Tag Archives: east atlanta

east atlanta’s old new money

ZJ collage

I’m not actually a fan of Neoclassical Revival houses. They all seem rather gaudy to me, bawdy even, built, not out of the frontier earth that raised many an antebellum classical revival house, but from turn-of-the-century “new south” and “new money.” They are the forerunners of today’s McMansions and that, for sure, is nothing to be admired. Our class is studying architectural details and interior design, and looking at the outside, I fully expected open spaces and white paint, elaborately carved details. Inside, however, was more typical of the time period (built in 1906), the craftsmanship beamed. Mr. Zuber, it turns out was in the lumber industry and the interior is a blend of classical arches and arts and crafts styles that blend, though not seamlessly, very well. All this woodwork has been stained, making the interior dark and cozy, glowing warmly in the lamplight. The couple who owns the house now is neither Zuber nor Jarrell (the family that lived in the house since the middle of the 20th century and keeps up ties with the place), and they have been living in major work-in-progress since they began in 2003. Mostly working room by room, the dining room and front hall are the primary storage areas though many of the interior walls exhibit layers of peeled wallpaper and painted plaster, fruits of J’s labor.

It turns out I would love to live here, open up all the windows of the breakfast room, sleep on the sleeping porch above while that East Atlanta breeze rustles the pecans, and sipping cocktails with friends on the open, vine-covered side porch before a lovely dinner in the pink and green 80s floral wallpapered dining room (might have to redo that).

Historic Sylvester Cemetery

For some reason I’d never explored the old cemetery right here in my neighborhood. Sometimes it takes a serendipidous opportunity, unplanned, for the best explorations to occur and so, a few weekends back when Viv, B, and I, worn out and hot from our hike up Stone Mountain and full (oh SO full) from our repast at Community Q in Decatur, we weren’t quite ready to end the days adventures and found ourselves at the cemetery. Of course we ended up parking right at our friends N and LL’s house so we had to pay a visit to their window-cat.

Back to the cemetery.
Turns out this place was older than i imagined. I’d recently learned it was the “Historic Sylvester Cemetery” but i was stumped, a historic cemetery on edges of East Atlanta? nestled in the crook of I-20, in the heart of a 1940s-at-the-earliest section of the district. There was no historic church nearby that i knew of either. Clearly, whatever history surrounded this cemetery, and there had to be some since the graves we saw took us back to the late 1800s, had pretty much disappeared. I am no historian on East Atlanta, but the commercial center wasn’t established until around 1910 with the advent of the Flat Shoals streetcar, a branch off the Edgewood Ave streetcar line that was responsible for the Inman Park subdivision, this explains the circa 1906/1910 Zuber-Jarrell House, a big old Neoclassical house about a mile further down Flat Shoals. So what was the story? All these children’s graves from the 1910s-30s, delicate and intricate marble headstones that were no paupers graves, family plots, and then, a very handmade concrete topper on one.

Turns out much of the history around there has indeed been erased. I-20 lies over Thomas Simmons farm who was granted that parcel of land in DeKalb county. He ran a mill on the Sugar Creek which supplied early Atlanta with lumber. His wife is likely the first burial in Sylvester but the first marked grave (which i’ll have to go back and find) is of a baby a year or so after Mrs. Simmons died, the 1 year old daughter of Nancy Terry and “Spanish Jim” Brown who are considered the first settlers of East Atlanta, but i don’t know how they figure that. However, it was yet another couple, the Terrys who had a son named Sylvester who died 1872 at age 16. In 1873 Mrs. Terry leased part of her land to a church group (Methodist Episcopal Church-South) but asked they name the church for Sylvester and so we have a name. Henceforth other churches seem to have taken over, one acre grew to several and the rest, well, you can read about here.


I highly recommend a visit to this forested hillside in East Atlanta. The ambience is incredible although i’m sure it wasn’t always nor intended to be so. Trees, some large but many small, grow among the graves, upsetting monuments and who knows what else, and, though poison ivy creeps among the pinestraw don’t let that dissuade you.

guerilla tomatoes

Monday morning the last few tomato plants were still sitting on our front porch, staring me in the face, pleading with me to be let out of their yogurt containers so they could take off like all their brothers and sisters already distributed to various garden plots around atlanta (P, B, B&K, our own yard… just to name a few). Where could they go?? then it hit me this was would take guerilla action, after all, for someone who’s practiced absentee gardening with some success (by the way, my stop at Sunshine for the first time in 6 months last week revealed a good bit of healthy garlic, a bunch of good-looking collards, and some volunteer Thai basil!), there could be many worse fates for a healthy little tomato plant than throwing it out into the wilds of east atlanta to fend for itself and, hopefully, give fruit to the neighbors.

So, Monday afternoon i enlisted B in this project and we coasted down the hill to Gresham and one of several public right-of-ways our neighborhood enjoys. As I feared, most of the path was flanked by vigorous poison ivy, even around the bridge and the creek where someone once planted monkey grass to keep other weeds down. That would’ve been a perfect spot and maybe next winter we’ll get out there and do our best to rid the place of the poison weed to make room for a tiny veg plot or a fruit tree… In any case, we settled on the entrance where a neighbor’s mowing is keeping the weeds at bay. We planted them along the public side of a fence, B hauled water from the stream in a found styrofoam cup and we dragged out a landscaping tie to block off the 3 Brandywines and 1 tomatillo (de Milpa) that we hope will prevail. It’s so hot and dry lately though i’m really not sure, crossing my fingers for some serious rain tomorrow to really soak them.


on Eastwood-Eastland Manor

first of all, what a name!
This subdivision was carved out of unincorporated DeKalb county in the 50s. Cloverdale Dr (the entrance to this subdivision we call home) is not listed in the directory for DeKalb co. until 1953. In 1955/56 it has been relegated to the Suburban Atlanta directory which was, i think, begun that year. Crestwood Dr and Edgemore Dr also appear in 1953, but both only with lower house numbers than our’s or B’s. Not until somewhere from 1958-60 are both our house and B’s are listed and with colored owners (this was still documented at the time). So it would seem that the first inhabitants of Eastwood-Eastland Manor were African-American. VERY interesting as the neighborhood is only—in the last 6-8 years—bringing in the young folk (many white) who are first-time homebuyers. That was the extent of my research one day at the Kenan Research Library.

One interesting thing to note here is that both B and Viv think their houses were built in 51/52, that’s what the tax assessor has on record. I have heard that there can be some discrepancy in tax assessor offices and actual dates (although usually i’d think they’d lean toward a more recent date on the house rather than an older one). Unfortunately i only had the city directories to compare dates with as I was unable to unearth ANY building permits for our neighborhood in the microfilm. I find it unlikely that the directory would be a full 7 or 8 years off and suspect the houses as being built in 56/57 maybe.

This past week, however, I have been photographing and observing the neighborhood from a architectural history/city planning point of view for a school project. Similar to what B and I used to do walking the dogs last spring, i’ve now been documenting and cogitating the various house-styles (traditional american small, ranch, and split level) and neighborhood features (most prominently, the brick-encased mailbox). The neighborhood has enough variety that makes me suspect each home was built by an individual, however, pairs of nearly identical houses are so common i’m not sure a developer wasn’t involved. Perhaps a little of both was happening.

Despite being a textbook 50s suburb with by-the-book houses, there was a definite attempt at variety. The sandstone door-surround is popular as are other mixed material facades: stone, siding, and brick, yellow brick or red brick, granite chunk chimneys or flat sandstone “bricks”. The picture window is popular and front porches are rarely seen except on recent remodels. It should also be noted that there is a particular sameness to streets. On Edgewood we only have ranches, also on the long end of Cloverdale, while closer in and on Crestview what i think are traditional American smalls are most prominent. Some of this could be based on the division of lots, the smalls are on narrower longer lots, while our ranch house sits on a wider lot and slightly less deep.

Since the ranch house has now gained historical significance in it’s crossing of the 50-year mark, we can cherish these neighborhoods and the culture they were conceived in.