The last two weeks of the year produce my most effortless columns, mainly because I don’t have to spend two or three hours at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead researching a subject.
At the end of the year I write a personal reflection, which ran last week, followed by a column on my favorites from the last 52 weeks. I’ll be back in my groove next week, but this week, I beg your indulgence as I look back on 2019.
It was a year in which I learned a president of the United States tried to find Buckhead but got lost; that the beginning of Brookwood Hills can be traced back to seven homes designed by one of Atlanta’s most prominent architects and that what drew developer Ed Noble to north Atlanta was a highway that wouldn’t be built for another three decades.
Hail to the chief
Benjamin Harrison helped recruit the 70th Indiana Infantry when the Civil War broke out. His regiment fought at Resaca, Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain before arriving in Buckhead on the afternoon of July 20, 1864. He led his men in the Battle of Peachtree Creek, a victory for the United States Army.
On April 15, 1891, he returned to the city as the 23rd president of the United States. He and his party made a detour to see the battlefield. Unfortunately, no one knew where the Battle of Peachtree Creek was fought. According to Susan Bernard Kessler’s book, “Buckhead: A Place for All Time,” the president and his entourage surveyed what is Piedmont Park today.
Where Buckhead’s Brookwood Hills neighborhood is today, architect Neel Reid designed a sprawling community of seven homes in the early 1920s. The home at 14 Palisades Road, built in 1922, is the last one standing. It was for sale at the time I wrote the column in January but was sold in August. It has been absorbed perfectly into the fabric of Brookwood Hills, but it was there before the neighborhood grew up around it.
Another unique Buckhead domicile, located on Rumson Road, has the opposite lineage. Designed by Ivey and Crook Architects in 1925, it was the model home for Garden Hills. Attorney Phillips Campbell McDuffie developed Garden Hills, envisioning a country club community with a swimming pool, community center and greenspace at its heart.
The home at 125 Rumson Road was built to sell his vision. You could call it the first home in the neighborhood. It is slated to be restored under the guidance of architect Laura Howard, Lewis “Buck” Crook’s granddaughter.
In a column about the 90th anniversary of Lenox Square mall in Buckhead, I related an interesting and little-known story about developer Ed Noble.
He had seen an early map showing a highway coming through the heart of Buckhead. It bordered the estate John K. Ottley, which was for sale. A banker “all but laughed at him” when he applied for a loan to purchase the Peachtree Road parcel, according to an August article in this paper.
In a display in Lenox marking its six-decade history, there is an image of a plat map showing the Lenox Square Shopping Center. A road dominates the top of the placard, like a winding river cutting through the land. It is marked “Proposed Peachtree Connector.” This was before the construction of the mall started in July 1957. Noble purchased the property in ’56.
The road would become, eventually, Georgia 400, the planning of which dates back to 1954. Though the part of 400 north of Interstate 285 opened starting in 1971, the southern portion near Lenox Square was not completed until 1993. So Noble was about three and half decades ahead of the curve. It didn’t seem to hurt him, though.
If there is a thread that ties these stories together, it is discovery. I didn’t know these stories existed until I stumbled upon them. It is the nature of this column, exploring the people and places of our community. There is no shortage of material.
It was why for as long as the paper will have me, I’ll keep writing these columns week in, week out.