Northgate Mall at 40

Hixson shopping complex opened in March, 1972

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - by Harmon Jolley
Grand opening advertisement for Northgate
Grand opening advertisement for Northgate

Some of us who have been eyewitnesses to the history of Northgate Mall may have to stare at this article’s headline a while.

Yes, Northgate Mall is forty years old this month.  It is the shopping center that many remember as being the milestone of local retail history that came after downtown, Brainerd Village, Highland Plaza, and Eastgate Mall.

The Chattanooga city directories provide a record of how rural that the Hixson area was prior to Northgate.  As late as 1960, the last individually-listed street address on Hixson Pike was that of DuPont Elementary, numbered 4104.  North of that address, every resident in Hixson was lumped together into one listing under “Hixson, Tennessee.” 

Hixson had been a community of small farms and rural homes, with the major road leading to it being two lanes.  The advent of TVA, Chickamauga Dam, and DuPont  caused  Hixson to become more suburban.

Still, some farms remained, including the one at 5000 Hixson Pike at the intersection with Tennessee Highway 153.  There, during the 1960’s, William Jesse James Sr. lived with his wife, Ollie, and son, William Jesse James, Jr.  My wife recalls that her school bus passed the farm each day, and that there was a white farm house surrounded by many acres of land.

In 1971, the locally-based Independent Enterprises, which later became CBL, began construction of Northgate Mall where the James family had recently lived.   The new shopping center site included one hundred twenty-five acres.

My family moved to Hixson in August, 1971, and I watched the construction each day on my school bus ride to Hixson High School.  Many residents anticipated the arrival of the ninety stores of Northgate, with some being part of chains not previously represented in Chattanooga.  Northgate Mall would be completely enclosed and air-conditioned, something that Eastgate would be remodeled to achieve after Northgate opened.

Miller Brothers was the first store to open at Northgate.  The retailer opened on March 2, 1972, according to a Chattanooga News-Free Press article.  Mrs. George Blackwell Smith, the sole survivor of co-founder G.H. Miller, presided at the ribbon-cutting.

On March 15, 1972, the Chattanooga Times covered the grand opening of the remaining stores of Northgate.  Reporter Charles Quinton wrote, “Festivities, which continue through Saturday, will begin at 8:45 with a concert by the Hixson High School band under the direction of Clark Houck.”  I was an eyewitness to this part of the ceremonies, for I played trombone in the group.

The Soddy Daisy High School band followed Hixson with a program at 9:15 that concluded with the national anthem.  Chattanooga Vice Mayor Pat Rose, Hamilton County Judge Chester Frost, and Miss Chattanooga, Debbie Zoulek, cut the ribbon

 The next several weeks were a time of inspection of the new stores by the public.  Shoppers could find decorator candles at Wicks ‘n Sticks, heirloom keepsakes at Things Remembered, and relax at Der Stein.  My family was so enthusiastic about Northgate that we invited friends from other parts of town to join us at Picadilly Cafeteria. 

It was the variety of record shops, though, that attracted me to Northgate.  Grand opening specials for $3.88 at the J.C. Penney music department were Three Dog Night’s “Harmony,” Carole King’s “Tapestry,” and Cat Stevens’ “Teaser and the Firecat.”   Record Bar, G.C. Murphy, and Sears also had vinyl and tapes (the battle of 8-track versus cassettes was being waged).

So, who were some other eyewitnesses to the history of Northgate?  I invited comment from some of my Facebook friends from Hixson High:

- I worked at Sears in the Men's dept. Great job. You got off at 9:00pm and were already dressed to go out.

- When I graduated, I got a job at Sears in Customer Service. I loved that job.

- My first job was at Baskin-Robbins in Northgate Mall. People used to say our ice cream was too expensive at 33 cents a scoop!

- Picadilly was my first job.. Man, I hated cleaning those tables.

- When we moved here in '73 from a tiny town in RI, I thought that was the coolest thing ever to be so close to 'a mall'!! I worked at 'Pick-A-Daisy Florist' right out of high school.

- (A friend) worked at the candy counter at J C Penney. Those were the best chocolate covered cashews EVER!!!

- One classmate recalled that Jesse James had lived on the farm that became Northgate (thanks for the lead on this!).

- I worked at Miller’s during college.  I learned of the death of Elvis on the department’s radio/8-track player.  (OK, this is another of my own memories).

 

Northgate Mall was extensively remodeled in 1990.  Gone was its original royal blue/black/white signage, including a revolving cube that read “NG” at each entrance.  Also gone was the large fountain at center court.

Over the years, the shopping center has had various owners.  On September 22, 2011, The Chattanoogan.com reported that CBL would become new owners (http://new.chattanoogan.com/2011/9/22/209707/CBL-to-Acquire-Northgate-Mall-For-11.5.aspx). 

As one who has had Northgate Mall experiences ranging from band student to talent show performer to stroller driver to fitness walker, I wish new, fun things at the mall for years to come.

If you have memories of Northgate before or after its opening, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.



VVA, Chapter # 203 And Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR To Honor Spouses Of Deceased Vietnam Veterans

Bill Norton, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter # 203, and Jessica M. Dumitru, Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR and their organizations have partnered to initiate a new Department of Defense Program designed to recognize the spouses of deceased veterans from the Vietnam Era. The Deceased Vietnam Veteran’s Surviving Spouse certificate and lapel pin ... (click for more)

Chester Martin: A Trip To South Texas - And Mexico - In 1946 (Part One)

The following story was begun in 2009 for my family. It tells a little about our country right after WWII and the United States as your grandparents might have remembered it. East Main Street, Chattanooga, is where it starts - where Abe Zarzour and Ira Trivers famously ruled for a time... * * *   My Uncle Forrest Martin, and wife, Aunt Lydia (say "LIE-da") Richter ... (click for more)

Spring Creek Elementary Closed Monday And Tuesday Due To Fire In Boiler Room

There was a fire early Monday around  4 a.m.  in the boiler room at Spring Creek Elementary School causing the school to be closed Monday and Tuesday.    Damage from the fire was contained to the boiler room but the utilities to the building are also in the damaged boiler area which left the school without power, heat and other necessities to have ... (click for more)

Tony Williams, 26, Shot On Dodson Avenue Late Sunday Night

Tony Williams, 26, was shot late Sunday night on Dodson Avenue. Chattanooga Police responded at 11:50 p.m.,  to the 900 block of Dodson Avenue on a shooting.   Upon arrival, police located the victim who was suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. HCEMS responded and transported the victim to a nearby hospital. The victim advised police that the ... (click for more)

Pollution For Profit?

Why should Chattanooga allow special interests to boost sediment pollution in our South Chickamauga Creek? To pad their profit margin and pass that cost on to city taxpayers? If your city council votes to reduce the storm water regulations – that is the result we can expect. Special interest homebuilders profit, but citizens pay.  More sediment pollution and paid for with ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: America’s ‘Shush’ Fund

Michael Reagan, the son of one of our nation’s greatest presidents, wrote a wonderful op-ed piece on Sunday that explained why he believes the women who have stepped forward to allege they were once abused by Judge Roy Moore. He wrote that when he, a political consultant, is asked why the women waited 40 years to bring up the charges, “I tell them I didn’t reveal my sexual abuse ... (click for more)