Editor's Note: Macallan Group Co-Founder Mike Minutelli responded to Neighbor Newspaper's request for comment after our print deadline, so this column has been edited to reflect that response.
Mike Minutelli told anyone who would listen his company preferred to preserve the Harrison Jones house at 660 West Paces Ferry Road.
The firm he co-founded, Macallan Group, had pieced together 11 acres on the stately Buckhead street and planned to build eight substantial homes on a new cul-de-sac near the Northside Drive intersection.
It was allowed under the zoning. Putting the development in front of the local Neighborhood Planning Unit in February was perfunctory.
While the submitted plans didn’t show it, Minutelli repeatedly signaled a willingness to save the home at the heart of the project.
And it was a beauty — was being the troubling word — a grand five-bedroom brick Georgian-style home topped by five tall dormers with 13 windows across the two-story façade. It was surrounded by acres of masterly landscaped gardens.
It was in excellent shape, inside and out. In other words, it wasn’t a teardown.
Harrison Jones, an attorney and early Coca-Cola Co. executive, had the Pringle and Smith-designed home built. It was completed in 1928 and was among the original West Paces Ferry Road estates.
Macallan Group sold 660 West Paces Ferry shortly before crews demolished it. The new owner is a holding company and according to Minutelli, Macallan is no longer involved with the site. From what I’ve heard, the owner is building a new home on the site.
It is just the second time Buckhead has lost one of its original homes on its signature thoroughfare, the other being Woodhaven, Robert Maddox’s 1911 country estate, which the state demolished in 1966 to make way for the Governor’s mansion.
It is the latest blow in a never-ending battle to preserve Buckhead’s and Atlanta’s identities. The homes and the families who built them are the reason Buckhead is Buckhead, and each loss chips away at that foundation.
Atlanta City Council Member Mary Norwood compiled a list of these homes back when the fate of the Harrison Jones house first was up in the air in late January.
She found 24.
Atlanta civic and business leaders had the homes built roughly between World War 1 and World War II. Just a handful of architects designed them — Philip Shutze, Neel Reid and Walter Downing, to name a few.
These include Villa Lamar at the corner of West Paces Ferry and Castlewood Road, completed in 1911 for William Bailey Lamar and his wife, Ethel Toy Healey. George O. Totten, one of Washington D.C.’s most prolific architects, designed it.
The Reid-designed James Dickey house, Arden, is across from the Governor’s mansion and was completed in 1914. Carrère and Hastings designed the 1915 William Austell home on Andrews Drive, the driveway of which was originally on West Paces Ferry. They were a noted American Beaux-Arts architecture firm responsible for several of New York City’s signature buildings.
Those are the oldest and are in their original condition, more or less, as are a majority of the others. Newer owners have retooled a few, like the John W. Grant house completed in 1926, which is the Cherokee Town Club, and the 1931 John Ogden house, which is the “castle” at the heart of Pace Academy.
Buckhead spreads like a solar system from these originals, with Maddox’s home site — the Governor’s mansion — serving as the sun.
Each of these houses demands an exceptional steward. There are no protections despite several efforts by neighborhood leaders.
But there are tax incentives for preservation and renovations. Not only do they require a certain kind of owner, but the owner needs to be aware of the available tools.
The loss of the Harrison Jones house is the first on West Paces Ferry in more than 50 years. It is a punch to the gut for those who care about such things, which I firmly believe is most of us.
Minutelli said when they were presented with the opportunity to sell the land, "risk adjusted analysis determined that selling all of the land today was a better option than taking on the risks and unknowns of developing high-end homes that would be sold 3-5 years from now."
The house was not on the market just yet, Minutelli said, but they had been in talks with the buyer.
Minutelli said they were approved for the demo permit around late June, then closed on the sale of the property early August. Minutelli sent out an email Aug. 22 to neighbors and the NPU-A saying they no longer owned the property.
The next day, a demolition crew showed up and started raking away at the structure before anyone realized what was happening.
It begs the question, if a historic house falls in the neighborhood and no one is around to see it, does it matter?
It does, and I’m afraid we will realize it after it’s too late.