Wednesday, May 16, 2012
History buff and Alexian Village resident Ann Folts released two books recently that contain a wealth of Signal Mountain history.
As the chair of the Alexian Welcome Committee, Folts helps guide new residents to where they need to go with a driving tour of the town center, places of significance and local parks. Her books, “Guided Walk/Drive of the Historic District of Signal Mountain” and “A Brief History of Signal Mountain Hotel, the Alexian Inn and its Environs,” aid her in that role. But they also hold useful knowledge and interesting information for the rest of the community as well.
“I love history and old houses,” said Folts, a New Orleans native who found herself in another world full of facts to gather upon moving to Alexian Village six years ago. “This is such a wonderful area, and it seemed to me it would be nice to know our neighborhood.”
If one is able to walk, she highly recommends orienting oneself with a walking tour. She said Tennessee Avenue is one of the best places to start, as many homes are from the prime building period of 1914-15. Brady Point Road and Flint Street are also favorites for Folts, featuring a mix of homes from 1914-1925.
“[Reading the books] helps people understand what a wealth of history there is in this town,” she said, adding that sometimes people neglect to explore the history of their own hometown because they feel it will always be around. “One attribute I have is it’s all new to me.”
Even seasoned Signal Mountain residents will likely discover facts about the town and its people of which they were previously unaware, such as why the town became incorporated (to keep cows from grazing on the golf course) and how Medal of Honor recipient Charles Coolidge practiced his aim (by throwing mud balls at Mary Helens).
“It’s nice to think your town largely developed because you have cows grazing,” Folts said.
She performed some of her research at the Signal Mountain, Chattanooga and Alexian libraries, and used census information to learn about the area’s historical homes. She also picked the brains of longtime Signal Mountain residents, such as Anne Mathis Ballard, Nancy Fitzwater Goss Dragoo and Joan Fitzwater Baird.
Folts said some of the most interesting information she came across related to Alexian Inn.
“I try to imagine what the footprint of the original inn was, try to envision what it was like in 1913-14,” said Folts of the the hotel’s heyday, when a beer garden was located on the front lawn and slot machines filled the basement. “It must have been quite something.”
She said she is currently working on an expanded driving tour to be released by year’s end.