Tag Archives: houses

Sandy Springs’ historic gem threatened

Not far from “downtown” Sandy Springs (that cluster of shopping centers where the recently formed city is working to create a town center) lie over 70 acres of private greenspace that are currently for sale and in the middle of the northern portion lies the exquisite, serene, Glenridge Hall.

Glenridge Hall, built by TK Glenn in 1929, is now for sale along with its surrounding acreage. This exquisite restored historic house has no protections.

Glenridge Hall, built by TK Glenn in 1929, is now for sale along with its surrounding acreage. This exquisite restored historic house has no protections.

I need not tell any metro-Atlantan that property at the intersection of 400 and Abernathy Rd is a prime real estate in the corporate world, in fact UPS and Newell Rubbermaid headquarters sit on former Glenn family (now Mayson) property adjacent to the acreage now for sale.

TK GLENN, the builder
Thomas Kearney (TK) Glenn was one of those bootstrap fellows like so many early Atlantans such as Asa Griggs Candler, Amos Rhodes, and Joel Hurt. From Vernon, Mississippi, he came to Atlanta in 1887 and before you knew it he had his fingers in half the pots in the city, from the nascent Atlanta Consolidated Street Railway Co (later Georgia Power) to aiding the development of Atlantic Steel, Grady Hospital, and Sun Trust Bank. (read more about him in relation to the Glenn Building on Marietta)

In 1915 TK Glenn purchased 400 acres for a farm and upon marrying his second wife, in 1927, built Glenridge Hall on the property, which was completed in 1929. It was an English Tudor Revival manor house for an English country estate, just north of Atlanta.

The Restoration
In the 1980s, Frances Glenn and Joey Mayson expressed their desire to restore Glenridge Hall for “preservation beyond our own lifetime and into perpetuity.” They were spurred by the sale of a huge portion (around 150 acres) of the property to developers, which would become office parks and Ga-400.

They enlisted the help of preservationists and the community of Sandy Springs rallied behind them. Glenridge Hall was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and the restoration was completed to the trumpet call of local papers and earned accolades from The Georgia Trust.

Unfortunately Frances (granddaughter of TK Glenn) died of complications in childbirth in 1987. Joey Mayson continued to care for and restore the property as a memorial to her while he lived there with his daughter, Caroline. It is touching to read the correspondence and clippings of that era that are contained in the National Register file at the State Historic Preservation Office.

He fought hard to keep encroaching development at bay though in the end, offices towers for UPS, Kaiser Permanente, Rubbermaid and others rose on the eastern flank of the property. The house though, through Mr. Mayson’s efforts remained secluded in the midst of a thickly forested 37-acre parcel north of Abernathy Rd. As for it’s service to the public and the community, while the grandest ideals he and his wife shared in the 1980s were never fully realized (public access, and a tie-in to Marta for starters it sounds like), Glenridge Hall has served the community over the years, hosting balls, fundraisers and other charitable events at little or no cost to the charity.


But times change, and people come and go. Ideals are forgotten and unfortunately Mr. Mayson never had Glenridge Hall placed in that land trust he dreamed of when he saw the first office towers rising. Today the family, with the almost exclusive aid of their financial manager Mike Rabalais, are selling the remainder of the property, some 76 acres in total, including Glenridge Hall, and no protections are in place.

Would a corporation see the value in this pristine property? enough to stay the hand of execution (of forest and hall) and let the property continue to serve this world? It is possible, but unlikely in the booming bustling office-park road-happy Atlanta.

The people of Sandy Springs should be raising a ruckus!
but only a handful seem to be aware of it at all.

The preservation of this beautiful property along with some land conservation could be an exceptional boon to the city. There are 76 acres at stake! Surely there is room in there for everyone to be happy.

more Mixed Use

(warning: this is a long one)

back in December, the word got around that the corner of the Reynoldstown neighborhood directly across the street from the Edgewood Shopping Center was ripe for development and someone was interested.

parcel-GIS-layered data flat
the affected property outlined on the current GIS map

the Physical Details:
20 residential lots comprise approximately 5.4 acres and contain 12 houses with 1 apparently vacant (1150 Wade St). Historic properties and their date of construction (according to Zillow.com, so take as estimates) are in orange, occupied properties in yellow. The oldest properties date 1920 though this one looks like it may be older and all new construction is from the 1990s and seems like they may be Habitat houses (though not the original owners). Judging by the GIS records most of these houses are rentals and some empty lots are owned by neighboring owners while others, like those lots in the southeast corner, are owned by an LLC.

1928 Atlanta City Map from Emory Library

parcel Pullen-aerial 1940 copy
1949 Aerial Atlas of Atlanta from GSU Special Collections.

You can tell by the above map from 1928 and aerial from around 1949, that the property has been in continuous use as single or two-family residential parcels since he 1920s. These houses once faced more homes across Moreland where Edgewood retail district now sits, although the majority of that parcel was an industrial brownfield.

from Edgewood Retail District

The buzz in December was oh-so-brief but the general consensus on the web seemed to be that this was super! residential and commercial development at an appropriate location, right next to Marta, TOD! and all that.

But I was appalled, in the name of development (yet another mixed-use multi-residential/commercial with plenty of parking complex) it’s ok to snatch up people’s homes, (historic homes), on lovely tree-filled lots??! also, I must admit, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the 1920s homes on Moreland Ave—particularly those sitting up above the street with a narrow staircase through their retaining wall, I can’t tell you how much I long to live in one…

On the other hand, proponents were right, proposals to build a high density residential development near a Marta station is positively, duh, brilliant. Despite my heartache at the loss of old houses and older trees, I can see the logic of a better transition from the single family neighborhood to the busy street and commercial hub, and as long as it’s done properly (without turning its back on the neighborhood or otherwise resulting in the deterioration of the next front line of single family properties) this could be perfect. Parking should not be centralized, neighborhood streets should not become congested (believe me, Rtown streets are too small to handle that, Wylie is bad enough), just, overall, it should be beneficial to and serve the existing community not just the young-up-and-coming it aims to attract. And of course, any development should position itself to take as much advantage of public transportation as possible. One person very soundly suggested a reworking of the MARTA entrance along Seaboard Ave. “When it was built,” they write, “there was no reason for [the entrance] to extend down the street toward Moreland but with this development in addition to the Edgewood development, there’s reason for MARTA riders to be coming and going in that direction.” Personally, after walking a quarter mile on elevated walkways in the opposite direction, the distance from where the Rtown entrance spits you out to Moreland is the only reason I don’t walk by the store on my way home. A long trek west just to go east is downright frustrating.

The thing is, it’s hard to believe any developer is going to do right by the community. My boyfriend welcomes the possibility of good restaurants right in our hood, but who’s to say there won’t just be more Willys’ and Subways (nothing wrong with that it’s just not what he has in mind)? and if there’s no improved access to the Marta station then residents and shoppers are just as unlikely to use public transit as they are now when accessing the Edgewood Retail District. And there are other concerns with affordable housing, will a flashy mixed use development like this speed the gentrification of Reynoldstown or will affordable housing be offered and neighborhood’s diversity maintained?

We might not have long to wonder.

The scoop:
An application (Z-13-53) was brought before the Zoning Review Board on February 20, 2014, to rezone the 20 contiguous parcels as Mixed Residential Commercial (MRC-3). Applicant: JW Homes, ℅ Jessica Hill Esq., 17 property owners were named in the application.

According to the Staff Report, the applicant included a conceptual site plan for a multifamily residential development comprising 285 units, 15,000 square feet of non-residential space and 467 parking spaces.

The Staff Report basically says what online commenters had indicated a few months ago:

    – that facilitating a mixed use development was suitable to this area and that “the zoning and site plan proposal are consistent with the recommendations of the Moreland Ave Corridor Study and goals and policy for the City for infill development near MARTA stations.”
    – the proposed development would have a positive influence on the quality of life and positive effect on adjacent properties, “filling an important gap in the urban fabric between the Edgewood Retail District and the MARTA Station.”
    – an MRC zoning for this area would allow for the best use of this site and much better use/opportunities than the current R-5 zoning allows for.

The staff recommendation was to approve the rezoning conditional that the development be conceptually consistent with the site plan and elevations submitted by The Preston Partnership, LLC, with this application and in compliance with any regulations of the Beltline Overlay District in which the property is located.
While I look fondly at these houses hanging out on the busy avenue, with their long front yards full of mature hardwoods (a nice separation from the street), most people seem to see the 20 residential lots as blighted. Few can imagine living on Moreland. And so, though my heart aches at the thought of those houses being bulldozed and the trees being cut down, there is great promise for a more transit-oriented Atlanta here. Let’s hope it works out.

a shot-crete mansion

“uh uhh-h! no photos of my house!!” she hollered as she appeared in the doorway. I was still setting up the shot to include her mailbox and the entirety of the batting cage roof structure. I obediently put the camera down (remembering how threatening it can be) and headed across the road.

The house was a typical small house, but a bay window built of 1x4s had been inserted in the front and a craziness I can best describe as a batting cage covered the entire roof. Parts of this were coated in corrugated plastic and seemed destined for the same shot-crete treatment as the mountain-like mailbox. Concrete pillars anchored an extended front bay to the left of the door and from what I could tell, the inside had some work going on too.

For the next 10 minutes or so I tried to assure her I was not ill-intentioned and to get her to tell me more about her house and vision. Mostly in response I got that she was “just thankful God let me have a roof over my head” and “what’s so different ’bout my house? I don’t like all the attention, my home no different from the other homes. Some black folks in old houses, and white folks nice houses, folks don’t take pictures of they homes,” (well yes ma’am I do) “why they gotta take a picture of mine!”

I tried to make her see that what she was doing here was special, it was NOT something everyone does, it was not ‘just a normal house’ and the attention was GOOD. Maybe she knows that, J had an interesting perspective, that perhaps there was a little bit of shame, especially maybe the in-progress state of it. I have seen this surprisingly [to most of us] aggressively defensive attitude before in small towns and poorer neighborhoods. Folks have been put upon so long, they are used to the Man taking without giving back or even asking. Stories abound for anything deemed suspicious, in one neighborhood in Covington, rumors abounded that Miss L is redoing her house with money from the City since she was on the City Council. Naturally, these folks are untrusting of historic regulations, that their property value will automatically go up, their own homes will be condemned and the long-time residents forced out. Maybe my crazy house lady was worried I would report her home unsound (it probably is, case in point being the Broken Angel in brooklyn), I could be the first step toward a condemnation. Whatever her nebulous fears were they were untrue in my case if not unfounded. This attitude flabergasts me and I have a hard time not posting stolen a photo here…

Broken Angel Just to note, the Broken Angel artist-owner had no problem having his photo taken in front of his palace despite current and on-going attempts by the city to condemn his home. Very similar people in so many ways, but what a difference in attitude, their perception of art and understanding of their own creation and its affects on people.


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.