Amos G. Rhodes is best known for the Stone Mountain granite mansion on Peachtree Street across from Ansley Park.
That is shown to be true by looking through the local newspaper archives, a search of which nets page after page on Rhodes Memorial Hall, the furniture magnate’s grand estate which once sat on more than a hundred acres north of Atlanta.
Rhodes is also known for his namesake store, which he started in Atlanta and grew to become the premier furniture retailer in South.
But the most important accomplishment of the man who arrived in post-war Atlanta with $75, a gold watch and a horse-drawn cart is neither of these.
It is a health and rehab center that also bears his name.
Born in Henderson, Ky. in 1850 to Louisa and Joseph Rhodes — a wagon maker, Amos Giles Rhodes arrived in Atlanta in 1875. The railroad brought him here, literally and figuratively. He was a laborer with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, a job he seems to have promptly quit upon his arrival.
He started out making picture frames, traveling around Atlanta and selling them out of the back of his cart. Because most of his customers did not have the means to purchase his wares, he invented a system where individuals could spread their payments over several weeks.
It’s a little known historical fact, but Amos G. Rhodes invented paying in installments.
The same year he arrived here, he opened a furniture showroom on Decatur Street, which featured his installment system, as the Civil War left many in Atlanta in terrible financial shape. With those humble beginnings, he founded a business that would grow to more than 80 stores in 11 states, with sales reaching as high as $194 million.
He and his wife Amanda amassed 114 acres north of the city starting in 1901. The land included the Brookwood interchange, where Interstates 85 and 75 meet today, and much of Tanyard Creek. They finished “Le Reve” — The Dream — in 1904 on that property, a castle-like granite mansion inspired by their travels through the German Rhineland. The interior is considered one of the best examples of late Victorian design in Atlanta. Of course, it is still there to this day and is on the the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1897, Rhodes donated the land and the money to build the Hospital of the Atlanta Circle of the King’s Daughters and Sons, which served patients suffering from incurable diseases. It was on the corner of Woodward Avenue and Boulevard a few blocks from Historic Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park.
In 1904, the organization completed a new building on that property, which it would eventually name in his honor. It remains the main campus for the nonprofit A.G. Rhodes to this day, which serves 130 seniors with both short-term and long-term needs. It also operates a Marietta campus for the same number of individuals as well as Wesley Woods on the Emory Wesley Woods Campus, which offers memory care.
In all, A.G. Rhodes takes care of more than 1,100 seniors across three campuses. Several of Rhodes’ descendants support the organization to this day, with a few serving on the board.
At no time in the organization’s more than 120-year history, I would argue, has it been as critical. Providing a safe and healthy place for seniors with a staff that has to be there day and night over the last year and three quarters has been a daunting challenge, which A.G. Rhodes has met bravely and without compromise.
The individuals at A.G. Rhodes represent a broad spectrum of Atlanta. It is an example of our city at its best. The people who work and volunteer there are heroes, of that there can be no doubt. If you would like to get involved or support them, visit agrhodes.org.
More than a furniture store or a stone mansion, this is the legacy of Amos Giles Rhodes.