When the name Hixson is mentioned, it might conjure up images of one of the more popular suburban areas of town.
Although perhaps no longer the most desired outlying area in metro Chattanooga for new construction like maybe Ooltewah, Soddy-Daisy and North Georgia, the area northeast of downtown is still popular.
This is especially true for the un-built areas on Big Ridge and near Hixson Pike north of Valleybrook.
But in the areas heading back from Valleybrook and Creeks Bend golf courses to Northgate Mall, zoning and development signs – which are like obituary notices for pastoral areas – have still been going up.
And in some places, the bulldozers have already arrived.
Off Cassandra Smith Road where Publix is, for example, the last remaining pastures have about disappeared in recent months on both sides of the road and have been replaced with the sights and sounds of construction.
A development is also being eyed on some other small pastureland where two or three older homes have long stood on the curve of Hixson Pike just north of Publix.
Despite all this, a quick driving survey of the areas near Hixson Pike between about Valleybrook and Northgate Mall reveals perhaps more 5-acre-or-less plots of undeveloped land than one might originally think.
Some of them might be close to floodplains, or are on tracts of land owned by the same families dating back to when Hixson was more rural before the 1960s.
But they were certainly pleasant to observe.
There are all kinds of wooded areas off Grubb Road near the railroad tracks, for example, as well as a small and shady grassy area among a few hardwoods near the corner of Grubb and Winding Lane.
And a short distance up Winding Lane just below Hixson Elementary School is quite a rural delight – about a 5- or 10-acre tract with a barn on it. Even though the barn has halfway fallen down, it is still a pretty sight to behold for those who love the last vestiges of rural areas amid suburbia.
And guess what was also found there Saturday afternoon? Yes, a couple of cows. Based on their laid-back looks, they probably did not realize they are an endangered species and are nearly extinct in that part of Chattanooga.
Their gentle manner and novelty appearance amid nearby subdivisions also likely make them more popular among the neighbors than barking dogs kept outside.
There was also a nice little undeveloped plot of two or three acres near the dead end of Clear Creek Road – just a good stone’s throw from the Hixson Food City. It might eventually become developed residentially or commercially, but right now it looks like a great place to take a quiet summer picnic. Just mow a little grass and put in a couple of picnic tables and you are set!
Some might wonder if such parts of Hixson need to be protected somehow, or if the Hixson Greenway and Chester Frost Park are adequate areas for passive recreation.
A tree-hugging idealist and open-space advocate would likely push for the former!
There also appear to be several historic Hixson structures that are in varying stages of being threatened. Some old homes on North Highway 153 near Boy Scout Road are vacant and have commercial zoning change signs in front of them, and the previously mentioned homes in the curve of Hixson Pike near Valleybrook Presbyterian Church also have signs indicating their days might be numbered.
Also, several vacant or lightly used commercial buildings important to the history of Hixson can be found. One is an absolutely gorgeous old pre-mid-century garage building of red brick at Skillern Road and Hixson Pike just north of Earth Fare.
The old “Fireball” music building farther north also creates quite a contrast to the Publix shopping center across Hixson Pike, but not as much as what is behind it and hardly noticeable to an average motorist zooming by – a barn.
The handsome cow cupboard – which appears to be in better shape than the one on Winding Lane -- and another small shed sit on a small chunk of acreage, so it is likely being eyed for development.
One old commercial Hixson building that seems to be getting a second life is the old Garrett’s mower repair building off Old Hixson Pike by the railroad tracks. It appears to be undergoing a restoration, although no signs of what it might one day be are apparent.
A number of historic homes that appear at present not to be threatened also dot this part of Hixson. There are several classic-looking old middle class homes off Old Hixson Pike – homes that would be even more coveted if they were in North Chattanooga. And one simply gorgeous old bungalow structure sits off Hamill Road in a large shaded lot near the hospital.
One ranch home across the street and closer to 153 than the bungalow has that vacant, abandoned and for-sale-as-a-commercial-lot look of death, however.
As already referenced, debates can be held regarding whether efforts should be made to preserve these older structures and small tracts of land, or whether citizens should let the marketplace work naturally in the spirit of free enterprise.
What seems absolute, though, is that fewer signs of old Hixson seem to remain with each passing year.
But in 2018, a few still can be found if one looks close enough amid the much-more-numerous signs of suburbia.
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Note: This is one of a series of stories looking at, analyzing and critiquing Chattanooga’s architectural, urban and pastoral landscape. To see the previous story in the series, click here.
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