John Shearer: Checking Out The Old Lupton City Property

Sunday, January 21, 2018 - by John Shearer

After hearing in recent days about the sale of the old Lupton City property that had once housed the large Dixie Yarns/Dixie Mercerizing Co. Mill, I thought it might be neat Sunday afternoon to go over and get some pictures of it before it begins to change.

I was of course careful to stand on the right side of the "No Trespassing" signs while doing it!

Today, except for the seemingly lightly used Lupton City golf course -- which has been a really historical and unique golfing treasure in Chattanooga over the years -- the grounds of the old mill look like a definite ghost town.

Other than about three old buildings along Mercer Street, including one that looks like it would catch the eyes of idealistic historic preservationists, not much remains of an old plant that for years employed hundreds of Chattanoogans and was headed by the prominent Lupton and Frierson families.

Now it almost looks like a hollowed-out area in a decaying part of town.

Of course, that is soon to change. It has been announced that Riverton LLC has purchased the more than 200 acres and plans a development of more than $200 million that will include estate homes, townhomes, condominiums, single-family residences and senior living facilities. It will also feature a planned town center with shops, as well as park and trail areas, although the golf course will be phased out, officials have said.

The city of Chattanooga is also scheduled to clean up the site after work on removing the old mill's construction materials was not finished by a previous party.

When I went over there Sunday, the weather was quite nice, and a panoramic view could be seen at some places. The old ballfields near the turnoff to Rivermont Park were still slightly visible, despite the fact they have become mostly overgrown in recent years. The fields were likely used by employees of the mill and the community.

I thought of the times I was on the field playing sports once or twice in elementary school and when I used to jog around it with our Westie dog, Buster, when my wife, Laura, and I lived not far from there in the 1990s.

I then drove up by the cottage-style golf course clubhouse -- which uniquely has rough wood columns with branches slightly sticking out -- and thought about the few times I played the course. I remember playing it as a child around 1970 with Tommy Childers, whose father, Rex Childers, worked in sales for Dixie Yarns.

I also played there once or twice while a member of the Baylor high school golf team in the 1970s, including once against Red Bank High. I think Girls Preparatory School may have used the course for a period around this same time when they were producing a few future college golf pioneers in the early days of Title IX.

On Sunday, only a few people were out on this course, the primary hazards of which have been, not water and sand, but hills and blind shots.

Around the golf course and other areas of the sold property are several pockets of woods featuring old hardwood trees.

I then checked out some of the buildings over on the west side of the old mill from the course. I once interviewed the postmaster there and did a newspaper story about how Lupton City uniquely had its own post office and ZIP code. That building is apparently gone.

Still standing a few yards north -- although barely -- is the old gymnasium where I played church basketball for about three years for Red Bank United Methodist Church in the late 1970s. I was able to play some sports on the high school varsity level, but there was something extra fun about playing church basketball. Our coach was Zack Coley, and we practiced at the vintage old former Red Bank High gymnasium on Dayton Boulevard that was torn down in recent years.

Zack's grandfather, Clyde Abernathy, ran the recreation program at Lupton City/Dixie Yarns for a number of years before being asked to manage the Valleybrook Golf Club after it opened in the early 1960s.

While standing in this area and looking across the fence at the rubble from the old mill, I also thought about all the employees who worked there. Did they ever think a major riverfront housing development would take the mill's place?

Many of the houses that were built for company employees in the early 1900s are still there. Although that area is now considered a modest area in which to live, and has always been, that might change with the new developments. So, if I ever want to invest in old houses, I might want to look there.

I also noticed that these old houses had several different designs. Several in a row had two columns near each other on the front porch, while on another street, shaved-off roof lines on the front were present.

The area is getting ready to change, but a few landmarks bordering the property will likely remain and catch an eye even more, I deduced.

jcshearer2@comcast.net

 


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