5 Things You Must See at the Atlanta History Center

  • Two-seat Privy at Smith Family Farm

As chosen by Sheffield Hale, President and CEO of the Atlanta History Center.

  1. Two-seat Privy at Smith Family FarmThe Atlanta History Center searched for years to find a true, 19th-century outhouse to add to the collection of period buildings that form the distinctive Smith Family Farm, the site of some of the History Center’s most successful craft and gardening programs for kids and families. Since no one was willing to part with their own historic outhouse, the History Center built a new one using specifications from an actual antebellum privy. Though a reconstruction, nothing shows the true impact of the lifestyle differences between Then and Now like the “necessary.”  Our two-seat privy always reminds me of the seven-seat privy at Roseland Plantation in Alabama.

  2. Daguerreotype of Richard Peters’ House on Mitchell Street, ca.1850: The daguerreotype was the first successful form of photography and the image of Richard Peter’s house is the oldest surviving photograph ever taken of Atlanta. In 1861, the property was appraised by the city for $10,000. “A year before my marriage,” Richard Peters wrote, “I purchased from Samuel G. Jones his house and two-acre lot at the corner of Mitchell and Forsyth streets for the sum of $1,400.  There we resided and there all my children were born.” I also have a crackpot idea that I’ve been peddling for the last 17 years. In essence: I claim to know who Rhett Butler was. Or at least who he was based on… Richard Peters.  You can read more on my theory HERE.

  3. Swan Console Tables
    Swan Console Tables
    Pair of Swan Console Tables at Swan House
    “Chosen with impeccable taste,” is how Swan House architect Philip T. Shutze described the Inman’s furnishing of his masterpiece. The most important objects are the pair of eighteenth-century swan console tables attributed to the English architect, Thomas Johnson. Purchased by the Inmans in Bath, England, in 1924, they may have inspired the swan motif that appears throughout the house. Shutze repeated the delicately curving cattails found in the base of the table in his design for the carved cornices above each window. The swan tables and more of Swan House play a part in the upcoming film, Hunger Games: Catching Fire. On November 22nd, the Atlanta History Center unveiled the Capitol Tours. The experience includes a guided tour through Swan House showcasing the rooms in the film and exclusive access to a behind-the-scenes exhibition. For information visit

  1. Dave Drake Jars: In an area of South Carolina known for its exceptional clay, a slave named Dave created huge pottery pieces that he often inscribed with his name and a short verse of poetry. Dave’s simple act of literacy was illegal at a time when it was forbidden for the enslaved to read and write. Yet he countered the slavery system not by writing words of protest, but by daring to write at all. No other slave artist is known to have put his name to his work. Following emancipation, he took the last name of one of his owners, Reuben Drake, and continued to create his art until his death in the mid-1870s. Many of Dave’s astounding jars are found in America’s finest museums and two of his largest are at the Atlanta History Center in our exhibit, Southern Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South.

  1. Confederate States National Flag
    Confederate States National Flag
    Confederate States National Flag, 1864: 
    Remember the famous scene in the movie Gone With the Wind when the camera pans back from a sea of wounded soldiers to reveal a tattered Confederate flag waving in the foreground?   Well, this is that flag – sort of.  This twenty-by-ten-foot Confederate national flag (not a battle flag, as shown in the movie) was flying over downtown Atlanta when the city was surrendered on September 2, 1864.  Iowa soldiers took the flag home as a souvenir and it eventually ended up in the collection of Beverly M. DuBose Jr., who donated it and 7,500 other Civil War artifacts in the 1980s.  It is the largest artifact in the Atlanta History Center’s collection. The Atlanta History Center is home one of the nation’s most comprehensive Civil War collections, 1,500 artifacts from which are exhibited in Turning Point: The American Civil War, along with photographs, dioramas, videos, and interactive components.



Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is an all-inclusive, thirty-three-acre destination featuring the Atlanta History Museum, one of the nation’s largest history museums; two historic houses, the 1928 Swan House and the 1860 Smith Family Farm; the Centennial Olympic Games Museum; the Kenan Research Center; the Grand Overlook event space; Chick-Fil-A at the Coca-Cola Café, a museum shop, and 22 acres of Historic Gardens with paths and the kid-friendly Connor Brown Discovery Trail.

In addition, the History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House located in Midtown Atlanta. For information on Atlanta History Center offerings, hours of operation and admission call 404.814.4000 or visit


Sheffield Hale

Prior to joining the Atlanta History Center in 2012, Sheffield Hale served as Chief Counsel of the American Cancer Society, Inc. and was a Partner practicing corporate law in the firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. Mr. Hale serves as a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the University of Georgia Foundation, Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center, and Fox Theatre, Inc. He is a Past Chair of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Atlanta History Center, and the State of Georgia’s Judicial Nominating Commission.Mr. Hale received his B.A. in History from the University of Georgia summa cum laude in 1982, and received his J.D. in 1985 from the University of Virginia School Of Law. He is a member of the American Law Institute.