Our Story

Bell Homebuilders began life as an engineering firm forty years ago, founded by Julian Bell.  Julian, born in Virginia Beach, was an engineer graduate of Virginia Tech before making his way to Chattanooga, Tennessee in the late 1960s to take a job with Dupont.  From there he worked as a mechanical contractor and then became both Director of Public Works for the City of Chattanooga and Assistant City Engineer prior to starting Bell Engineering.

As strictly an engineering firm, Julian's company provided industrial clients with structural and civil engineering services, designing projects like subdivisions, roads, and sewer systems.  It was his neighborhood design work that opened the door to building homes.  Julian discovered that when he finished designing a new subdivision, there was a need to supervise the rest of the project.  Homeowners were not able to manage their own contracts, and a group of them asked Julian if he would take propriety interest in their subdivision to supervise the work.  He quickly learned that every time there was an economic downturn, he had as much or more tied up in the deal as the people for whom he was working.  He began therefore to develop his own subdivisions.  As financing became more and more difficult in the late 80s and 90s, Julian dug his feet deeper into the building business to protect his investments.

Bell Engineering was slowly becoming Bell Homebuilders and one of the largest of its kind in East Tennessee.  Simultaneously, Julian Bell and his three sons built seven subdivisions and two townhome developments in a variety of market classes and economic ranges.  “In truth, we’re building communities,” Julian explained.  “We look at a piece of land, decide what type of individuals or families would be interested in the kind of community that could be built on the land, and determine the probable economic class of potential buyers.  If we do our homework correctly, we will build a community that meets the needs of a compatible range of homeowners.”

Along with a well-planned and researched subdivision design, Julian realized he needed to learn every facet of the residential building industry.  He attributed much of his success to the Home Builders Association of Chattanooga.  Julian went to contractor seminars, pursued events with the Urban Land Institute and local Planning Association, and checked every other source that offered guidance.


"We studied what types of products should go into a subdivision, the importance of advanced planning for a community, and how to recognize building opportunities," Julian explained.  "We learned that we have to do more than watch our material costs and build a quality product; we have to look hard at the sales end of business and listen to the marketplace and see what consumers want."

All of Julian's homework began to pay off.  The homebuilding side of Bell really advanced when youngest son Jay took the helm in 1998.  Jay helped expand the family business from selling 45 lots in a year to over 300.  Like father, like son, Jay learned firsthand the ins and outs of residential building.

Thirty years and nine growing subdivisions later, Bell Homebuilders continues to do what it does best: build quality affordable homes with absolute attention to customer service and satisfaction.  Bell continues to chart a course and plan for the future, building homes that sell themselves and increase in value for their owners.  That value and success is attributed to Bell's philosophy from the very beginning, that all homes must share the same quality that is built into the largest homes.  According to Julian, "Small homes take careful planning to include not only the essentials but extras that place a home a cut above the competition, yet keep it affordable for the starter homebuyer."

Julian Bell's hard work, determination, and leadership with Bell Homebuilders has helped so many families start their lives in a brand-new quality home.  And in return, Julian committed to serving the industry that offered him so much.

In Memory of Our Founder

Julian Bell, Jr. was one of Chattanooga's most respected business leaders and homebuilders.  He built his company from the ground up, developing over 4000 lots in 28 communities over 30 years.  As a licensed civil engineer in seven southern states, Julian Bell had over 35 years of residential land development and homebuilding experience and was named Developer of the Year in 1987 and 1992.  He was a 1962 graduate of Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, and a long-time active member of the Chattanooga Homebuilders Association, serving on local and statewide committees and twice as its president.  He also served on the Governor's Affairs Committee and was awarded a presidential citation.  Julian had three sons with his wife Carola: Julian III, Jon, and Jay, plus seven grandchildren.  In his spare time he enjoyed reading, time with his grandkids, visiting his colleagues at the Mountain City Club, and Virginia Tech alumni activities.  He was a big supporter of Virginia Tech's School of Engineering.

"In truth, we're building communities..." - Julian Bell, Jr.