Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
132 East Lake Drive, S.E. Fronting 421.3' on the east side of EastLake Dr. at the southeast corner of the intersection of Tupelo Street and East Lake Dr.
National Register Listed: May 2, 1985
The Gentry Home is a two-story, yellow brick house with a basement, built in the Neoclassical style. It features a full-width, pedimented front portico supported by four wooden Doric columns. The entablature is decorated with triglyphs and metopes. The house also has a gabled roof covered in metal, which has been painted silver.
The house is situated atop a slight hill, thus adding to its imposing nature. The front facade contains three bays separated by pilasters corresponding to the columns. The portico floor is red, white, and black hexagonal ceramic tile and ceilings are coffered. On the first floor, centered within the three bays, are French doors with simple detailing.
The house faces a main city street. There are magnolia and other historic trees on either side of the front lawn. A horseshoe drive leads tangent to the front portico and is entered from the street via historic yellow brick gateposts. The yard once contained a greenhouse (only the foundation remains) and formal gardens. There remains a two-story brick carriage house immediately behind the main house. Other outbuildings, which have been altered, include an old kitchen, barn and furnace house.
William Thomas Gentry (1854-1925) came to Atlanta in 1884 from Virginia, where he had first become involved with several telegraph, and later telephone, companies. At the age of 20, he was employed by the Southern & Atlantic Telegraph Company, which operated between Charlotte, Norfolk, and Washington, D. C. After three years into his employment, this company was absorbed by Western Union. Gentry was given responsibility as Western Union representative at Lynchburg, Virginia, and later transferred to Wilmington, North Carolina. He served there for three years as chief operator and assistant to the manager. He then turned his attention to the installation of local telephone exchanges for the Western Union system. He built the telephone exchange at Wilmington, North Carolina, which was the first in the state. One year later, Western Union sold its telephone interests to the Bell Company. The Bell Company appointed Gentry manager of its Alexandria, Virginia office where he installed the telephone exchange and remained in charge for three years. In 1884 the company transferred him to Atlanta and appointed him manager of the Atlanta exchange. On August 6, 1884, the Atlanta Telephone Exchange addressed itself to the local public:
The Atlanta Telephone Exchange, one of the most important business factors of the city, takes pleasure to report to the citizens of Atlanta, some facts in regard to its business. A little over two years ago the exchange had 112 subscribers, but today shows a list of over 450, showing what good service and a close attention to the wants of its patrons has done. Nearly every branch of business is represented, and a small exchange at Decatur has just been completed, which is connected directly with the Atlanta exchange, without extra tolls for the six miles of distance. The company will soon have all the other towns nearby connected with Atlanta. The Atlanta exchange controls the Bell patents for Georgia and several southern states. All other telephones are infringements, and can only be used by consent of the Bell Company. The Atlanta exchange has demonstrated that it is ready and willing to supply telephones and good service to all who desire this greatest of all time-saving conveniences. No expense has been spared to give to Atlanta the best of everything connected with the business. A new switchboard, just invented and now under construction to accommodate 100 wires and will soon be placed in the central office.
William Thomas Gentry was referred to citizens should they desire assistance. In 1885, he is listed as manager of the Southern Bell Telephone Company; in 1890 he is listed as manager of the Atlanta Telephone Exchange; and by 1899 as superintendent of the exchange. In 1899 Gentry also become affiliated with the Southern Messenger Service, which advertised a "messenger anywhere in the city for ten cents." In 1901 Gentry's communications interests expanded even further; he was an operator for the American District Telegraph Company, then located at 11 North Broad Street. In 1893 he was promoted to assistant district superintendent of Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, and in 1907 was elected vice president of that company. At the time, Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company served seven states and maintained 6,000 employees. He served on Governor Terrell's military staff from 1903-1907 with the rank of colonel. In 1909 he became president of Southern Bell. Mr. Gentry also served as President of Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph Company, the Asheville (North Carolina) Telephone Co., and the Capital City Telephone Company of Raleigh, North Carolina; Vice-president of the Virginia and Tennessee Telephone Company of Roanoke, Virginia; Vice-president of the Petersburg, Virginia Telephone Company; and Vice-president of the Home Telephone Company of Henderson, North Carolina. He also served as director of several banking institutions and of the Southern States Life Insurance Company. Mr. Gentry built his home in the town of East Lake after having resided for years at 49 Eleventh Street. While the house was under construction, he found temporary lodging at the Majestic Hotel in Atlanta, where the 1915 City Directory locates him.
The East Lake Land Company was chartered in 1892. The town of East Lake was incorporated in 1908; it was annexed into the city of Atlanta in 1928. East Lake was considered an upper-middle class suburb of both Atlanta and Decatur, and Mr. Gentry's home was one of the first fashionable homes in the area. The Gentry home was used in publicity to attract other businessmen to relocate to East Lake.
Mr. Gentry was an inventor and owned the patents to several items including the automatic coin device on public telephones. Alexander Graham Bell visited Atlanta in 1916 and was entertained at the Eastlake Country Club; he was reported to have been a guest of Gentry at the newly completed home on East Lake Drive, although no primary sources have been located to verify this as fact.
Upon retirement from Southern Bell in 1919, Gentry sold his home and moved to Ansley Park. Between 1919 and 1930, the home and surrounding 10 acres were sold several times. In 1925 John M. Nowell of Atlanta and Walton County, Ga. purchased the property which he, in turn, sold the same year to Howard Graves of Atlanta. Graves was an officer of the Acme Advertising Company. After only a brief period of ownership, Graves lost the property back to Nowell for non-payment of the loan. In 1927 Charles Edward Jarvis, Jr. bought the property. He began subdividing the property in 1938. Jarvis sold the property in 1959 to Atlanta Realtor Alton B. King and by 1965 the Kings' had subdivided the home into eight apartments. In 1976 the house and seven acres were purchased by the present owner, who is restoring the house back to a single family residence.
P. Thornton Marye was born September 4, 1872 and reared near Fredericksburg, at "Brompton," the eighteenth-century home of his grandfather, Rev. James II. Mr. Marye attended Randolph-Macon College during 1888-89 and entered the University of Virginia in 1889. He remained there through 1890. He continued his architectural training in the office of Glenn Brown. Marye began private practice in Newport News, Virginia.
Launching a distinguished military career, he served as Captain, commanding Company C, Fourth Virginia Volunteers during the Spanish-American War. His later military career during World War I included: Major, Construction Division for the U. S. Army, member of the Transport Corps of the American Expeditionary Forces, and Command Officer of the Motor Parks and Motor Trains of the Third Army of the Occupation in Germany. He later served as Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserve Corps.
In 1902 and 1903, he operated offices in both Newport News and Washington, D. C. At this time, Marye was awarded the contract for Atlanta's Terminal Station. He moved to Atlanta in 1904 and established a practice that evolved to include partnerships with Barrett Alger (Marye & Alger, 1920-21); Richard Alger (Marye, Alger & Alger, 1922-25); Oliver J. Vinour (Marye, Alger & Vinour, 1926- 1929); and J. Nisbet Marye and J. Warren Armistead, Jr. (Marye, Vinour, Marye & Armistead, 1930-35). Marye died in 1935.
Marye's designs in Atlanta include the Atlanta Terminal Station (1904), St. Luke's Episcopal Church (1906), the Shrine Mosque now known as the Fox Theatre (1929), and the Southern Bell Building on Ivy Street (1930).
Eskew, C. Richard T. "William T. Gentry Home," Historic Property Information Form: March 15, 1982. On file at the Historic Preservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta, Georgia.
Knight, Lucian L., ed. A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians. Vol. 6. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1917.
"Col. W.T. Gentry. . . is Dead." The Atlanta Constitution, January 12, 1925.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of the Gentry-McClinton House meets the above-referenced criteria for a Landmark Building or Site as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.