as “Forest Avenue” and (most) street signs and GIS records followed suit.
Glass Street: Tagwadihi was one of Chief Dragging Canoe’s warriors, leaving the Cherokee to come to this region to found the Chickamauga, a tribe waging war on encroaching pioneers. Known as “The Glass,” he lived during the late 18th century and became the last principal chief of the Lower Chickamaugas.
Hamm Road: Chattanooga has many sister cities and our relationship with Hamm, Germany is commemorated on Hamm Road.
Hooker Street: General Joseph Hooker, known as “Fighting Joe,” led the Army of the Potomac to relieve the Union soldiers under siege in Chattanooga and achieved victory at the Battle of Lookout Mountain.
Main Street: Main Street was originally called Montgomery Avenue. Rush Montgomery was an early Chattanooga booster and is credited with coining the phrase “Chattanooga is the funnel of the world.”
Normal Avenue: The grandmaster of the oldest Masonic Lodge in Chattanooga carried the book of constitutions across the Walnut Street Bridge on September 15, 1896 to lay the cornerstone for the Normal College in Chattanooga’s Hill City. Founded in 1859 in Valparaiso, Indiana, the Normal School was the largest school of its kind and sought to expand its mission of normal education in the South. “Normal” referred to a university system teaching a core of subjects with emphasis on additional categories that inspired the student and provided a base upon which to found a career in business, science, teaching or music.
Orchard Knob : James Williams was a native of Richmond, Virginia who came to this area in 1835. He built a hut on a bald “knob” east of the riverfront trading post. Williams planted an orchard on this knob; the site of what would become a strategic part of the Civil War action here, which we now call Orchard Knob.
St. Elmo Avenue: During the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, more than 12,000 fled the city for the mountain heights that they thought would protect them. Colonel Abraham Malone Johnson’s wife, Thankful, was the daughter of Colonel James Whiteside, one of Chattanooga’s earliest leaders who owned much of the side of Lookout Mountain. Colonel Johnson built St. Elmo, one of our earliest suburbs, to offer affordable property to those fleeing from the city and the epidemic. Augusta Evans Wilson was an author who had spent several summers on Lookout Mountain, calling the view of the valley below as beautiful as the view from the St. Elmo castle in Naples, Italy. The book that she wrote, “St. Elmo,” would become of the top three best sellers of the 19th century.
Suck Creek Road: Suck Creek Road, a portion of Highway 27, follows the Tennessee River along an area that was known for its rapids. Before TVA’s dams managed the Tennessee River, the changing depths and current made travel in that part of the river precarious. Early settlers reported being attacked by native tribes as their boats became tangled in the water hazards known as the “Suck” or the “The Boiling Pot” and one of those early stories tells of travelers who thought that the people in this area must be very festive because every house seemed to have a party going on—until they realized their boat was caught in a “suck” and spinning in circles.
Three Notch Road: Surveyors and travelers in early days used knots in cords to identify how far they had traveled on a path. In North Georgia, a main thoroughfare became known as Three Notch Road because of that measurement.
Do you have a story about an unusual Chattanooga street name? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org