Kings Point Offers Country in the City

By Yolanda Putman

Staff Writer  

  The Chattanooga Times Free Press, Sunday, July 21, 2002

 

Kings Point belies its geography. As if caught in a time warp, the rural community sits quietly between the bustle of East Chattanooga and the streaming traffic of Amnicola Highway.

Here, along tree-sheltered, narrow, country lanes, residents own fainting goats and roosters along with cats and dogs.

"We're kind of country," said Carole Moss, president of the Kings Point resident association.

Yet Kings Point, with its 58 households, is a rural enclave within the city limits. Hugging South Chickamauga Creek and Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks, it is only about eight miles from downtown Chattanooga, and just across Amnicola Highway from Chattanooga State Technical Community College.

But with only one road into the neighborhood, it's the kind of community where retirees sit on front porches and wave when people drive by. Curious youngsters greet unfamiliar visitors, and women like Ms. Moss and her neighbor Jan Allison spend time looking at old pictures and eating peppermint sticks.

It's the only neighborhood in Chattanooga where residents can legally keep livestock. And everybody knows everybody, Ms. Allison said.

"It's close and convenient, yet it has a rural kind of flavor," said Wayne Dickie, a retired Chattanooga police officer who enjoys night fishing in South Chickamauga Creek and has lived in the community for 26 years.

Some residents have lived in Kings Point so long they call Mrs. Allison a newcomer even though she's lived there for 23 years. Ms. Allison's home was the former residence of Luke Standifer, a Civil War soldier. The house is one of two in the community built during the 1800s, when Kings Point was incorporated. Ms. Moss, who lives across the street, owns the other.

Both houses are white, two-story ranch-style homes with wide front porches graced with rocking chairs and swinging benches.

In the mid 1990s, the Moss home was owned by Glenn Standifer, who at times kept about 40 goats and 200 chickens, neighbors said. At that time, the community had more animals than people, Ms. Moss said.

Ms. Moss said she bought the house with her husband in 2000, about four years after Mr. Standifer died.

Both she and Ms. Allison said they had no idea when they purchased their homes that they were buying into a lifestyle.

RESIDENTS FIGHT CHANGE

The telephone lines should have been updated 25 years ago to keep up with computer-age technology. And the roads are so narrow that the school bus takes up the width of the whole street. But residents don't want any of it to change, Ms. Allison said.

Residents proved their willingness to fight for their rural way of life just last week when a developer wanted to demolish two vacant houses and build seven duplexes.

Treva Ritchie, a resident of seven years, was so adamant about not having the development that she personally called everyone in the community and asked them to voice their objections in a City Council meeting.

"We've put a lot of money in this house and we don't want it to change," Ms. Ritchie said. So many people voiced concerns that city officials denied the developer's request for rezoning to allow the duplexes.

"We're pretty spoiled and we like our little part of the world," Ms. Moss said.

HISTORY, COMMUNITY TALES

It was 1880 when the King family had a farm named Toqua and deeded 500 acres of it to create the Kings Point Township.

The original lots included four homes, including those of Ms. Moss and Ms. Allison. The other two homes have been demolished. The neighborhood was annexed into Chattanooga in 1974.

The Kings Point Cemetery, a point of interest for the community, was established by Absalom Sivley in 1830 and was the burial ground for many Kings Point residents until 1938, when TVA purchased the land surrounding it.

"It's got some cool little stories," Ms. Moss said.

Most notable are the nine markers bearing the names of the members of the Woodward family who were killed Feb. 29, 1897, when the wagon in which they were riding was struck by a train at a railroad crossing. The victims ranged in age from 2 months to 44 years.

The cemetery also is the setting for a story residents tell about a widower who buried his wife there. According to the story, the man used to beat his wife, and to make amends after her death he made her a mausoleum. He visited her weekly to change her dress and continued the practice until one day her arm fell off, Ms. Allison said.

"He eventually stopped going to visit, and the mausoleum was declared a health hazard and the body was moved to another grave," she said.

The neighborhood association was organized in 1984 when residents became concerned about pollution from a former landfill nearby. Fumes from a fire galvanized residents to petition city and environmental officials to clean it up, Ms. Allison said.

The problem started in the 1970s at North Hawthorne Dump. After the city closed the landfill in 1973, it deteriorated into an unregulated dumping ground.

It wasn't properly capped and people continued to dump trash and brush on it until it caught fire in 1983. The city dumped dirt on it in an attempt to extinguish the blaze. After a few days it was just smoldering, but the fumes were terrible, Ms. Allison said.

"It smelled like bleach and some other kind of cleaner mixed together, and it would cause you to tear," she said.

Residents complained and eventually environmental officials came in and properly capped the landfill in 1985.

"We got the first (state) Superfund money in the city," Ms. Allison said.

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

To hear Nanna Sweatt tell it, there isn't anything that needs to change in Kings Point.

The 77-year-old great-grand mother was born in the community and has seen three generations of her family raised there. She said there is nowhere else she wants to live.

"We'd just as soon not be bothered," she said.

But there are a few residents who admit they'd like to see just a few adjustments.

For about three months, Mark Grimsley has been asking police and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for help to remove some dumped automobile gas tanks from an area near the creek, he said. So far, Mr. Grimsley said, he has received no response.

"It seems nobody can decide on who owns the land," he said.

Mr. Grimsley suspects people take the gas tanks off their cars and dispose of them near the neighborhood to keep from paying fees to dispose of them properly. About 300 gas tanks are scattered for about two blocks along Old Harrison Pike along the South Chickamauga creek bank near the Kings Point entrance sign, he said.

"I've seen washing machines dumped on the creek bank," said Donnette Sweatt, Ms. Sweatt's daughter-in-law and a resident of 30 years.

Ms. Allison said she is looking forward to the restoration of Kings Point Cemetery. She said its cleanup is part of the city's Highway 58 five-year development plan. The cemetery is so overgrown with brush that even the road leading to it has been covered, she said.

Benney Standifer, a resident since 1964 and the third generation of Standifers to live in the community, said he'd like to see additional roads into Kings Point.

The community had three access roads until about the mid-1960s, when two of the roads were closed by the city, he said. Although having one way in and out may make some residents feel safe, it's not always convenient, he added.

"If the main entrance is blocked, you're stuck in here because of the trains," he said. The community is surrounded by train tracks on three sides.

Nanna Sweatt said she doesn't want to be hemmed in, but she doesn't worry about it enough to want to change it.

"We don't need anything the city has," she said. "(Kings Point) suits me fine like it is."

Used with permission of Yolanda Putman

E-mail Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com