The oldest house in Buckhead is on a busy thoroughfare, with thousands of cars speeding past daily.

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Thornton Kennedy

Few know it’s there, up on a hilltop, a verdant lawn stretching out before a welcoming, deep porch that runs the width of the house.

It isn’t on any register of historic places. There’s no plaque, no mentions on the various histories of Buckhead.

The home at 183 Lindbergh Drive meets the criteria I created to be considered the oldest. It has been more or less continuously lived in, it is not a hunting lodge and was not moved here from somewhere else.

It is on the corner of Branch Avenue and difficult to see from the road. A low wall and concrete steps lead to a wood gate, which leads to the lawn. Once you see the house, though, you can tell instantly it is from another era, all together.

The residential explosion that created today’s Buckhead started in the early 20th century as several developers acquired vast tracts of farmland along Peachtree and West Paces Ferry roads. The land would become neighborhoods like Peachtree Heights, Peachtree Hills and Tuxedo Park.

Most of the homes we think of as “historic” are from the 1920s. They are ornate and classic, some with Italian and Mediterranean influences, with myriad flourishes and sweeping grounds.

The Lindbergh house, by contrast, can best be described as a traditional 19th-century farmhouse. We don’t know exactly when it was built. It first shows up in the tax record in 1890.

A neighbor working on their master’s degree in architectural history estimated it was built in 1883. That same neighbor told the current owner the Plaster family built the house.

In 1823, the state granted Benjamin Plaster 3,000 acres along Peachtree Creek to recognize his military service during the War of 1812. I once wrote that if you were to stand on top of the Darlington Apartments on Peachtree Road, and looked northeast toward the old Varsity Junior on Lindbergh, you would be looking at the Plaster land.

Before Atlanta renamed it for the Piedmont Exposition, Piedmont Avenue bore the name Plaster’s Bridge Road for the bridge spanning Peachtree Creek in the vicinity of the bridge there today. The Plaster land became Piedmont Heights, among other neighborhoods.

The road in front of the Plaster house was changed, too, from Mayson Drive to Lindbergh in honor of aviator Charles Lindbergh. Over time, the Peachtree Hills neighborhood, which dates back to 1912, seemingly swallowed the Plaster house.

Andreas Preuss found it by accident. Stuck behind a mail truck making its stops on Lindbergh in front of the house, he looked up. He knew almost immediately it wasn’t like the other homes in the area.

He and his wife, Nonnie, purchased it in 2005. Originally from New Orleans, they were well-versed in historic preservation.

The home had been turned into a boarding house perhaps in the 1970s. Its rooms had been transformed into smaller apartments for multiple tenants. The owners lived upstairs in a duplex cut off from the downstairs.

Over several months the Preusses undid the apartments, removed walls and carefully and purposefully restored the home while adding the updates necessary for a young family.

They reused the materials they could in other parts of the house. Old stairs are now shelves on a built-in bookcase, for example.

The result is a home that feels like it has been there for 120 years but is comfortable and welcoming with contemporary conveniences. It’s a stunning achievement and a testament to the owners’ vision. I can say with some confidence as someone who has lived here all of his life, others would have torn it down.

Thank goodness the Preusses didn’t.

Some folks, who shall remain nameless, point out there have been several additions and alterations to the house, so there’s no way to determine how much of it is original.

To this untrained eye, but as someone who has been in a lot of old Buckhead homes, this seems to be the real McCoy.

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Thornton Kennedy is the president of PR South and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at thornton@prsouth.net.

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