With the incorporation of the City of Brookhaven in 2012, the Tullie Smith House (built c. 1840) at the Atlanta History Center has become the oldest house within the Atlanta city limits. Below are 10 other historic homes that showcase Atlanta’s history from pioneer town to the capital of the New South.
1. Edward C. Peters House (Now, SCAD Ivy Hall) – Located in Midtown at 179 Ponce de Leon Avenue, the National Park Service (NPS) calls the home, which sits on a full acre wooded lot, “the best and earliest surviving example of residential architecture from Atlanta’s post-Civil War era.” Having first visited Atlanta when it was still Marthasville, Peters moved to the city in 1846 and spent the rest of his life deeply entrenched in the railway and railcar business, owning the Atlanta Street Railway Company. In addition to his home, Peters owned 400 acres immediately north of downtown Atlanta. The home was fully restored by Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) experts and is currently owned by SCAD.
2. Dr. William P. Nicholson Home – Prominent Atlanta surgeon William P. Nicholson had this eclectic Piedmont Avenue home built for him in 1892. In addition to Nicholson’s surgery work, he was also dean and teacher at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Atlanta, and President of the Georgia Medical Association.
3. Herndon Home – Alonzo Herdon, a freed slave, owned and managed several barbershops in downtown Atlanta after the Civil War and invested his money in real estate, becoming the largest black property owner in Atlanta by 1900. He went on to become Atlanta’s first black millionaire after founding the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Wanting a home reflecting his wealth, Herndon’s first wife, Adrienne designed the 15-room Beaux Arts mansion at 587 University Place NW, which was completed in 1908.
Joel Chandler Harris Home/The Wren's Nest, courtesy of Eileen Falkenberg-Hull.
4. Joel Chandler Harris Home (The Wren’s Nest) – Now an attraction for school groups and tourists, construction on what was originally a simple farmhouse started in 1870. It was remodeled to its current Queen Anne style in 1884. Located at 1050 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, Joel Chandler Harris’s bedroom has remained unchanged since the day he died in 1908, and most of the original furniture is on display.
5. L.P. Grant Mansion – Purchased by the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) in December 2001, the antebellum Lemuel P. Grant Mansion in the Grant Park Historic District has been restored. According to the APC website, “The three-story, Italianate mansion was built in 1856 by Lemuel Pratt Grant (1817-1893), a city pioneer, railroad magnate and philanthropist who donated 100 acres to the city for Grant Park. Surviving the Civil War, the house was the 1902 birthplace of golf legend Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones and was at one time a passion of Margaret Mitchell, the author of "Gone with the Wind.” You can visit the L.P. Grant mansion during tour hours at 327 St. Paul Avenue SE.
6. Rhodes Hall – Prominently located on Peachtree Street between the High Museum of Art and SCAD- Atlanta, Rhodes Hall was built in 1904 for Amos Rhodes, the founder of Rhodes Furniture (which would become Haverty’s) and Atlanta’s first furniture magnate. Now known as the “Castle on Peachtree” at 1516 Peachtree Street NW, Rhodes Hall serves as a museum and is the headquarters for The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
7. Villa Lamar – Located in Buckhead at 801 West Paces Ferry Road, this Italian Renaissance–style private residence was built in 1911 by former Florida Congressman William Bailey Lamar and his wife Ethel. Originally located on 200 acres of land, the site was previously home to Hardy Pace, who owned and operated a ferry named Pace’s Ferry. Throughout its existence, the home also has been known as Hollywood, Newcastle and the Reuben Garland House.
8. Meadow Nook– Built in 1856, this East Lake home is the second oldest in Atlanta and one of the few private residences to survive the Civil War. The Greek Revival home was built for Col. Robert Alston as a wedding gift for his bride. In 1879, Col. Alston was assassinated at the Georgia State Capitol in a dispute over the lease of convicts for labor. His sensational death was covered by the New York Times. The neighborhood of East Lake is located entirely on land once owned by Alston.
9. Judge William Wilson House – Currently recorded on the Atlanta Preservation Center’s Most Endangered Properties list, the two-story Greek Revival building pre-dates the Civil War and was built from 1856 to 1859 on 1,200 acres of land in what is now Fairburn Heights. According to the NPS, “While Wilson was serving with the Georgia Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, his house was used by Union General William T. Sherman as temporary headquarters during the Battle of Atlanta. After the war, Judge Wilson served as a justice of the inferior court in Fulton County, a representative in the Georgia General Assembly, and as the sheriff of Fulton County.” The current structure is barely visible from the road, and the property is in extremely dilapidated condition but can be found at 501 Fairburn Road SW.
10. G. W. Collier House – Built c. 1868 on the site of a house that was originally built in 1820 but destroyed in 1864, the current Ansley Park home is one of Atlanta’s oldest. From tomitronics.com, “George Washington Collier was Atlanta’s first postmaster and one of the city’s best-known citizens in the 19th century. He and his brothers owned hundreds of acres of land along Peachtree Road, and the family’s use and disposition of that land, beginning around 1890, had a profound influence on the development of the Peachtree Street corridor from Fourteenth Street to W. Wesley Drive, which was named for Collier’s brother Wesley.” The home can be found at 1649 Lady Marian Lane.