Brookwood Hills

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Brookwood HillsDesignated: Conservation District
November 28, 1994

District 17, Land Lots 109 and 110
Fulton County, City of Atlanta
Existing Zoning R5 , I2

District Map

BOUNDARIES

The proposed district includes properties fronting on the north and south sides of Brighton Road from the west property lines of 21 Brighton Road (south side) and 22 Brighton Road (north side) on the west to the east property lines of 145 Brighton Road (south side) and 146 Brighton Road (north side) on the east; also properties fronting on the north and south sides of Wakefield Drive from the west property lines of 23 Wakefield Drive (south side) and 24 Wakefield Drive (north side) on the west to the east property lines of 77 Wakefield Drive (south side) and 78 Wakefield Drive (north side) on the east; also properties fronting on the west side of Wakefield Drive from the south property line of 80 Wakefield Drive on the south to the north property line of 108 Wakefield Drive on the north; also properties fronting on the east side of Wakefield Drive from the south property line of 105 Wakefield Drive on the south to the north property line of 109 Wakefield Drive on the north; also properties fronting on the north and south sides of Palisades Road from the west property lines of 9 Palisades Road (south side) and 10 Palisades Road (north side) on the west to the east property lines of 110 Palisades Road (north side) and 129 Palisades Road (south side) on the east; also properties fronting on the north and south sides of Huntington Road from the west property lines of 32 Huntington Road (north side) and 35 Huntington Road (south side) on the west to the east property lines of 106 Huntington Road (north side) and 109 Huntington Road (south side) on the east; also properties fronting on the east and west sides of Huntington Road from the south property lines of 110 Huntington Road (west side) and 111 Huntington Road (east side) on the south to the north property lines of 240 Huntington Road (west side) and 235 Huntington Road (east side) on the north; also properties fronting on the east and west sides of Northwood Avenue from the south property lines of 16 Northwood Avenue (west side) and 15 Northwood Avenue (east side) on the south to the north property lines of 48 Northwood Avenue (west side) and 57 Northwood Avenue (east side) on the north; also properties fronting on the east and west sides of Woodcrest Avenue from the south property lines of 16 Woodcrest Avenue (west side) and 23 Woodcrest Avenue (east side) on the south to the north property lines of 56 Woodcrest Avenue (west side) and 57 Woodcrest Avenue (east side) on the north; also properties fronting on the east and west sides of Montclair Drive from the south property lines of 2 Montclair Drive (west side) and 7 Montclair Drive (east side) on the south to the north property lines of 67 Montclair Drive (east side) and 74 Montclair Drive (west side) on the north; also the property at 232 Parkdale Way, fronting 134 feet on the west side of Parkdale Way.

SIGNIFICANCE/ANALYSIS

Brookwood Hills is a small, residential district platted and constructed primarily in the 1920s for the upper middle class. It demonstrates an important type of suburban subdivision in Atlanta, the developers of which borrowed elements of earlier growth patterns in Druid Hills and Ansley Park and followed new patterns unique to the post-World War I era, a time when the automobile made suburbanization possible. Benjamin and Arthur Burdett developed the neighborhood in the fashion of the Federick Law Olmsted style of curvilinear street patterns and park-like settings already established in Druid Hills and Ansley Park. They also created a limited access, enclave type subdivision with shallow setbacks on small lots and uniform street landscaping. The latter aspects of Brookwood Hills tend to set it apart from the earlier developments by stressing the distinctive combination of an urban atmosphere in a rural setting.

HISTORY

In the 1860s, the Brookwood Hills area was a wilderness lying between the City of Atlanta and the community of Buckhead. Bisected by Peachtree and Clear Creeks and with a ridge at present day Piedmont Hospital, the area was part of the final defense works of Confederate commanders Joseph E. Johnston and Braxton Bragg. The Battle of Peachtree Creek, one of the major and definitive conflicts in the Atlanta campaign of Union General William Sherman, was begun at what is now the intersection of Peachtree and Brighton Roads, one of only three entrances to Brookwood Hills. Federal forces suffered 1,710 casualties and Confederates 4,796.

Soon after this battle, the area returned to its rural quietude until the last decade of the nineteenth century. In the late 1880s, Joseph Thompson and his wife Emma Mims Thompson built a country estate on the west side of Peachtree Road just north of what is now the Interstate 85 interchange. For the next fifteen years, their landscaped estate named "Brookwood" was the center for grand parties and social events. Born in Decatur, Joseph Thompson was the son of a prominent physician and a veteran of the Civil War, serving as a private and corporal. During the 1880s, he was the proprietor of the Kimball House Hotel where he and his new wife, the daughter of Major Livingston Mims (long time president of the Capital City Club, mayor of Atlanta, and wealthy insurance executive), lived until they built Brookwood. Both Thompson and his wife were active in the exposition movement of the time with Joseph serving on the board of directors of the Exposition Company and with Emma Mims Thompson serving as the highly successful president of the Women's Bureau of the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895. In these capacities and as social leaders, they entertained Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley and Vice-President Adlai Stevenson with grand receptions at Brookwood. Emma Thompson later served as Georgia's representative to the woman's department at the Nashville Centennial Exposition and was appointed by Governor Allen Candler as the state's representative to the international Paris Exposition. When Mrs. Thompson died at age 44 in 1908, the Atlanta Journal commented that she was ". . . virtually the founder of Brookwood, now the most fashionable suburb of Atlanta. . . . She built the first country home there and her example was speedily followed." Joseph Thompson lived until 1921 and is partially credited with the subdivision of the area into smaller home sites in that decade.

In the 1890s and the first two decades of this century, Atlanta experienced significant urban growth as the central business district, became an area of highrise office buildings, retail and other commercial establishments, and the center of the rail networks which made the city regionally important. Residential development followed the streetcar lines to West End, Inman Park, and perhaps most significantly for the future, northward along the Peachtree ridgeline toward what local newspapers already called the Brookwood suburb and Buckhead (Atlanta Journal for 10/17/1905). Growth along Peachtree Street and in the Druid Hills area between Peachtree Street and Decatur, Ga. contained the homes of most of Atlanta's elite families. Ansley Park and Druid Hills, which were initiated in 1904 and 1908 respectively, were the city's first successful residential developments in the romantic tradition espoused nationally by Frederick Law Olmsted. This "style" emphasize curvilinear street patterns, large open spaces or parks, and deep setbacks on spacious lots. The intent was to create a suburb closely connected to the central city, but with a bucolic atmosphere.

To the north of Brookwood Hills, wealthy Atlantans were also creating new suburbs at Tuxedo Park along West Paces Ferry Road and in Brookhaven around the 1912 Capital City Country Club. These areas began to be developed prior to World War I and served as magnets for growth along Peachtree Road. Economic prosperity and the greatly increased personal mobility made possible by the automobile in the 1920s accelerated this growth. Planned subdivisions proliferated, and included Garden Hills, Peachtree Highlands, Peachtree Heights, Ansley Park Annex, Morningside Park, and Brookwood Hills. Developers often provided various amenities in their plans, such as parks, small commercial strips along major streets, and land set aside for schools as in Philip McDuffie's Garden Hills.

In 1912 Benjamin F. Burdett and E. F. Chambless purchased approximately fifty acres of land in Land Lot 110 from the Andrew Jackson Collier estate. Burdett was the principle in the Burdett Realty Company, a local real estate agency established in 1910. The land Burdett and Chambless purchased had extensive frontage along the east side of Peachtree Road, and the new owners set out immediately to subdivide this frontage for residential development. Land to the rear of the Peachtree Road frontage was reserved for future subdivision, and access was maintained at what was to become Palisades Road. Prior to 1920, there had already been some development in the area. An 1895 survey map shows several rail lines (Seaboard, Beltline, and Southern) crossing the land lots. Peachtree Road was a well-established thoroughfare with streetcar lines extending all the way to Buckhead by 1907. The importance of the developing area and the rail lines there was recognized by the construction of the Southern Railway Station (Brookwood Station) in 1918.

Nevertheless, the rural character of the land directly north of the new (and now Atlanta's last) passenger station, seemed to remain intact. The area on both sides of Peachtree Road north of the Brookwood estate of the Thompsons was known as "Deerland Park" in the 1890s and this name was used by the grandparents of prominent Atlantan Jack Spalding for their eleven acre estate on the site of Piedmont Hospital, northwest of Brookwood Hills. In a reminiscence for a history of the hospital, Spalding remembered "Deerlands" and the Brookwood area as very rural in the 1920s. His grandparents maintained a barn, a one acre garden, chickens and other farm animals on their land into the 1940s. When the family travelled in the 1920s, the luggage was taken to Brookwood Station in a mule drawn wagon.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta building boom following World War I was taking off. Arthur Burdett, son of B. F. Burdett, had purchased E. F. Chambless' interest in the remaining forty acres of the Brookwood Hills land and formed a real estate and development partnership with this father. Early in the 1920s, this partnership agreed with George Washington Collier, Jr., owner of some twenty-five acres of land in Land Lot 109 directly south of the Burdett holdings, to jointly develop these sixty-five acres into a suburban subdivision. Consisting of Palisades Road, Huntington Road, Northwood Avenue, and Woodcrest Avenue, this subdivision was to constitute the first of four phases in the development of the entire Brookwood Hills neighborhood.

The first phase of Brookwood Hills was developed between 1922 and 1924. Civil engineer O. F. Kauffman drew the plat for the subdivision under the direct supervision of B. F. Burdett. Kauffman had previously worked for the Druid Hills Company while it was implementing the plan for the Druid Hills neighborhood. Kauffman's picturesque, curvilinear design for Brookwood Hills clearly reveals the influence of Frederick Law Olmsted's principles, although on a reduced scale. Burdett specified that the street trees and crape myrtles be placed at regular intervals along the streets. As a real estate agent Burdett would have been acutely aware of the precedent-setting development of Druid Hills and its successors like the nearby Ansley Park, and he clearly intended to create a subdivision that would emulate them, yet at the same time, establish its own identity through the street trees and the lack of through traffic.

The Burdett Realty Company, under the supervision of Arthur Burdett, handled the sale of lots in Brookwood Hills. Lot owners contracted for and financed improvements to their lots independently, in accordance with the stipulation that their houses represent a $7,500 to $10,000 minimum value, depending upon location. Some houses were designed by prominent Atlanta architects including Neel Reid, Walter Downing, and the firm of Flippen Burge and Preston Stevens.

The Atlanta City Directory for 1925 indicates that there were sixty-five residents in the first phase of Brookwood Hills, scattered fairly evenly along the four streets. Many of the residents were professional men (lawyers and physicians), and owners of, or officers in, various firms. Benjamin and Arthur Burdett, as well as B. F. Burdett's son-in-law L. A. McKinley, had homes on Northwood Avenue. Other prominent individuals moving to Brookwood Hills included Joel Hurt, Jr.; Charles F. Palmer, president of Palmer, Inc.; Sherwood Hurt, Vice-president of Continental Trust Co.; Oscar Oldknow, president of Southern States Film Co.; Barnard Boykin, president of Boykin Insurance Co.; A. G. Millard, president of Oakland Motor Car Co.; Robert Parker, partner in the prestigious law firm of Randolph (Hillins), Parker and Fortson; Isaac Mitchell, treasurer of the Georgia Railway and Power Co.; and George Lindner, director of the Atlanta Conservatory of Music.

Shortly after completing the development of this first phase of Brookwood Hills, the partnership of B. F. and A. C. Burdett, which then owned the Burdett Realty Company, formed a corporation under that name. The new corporation then assumed title to approximately ten acres of undeveloped land immediately north of the Palisades Road lots. It concurrently purchased from the DuBose estate approximately twelve acres directly north of and adjoining this undeveloped tract, and from the G. W. Collier estate another twenty-eight acres north of and adjoining the DuBose tract. This consolidated property was then developed between 1924 and 1933 as the Brookwood Hills Extension.

The Brookwood Hills Extension includes Brighton Road, Camden Road, Wakefield Drive, Montclair Drive, Parkdale Way, and an extension of Huntington Road. It includes an additional access point to Peachtree Road at Brighton, which was designed to match the Palisades-Peachtree entrance with its median and plantings. The extension was planned, designed, and developed along the lines of the original Brookwood Hills subdivision. The only significant difference lies in the Extension's irregular gridiron street layout, drawn to take advantage of a broad hillside. The Extension also features a large tract of land set aside in 1926 by B. F. Burdett for the recreation of the Brookwood Hills residents. This land lies at the center of the neighborhood in a deep depression and originally contained a natural spring. City directories indicate that the streets in the Extension were fully developed by the late 1920s and all contained some residents.

The Depression years brought financial difficulties to the Burdett Realty Company. Consequently Emory University loaned the company a sum of money, and the remaining unsold lots in Phase II and the recreation area were deeded to Emory as security. Later the Burdetts repaid a portion of the loan and regained the lots. The loan on the recreation area was not repaid until 1939, when the Brookwood Hills Community Club was formed and chartered by the state. Money raised by selling shares in the Community Club was used to repay the loan to Emory. This land remains under the ownership of the Community Club and provides a neighborhood recreation area with pool, tennis courts, play areas, and a clubhouse.

At about the same time the Community Club was formed, Mrs. C. A. Rhodes founded the Brookwood Hills Garden Club. The original purpose was the improvement of the neighborhood and the park property recently acquired from Emory University. One of the organizations first projects was to landscape the traffic islands at Peachtree Road and Brighton and Palisades Roads. These entrances were re-landscaped by the club in the 1960s and in 1990. In the 1970s, the Garden Club initiated the park renovation and led a three year study of aging neighborhood water oaks (many of which had originally been planted by B. F. Burdett, who died in 1935), finally contributing $1,000 for tree preservation and replacement.

Neither the neighborhood nor its surroundings have remained static since the original development. By the late 1920s, Peachtree and Collier Roads were changing rapidly from single family resident streets to multi-family and commercial strips. Between Brookwood Station and Brighton Road, Peachtree began to have many service businesses, and apartment houses proliferated along Collier Road and Peachtree north of Brighton. In 1938, the third of the total four sections in Brookwood Hills was platted in a horseshoe shape connecting the ends of Brighton and Camden Roads. The large oaks and the sidewalks of the older sections end abruptly as one enters this third section. The houses are somewhat smaller and of a later period, architecturally. The fourth section was developed in 1961 at the end of Camden Road and near the juncture of Peachtree and Clear Creeks.

During the decades following World War II, the pressures of urbanization have been intense. In 1951 the Community Club successfully negotiated a buffer zone between the multi-story Darlington Apartments and the single family residences of Brighton Road. Automobile traffic around Brookwood Hills has increased dramatically with the growth of Piedmont Hospital (opened in 1957 on the old "Deerlands" estate) and other medical facilities along Peachtree and, of course, with the development of the massive Interstate 85 and interchange. In large part thanks to citizen action through the Community Club, threats to the neighborhood from the Lenox MARTA line, a proposed extension of West Peachtree Street east of the community, and a possible street connection between Brookwood Hills and the Armour Industrial Park have successfully been forestalled. Therefore, Brookwood Hills has been able to maintain its early twentieth century suburban atmosphere, appearance and integrity despite its new existence as an urban neighborhood.

ARCHITECTURE

The structures in Brookwood Hills are all residences, with the exception of the community clubhouse. The district was developed during the early twentieth century when revival styles were extremely popular in residential developments. A range of styles, including English Vernacular Revivial, Colonial Revival, and Neoclassical Revival, can be found in Brookwood Hills, as well as several Craftsman style bungalows. The building materials employed include brick, clapboard and stone for the structures with some roofs of such materials as terra cotta tiles and slate.

The size of the residences varies from substantial, two and three story structures to smaller structures. The larger residences are located primarily along Palisades Road and Wakefield Drive. Two story homes appear along Camden Road, Brighton Road, Woodcrest Avenue and Northwood Avenue. Huntington Road contains the major concentration of bungalows and cottage type structures.

The list of prominent local architects who designed residences in the district is impressive. Neel Reid, Burge and Stevens, Ivy and Crook, Marye, Alger and Vinour, and Pringle and Smith are listed as architects for homes in Brookwood Hills. Also, H. W. Nicholes, a noted contractor/architect, who did substantial work in Druid Hills, designed and built a number of the homes in Brookwood Hills.

CONCLUSION

Brookwood Hills represents one of the best preserved and most interesting neighborhoods developed during the 1920s. It is a direct result of the great real estate booms and transportation developments which transformed the face of Atlanta in the early twentieth century. The design features embodied in the subdivision clearly show the importance of the nationally significant "Olmsted style" in suburban planning with its curvilinear street patterns, park-like settings, and emphasis on nature. At the same time, the enclave nature of Brookwood Hills with its inward facing homes and consistency in streetside plantings and house setbacks emphasize a strong sense of community. This sense of community is enhanced by the centrally located park and recreation area and long standing community organizations like the Garden Club and the Community Club. Surrounded by urbanization trends in transportation and growth which have destroyed or severely damaged other neighborhoods, Brookwood Hills has managed to maintain both its architectural integrity and community vitality.

REFERENCES

Books

Atlanta City Directories, 1925-1930.

Bryant, James. Capital City Club: The First One Hundred Years, 1883-1983, Atlanta, 1991.

Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs, Athens, Ga., 1954.

Henley, Ruth N. Sanatorium to Medical Center, The History of Piedmont Hospital, Ampersand Studios, 1984.

Preston, Howard. Automobile Age Atlanta: The Making of a Southern Metropolis, 1900-1935, Athens, Ga., 1979.

Articles

Ambrose, Andrew. "The Ties That Bind: Work and Family Patterns in the Oakdale Road Section of Druid Hills, 1910-1940," The Atlanta Historical Journal. Vol. XXVI #2-3 (Summer/Fall 1982), 141-154.

"Col. Thompson Dies at Hospital," Atlanta Constitution, 12/4/1921, p. 1.

Crimmins, Timothy J. "The Atlanta Palimpsest: Stripping Away the Layers of the Past," The Atlanta Historical Journal. Vol. XXVI #2-3 (Summer/Fall 1982), 13-32.

"Mr. Jos. Thompson Claimed by Death," Atlanta Journal, 12/4/1921, p. 1.

"Mrs. Joseph Thompson Died Very Suddenly Wednesday Morning," Atlanta Journal, 7/29/1908, p.1.

"Mrs. Joseph Thompson Dies of Heart Failure," Atlanta Constitution, 7/30/1908.

"Swell North Side City's Most Beautiful Section," Atlanta Journal, 10/17/1905, p. 3.

White, Dana. "Landscaped Atlanta: The Romantic Tradition in Cemetery, Park and Suburban Development," The Atlanta Historical Journal. Vol. XXVI #2-3 (Summer/Fall 1982), 95- 112.

Manuscripts/Unpublished Material

Brookhaven Historical District National Register of Historic Places form on file at the Urban Design Commission.

Brookwood Hills Garden Club MSS Collection at the Atlanta Historical Society.

Brookwood Hills District National Register of Historic Places form on file at the Urban Design Commission.

Brookwood Hills Subject File at the Atlanta Historical Society.

Emma Mims Thompson Personality File at the Atlanta Historical Society.

Flores, Carol. "The Early Works of Burge & Stevens, Stevens & Wilkinson, 1919-1949." Master's Thesis (Ga. Tech, 1990) at the Atlanta Historical Society.

Garden Hills Historical District Information Form on file at the Urban Design Commission.

Peachtree Highlands Historic District National Register of Historic Places form on file at the Urban Design Commission.

Plat maps of Brookwood area by George and Forrest Adair and Trust Company of Georgia at the Atlanta Historical Society.

CRITERIA
(criteria descriptions)

Group I (1) (2) (3)
Group II (1) (3) (6) (7) (9) (10) (11)
Group III (1) (2) (3)

FINDINGS

The proposed nomination of the Brookwood Hills Conservation District meets the above referenced specific criteria as well as the minimum criteria for a Conservation District as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.

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Contact Info
City of Atlanta
Atlanta Urban Design Commission
(AUDC)
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 3400
Atlanta, Georgia 30335-0331

Tel: 404.330.6200
Fax: 404.658.6734

Doug Young
dyoung@atlantaga.gov

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