Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
February 16, 2000
555 Argonne Drive, N.W.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
Built in 1913, Spotswood Hall is significant as one of the first houses constructed as suburban development began to transform the old farm land along Peachtree Road, W. Pace’s Ferry Road, and Arden Road (old Howell Mill Road) in the early 1900s. By the 1920s, the area had become what it has remained: Atlanta’s premier residential neighborhood. Formal subdivision began with Peachtree Heights Park in 1910, followed by Tuxedo Park in 1911 but, simultaneously, adjacent landowners were meeting the demand for prime building sites and larger "country estates." The first of these estates, Mayor Robert F. Maddox’s "Woodlawn" (1911), was destroyed in 1967 for the new Governor’s Mansion but "Villa Lamar" (1912), located about a mile west of "Woodlawn," and "Spotswood Hall," less than a mile south, still survive from this first phase of residential development in what is now generally known as "Buckhead."
Spotswood Hall is of some historical significance for its associations with Shelby Smith, Fulton County commissioner and a member of the building committee (1911-1912) that supervised construction of the new Fulton County Courthouse during those years. A road contractor and real estate developer, Smith built his new house on one of the most prominent sites in the developing suburbs northwest of Atlanta. The house is also significant for its associations with Lucian Lamar Knight, who owned the house from 1918-1930 and christened it Spotswood Hall. Responsible for formation of the Georgia Department of Archives and History and its first director in 1919-1925, Knight was one of the state’s most noted historians and his purchase of the old Shelby House represented the culmination of his professional career and social aspirations. Finally, Walter C. Hill, Sr., the house’s third owner, played a major role in the development of the Retail Credit Company (now Equifax) and was a major benefactor of the Atlanta Art Association. The Walter C. Hill, Jr., Auditorium at the Woodruff Arts Center is named in his honor. His purchase of Spotswood Hall and subsequent remodeling by Shutze helped make the house the architectural landmark that it is today.
Spotswood Hall is also significant as an example of the work of two important Atlanta architects. Principally noted for his large institutional and commercial buildings, A. Ten Eyck Brown (1878-1940) is reputed to have designed the original Neo-Classical house in 1913, the year after he completed work on the Fulton County Courthouse. Featuring a two-story, pedimented portico with Ionic columns, the house remains an outstanding wood-framed example of the style. Philip Trammell Shutze (1890-1982) redesigned the interior and rear of the house for the Hills in 1933 but preserved nearly all of Brown’s Neo-Classical exterior. The dramatically redesigned interior, which includes a rotunda decorated by the renowned artist Athos Menaboni, echoes some of Shutze’s most important work from the 1920s while the redesigned rear facade represents the transition of his work to the Regency-inspired designs that characterized much of his best work later in the 1930s. The remodeling of Spotswood Hall was one of Hentz, Adler, and Shutze’s few commissions in 1933 and 1934, when the Depression forced the partners to forego their salaries in order to keep the firm afloat. It, therefore, represents not only an important phase of Shutze’s work but also a critical phase in the viability of one of the city’s most important architectural firms in the twentieth century.
The general landscape treatment for Spotswood Hall is English or naturalistic. A broad, sweeping lawn leading from the street to the house is bordered with informal groupings of shrubby and trees. This landscape treatment which is consistent with that of other historic estates in the West Paces Ferry area provided a cohesiveness to the streetscapes.
In the early 1900s, Atlanta’s residential development was still concentrated in the "streetcar suburbs" that had begun developing around the city in the 1890s. For the elite, development of Ansley Park in 1904 and Druid Hills in 1909 continued and expanded on the concept of the garden suburb that was pioneered by Joel Hurt in Inman Park in 1889. With the rapid expansion of automobile use in the years leading up to World War I, developers were no longer tied to the streetcar lines and could begin catering to those for whom automobiles made possible real escape from the confines of the city. The construction of Spotswood Hall dates to this early pre-war period when the development of the residential area now generally known as "Buckhead" was only just beginning.
As the death of his brother in 1903 had precipitated the development of Ansley Park, so the death of Wesley Collier in 1906 set the stage for the development of Peachtree Heights Park. In May 1910, Eretus Rivers and Walter P. Andrews, executors of Wesley Collier’s estate, sold Collier’s old farm to the Peachtree Heights Park Company. The sale included 500 acres in three land lots, including over 3,000 feet of frontage along the west side of Peachtree Road north of Peachtree Creek. By the spring of 1911, the company had cut Wesley Avenue through from Peachtree Road to Howell Mill Road and work was underway creating Habersham Road from Peachtree Battle Avenue to Pace’s Ferry Road.
That same year, 1911, Atlanta’s Mayor Robert F. Maddox built "Woodhaven," the first of the great country estates along Pace’s Ferry Road and the Tuxedo Park Company acquired 300 acres of the old Dickey estate along Pace’s Ferry Road to begin their own residential development. "Already," the Atlanta Journal noted in reporting the first auction of lots in May 1911, "the colony along Pace’s Ferry Road is accorded first place in suburban development in Atlanta." Although the area was incorporated into the city in 1954, W. Pace’s Ferry Road and adjacent streets have remained some of the city’s most prestigious addresses.
Intent on capitalizing on the development of Peachtree Heights Park and Tuxedo Park, the North Highland Investment Company bought an option on 97 acres in the north half of Land Lot [LL] 143 from Mrs. Marian L. Dolphyn in January 1913. An Oklahoma resident, Dolphyn had owned the property since the early 1900s and her sale of the property for $34,000 was an example of the rapid increase in property values that attended the new suburban developments in the area. The contract laid out a series of payments to be completed by January 1917 but, as lots were sold in the meantime, Mrs. Dolphyn agreed to transfer title to the company at $350 per acre. As was the case with much of Atlanta’s early twentieth century residential development, the property was sold "with the restriction that no part of the same shall be sold to persons of color within sixty (60) years from this date.
One of the ten investors in the North Highland Investment Company was Shelby Smith, Sr. (1871-1943), who had began the first of two terms on the Fulton County Commission in April 1911, just as development was beginning in Peachtree Heights Park. Smith had moved to Atlanta from northwest Georgia shortly after his marriage to Nell Littlefield in 1899 and established himself here as a road and grading contractor in the early years of the twentieth century. By the time he was elected to the County commission, he was living on Ormewood Avenue in southeast Atlanta but, in 1913, he was elected chairman of the County Commission and set about building his own showplace in the new northwestern suburbs.
The house’s Neo-Classical design has been attributed to A. Ten Eyck Brown (1878-1940), one of the city’s best-known architects in the early twentieth century. With Morgan & Dillon, Brown had designed the Fulton County Courthouse, which had been in the planning stages since 1907 although work did not get underway until 1911, just as Smith was beginning his service on the county commission. Unfortunately, the house does not appear in either of Brown’s two lists of projects (1913 and 1924), neither of which may have been all-inclusive. Nevertheless, Smith served on the building committee for construction of the new courthouse and would certainly have been acquainted with Brown. More important, Smith’s daughter is reported to have believed that the house her father built in 1913 was the work of Brown and, barring new evidence, her word might be accepted as fact.
Featuring a facade dominated by a full-height pedimented porch supported by elaborated Ionic columns, Smith’s house was an excellent example of early twentieth century Neo-Classical architecture. The architecture of Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition in 1893 had sparked a renewed interest in Classical design of all sorts and, by 1895, an eclectic "Neo-Classical" style had developed out of earlier Georgian, Adam, Early Classical Revival and Greek Revival precedents. Although never as popular as the Colonial Revival, Neo-Classical architecture enjoyed great popularity in the years before World War I and, in a second phase of development, the style continued to be used until the middle of the twentieth century. Some of these houses were masonry, a notable example being Asa Candler’s "Callan Castle" (1903) in Inman Park but wood-framed examples were more typical. The Zuber-Jarrell House (1905) on Flat Shoals Road in southeast Atlanta is another excellent wood-framed example of the style and is particularly interesting in that its floor plan and many of its architectural details are almost identical to those of the original Spotswood Hall.
Development of Peachtree Heights and adjacent areas was slowed by the outbreak of World War I and, throughout the war years, Smith’s house remained relatively isolated. He retired from the Fulton County Commission in 1914 but continued his career as a real estate developer and road builder, working "from Florida to Tennessee," according to his daughter, with some of his work taking him out of the city for a year or more at the time. Described as a "wheeler-dealer" by one descendant, Smith sold the house and its 6.4 acre lot in 1918 and moved to an as-yet-unidentified Peachtree Heights Road address where he resided until 1921. He died while working in Gainesville, Georgia, in April 1943 and was buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.
LUCIAN LAMAR KNIGHT
The new owner of the house was Lucian Lamar Knight (1868-1933), a noted editor and historian. A graduate of the University of Georgia in 1888 and trained as a lawyer, Knight had gone to work for the Atlanta Constitution in 1892, beginning a ten-year career as a popular reporter and editor. He resigned from the paper in 1902 to study theology at Princeton and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1905. Unfortunately, his ten-year marriage to Edith Nelson was beginning to unravel by that time and, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Knight went to Europe in early 1906. By the end of the year he had moved to California, where he joined a Los Angeles law firm. While there, he lived on Catalina Island where he compiled the first of several major works on Georgia’s history, Reminiscences of Famous Georgians. Published in 1907 and followed by a second volume in 1908, these books established a direction for the rest of Knight’s life.
He returned to Atlanta in 1908 where he worked as managing editor for a publishing company and as associate editor for the Atlanta Georgian. In 1913, Knight succeeded former governor William Northen as compiler of state records and, over the next five years, saw publication of four volumes of the state’s Colonial Records; Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends in two volumes; and six volumes of A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians.
Knight finally divorced his first wife in 1909 but, not until 1917, did he marry for a second time. His new wife was Rosa Talbot Reid and she shared his interest in history. The next year, the Georgia Legislature created the Department of Archives and History and appointed Knight as its first director. In November 1918, the Knights bought the old Smith house, which was rechristened "Spotswood Hall," reportedly in honor of one of Knight’s ancestral homes.
Knight had the misfortune to spend the first part of his tenure fending off the first of several efforts over the years to abolish the Department of Archives and History but, with his wife’s assistance, he was able to bring some semblance of order to the state’s records. By the time that he retired from the department in 1925, the State had a "secure and permanent archives."
By the time Knight retired, Peachtree Heights Road had been renamed Argonne Drive, in memory of one of the greatest battles of World War I, and other houses were being built along the street. Spotswood Hall was featured in Annie Hornady Howard’s Georgia Homes and Landmarks in 1929 but the Knight’s comfortable retirement was interrupted by the stock market crash in October of that year. Within a year, Knight saw much of his wealth wiped out and, in November 1930, he was forced to sell Spotswood Hall. "Regarded as one of the feature residential transactions of the season," according to a contemporary newspaper account, the sale was reported to have garnered Knight $50,000. "It is understood that Dr. Knight plans to go to Florida for the winter." In fact, the Knights did not return to Atlanta but lived in Safety Harbor, Florida, before moving to St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, in 1931. He died of heart failure in Clearwater in November 1933 and was buried at Christ Church at Frederica on St. Simon’s Island.
WALTER CLAY HILL, SR
The new owner of Spotswood Hall was Walter Clay Hill, Sr. (1880-1962), who is noted chiefly for his life-long career helping build the Retail Credit Company into a major international corporation. Born in Monticello, Georgia, Hill had graduated from the University of Georgia, where his uncle Walter B. Hill was chancellor. He married Rebecca Travers and, in 1904, went to work for the Retail Credit Company, now known as Equifax. Founded in 1899, the Retail Credit Company had already grown beyond Atlanta when Hill joined the firm and it expanded rapidly after that, opening offices in Montreal and Toronto in 1919. The company prided itself on its ability to promote from within and, by the time the company was incorporated in 1913, Hill had become its vice-president. His career with the company eventually made him president and chairman of the board and he remained a director of the company until his death in 1962.
The Hills and their three children had resided on Peachtree Circle in Ansley Park prior to moving to Argonne Drive in 1931. Well known in Atlanta, Hill was a member of the First Presbyterian Church as well as the Piedmont Driving Club, the Capital City Club, and the Commerce Club. He had begun a long tenure as a trustee of the Atlanta Art Association in 1928 and, later, would serve terms as its vice-president, president and chairman of the board. The Walter C. Hill, Jr., Auditorium at the Woodruff Arts Center is named in honor of his long support of the Atlanta Art Association. He was also a member of the Atlanta Historical Society and listed his hobbies as painting and jewelry-making. A small painting that he made of the house now hangs in the living room of Spotswood Hall.
By the time the Hills acquired Spotswood Hall in late 1930, the economy was rapidly collapsing and Hill may have had little time or inclination to contemplate remodeling his new home. The Depression deepened in the early 1930s and not until Roosevelt’s "Hundred Days" in the spring of 1933 did confidence began to rebound. Perhaps Hill, too, felt more confident about the future and saw the advantage to be gained in the Depression’s cheap materials and cheaper labor.
The house on Argonne was nearly twenty years old by then and, although the Neo-Classical exterior remained as handsome as ever, the house was not particularly large and the interior was, by then, somewhat less than fashionable. So, by the spring of 1933, Hill had engaged the services of Atlanta’s premier architectural firm, Hentz, Adler & Shutze to enlarge the house and redesign its interior. Philip Trammell Shutze (1890-1982) had firmly established his reputation in the 1920s with a variety of spectacular designs that culminated, perhaps, in his magnificent design for Edward Inman’s "Swan House," in 1928. By 1933, the Depression had forced the firm’s partners to forego their salaries that year and the next and it is likely that the Hill commission was one of the firm’s most important jobs during the period. In the end, Shutze’s remodeling of the house, which was completed in 1934, insured that Spotswood Hall would remain one of the city’s great architectural landmarks.
The growth of Atlanta’s northwestern suburbs was slowed by the Depression and World War II, but by the time most of the area was annexed into the city in 1954, demand for building sites in northwest Atlanta had already increased dramatically. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of the old estates and large lots were subdivided for construction of another generation of up-scale residential development. In 1952, Hill, too, began subdividing his 6.4-acre lot, selling two lots that year, a third in 1954, and a fourth in 1961. However, they appear to have made few changes to the house itself. Hill died in October 1962 but his widow continued to occupy the house until her death in 1967.
In July 1968, Hill’s estate sold Spotswood Hall to John W. Callahan along with "all of the following items as presently installed in said house: (a) all air conditioning units, (b) linen press, © all wall-to-wall carpeting, (d) all venetian blinds and all curtains and drapes in said house." At the same time, development of Arden at Argonne had begun on the northern part of Hill’s old estate, including the sites of the estate’s garage, stable and servant’s house, all of which had been renovated by Shutze in the 1930s. By that time, too, the driveway from Argonne had been closed and entry was now via a driveway at the rear from Arden at Argonne.
In February 1977, Callahan sold Spotswood Hall to Ian Robert Wilson, an executive with Coca-Cola. Wilson redesigned the old kitchen by removing the old scullery and butler’s pantry and combining the spaces. A cabinet that may have come from one of these spaces is now located in the furnace room.
In 1982, the house was purchased by Frank Jameson Rees and his wife Ruth Andre Rees, who are thought to have installed the existing driveway from Argonne Drive, connecting it to the old driveway at the rear which still continued through to Arden at Argonne. They lived there until March of 1988 when they sold Spotswood Hall to Mr. and Mrs. William R. Dawson III. The present owners acquired the house in 1992, by which time the house had been renumbered 555 Argonne Drive. Under their ownership, the old rear driveway to Arden at Argonne was closed and a garage constructed in its place.
A. TEN EYCK BROWN
Anthony Ten Eyck Brown, the son of a prominent architect, was born in Albany, New York in 1878. He studied at the Academy of Design in New York and worked in Washington, D.C., New York and Nashville before moving to Atlanta. He practiced in Atlanta from the early 1900s until his death in 1940.
Ten Eyck Brown designed numerous significant commercial, institutional, and residential buildings in Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast. Among his best known remaining works in Atlanta are the Fulton County Courthouse (with Morgan and Dillon), Atlanta Municipal Market, the Federal Post Office Annex, and the Cyclorama. He was supervising architect of the Atlanta Schools during the 1920s when the school system expanded under a major bond issuance.
PHILIP TRAMMEL SHUTZE
Philip Trammel Shutze, born August 18, 1890, was the son of Philip Trammell Shutze, who was a banker and the Third National Bank of Columbus, Georgia. His mother was the former Sarah Lee Erwin. Soon after Shutze was nine, his father died and his mother with her three young children moved to Atlanta and then to West Point, Georgia. Shutze graduated from West Point High School as valedictorian in June of 1908. He entered the Georgia School of Technology on a scholarship; he received a B.A. in Architecture on June 12, 1912. While a student, he worked part-time for the architectural firm of Hal Fitzgerald Hentz and Neel Reid. The summer prior to his senior year at Tech, he embarked upon a tramp steamer to view the continent’s architectural tradition’s first hand. Shutze continued his formal education, again on a scholarship, at Columbia University in New York; he received a Bachelor of Architecture from Columbia on October 6, 1923.
At Columbia, Shutze witnessed an exposition of student work from the American Academy in Rome. Impressed by the classical ideals of the Academy, the young architect submitted a design for the Prix de Rome and was selected as one of the four nationwide candidates. His design "The Decoration of an Island Commemorating its Purchase" captured the prize. Shutze left for Rome in 1915. The Academy allowed great freedom. Shutze observed, "one project a year was politely suggested." A Roman antique design occupied his first year, a study of Renaissance sites strengthened his knowledge of classical components during the second year at the Academy. The Baroque concepts guided a villa design during his third year. During this year, his studies were interrupted by World War I. Students were commissioned as first lieutenants into the Red Cross. Shutze’s studies were interrupted again in 1919 when his mother died. He left Rome for America to attend his mother’s funeral and remained in Atlanta during much of 1919, during which time he worked for the firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler. Commissions with which Shutze assisted during this time included Rich’s Department Store (Alabama at Broad Street), the Howard Theatre, and the Andrew Calhoun House. With obligations at the Academy, Shutze returned to Rome and received his diploma in June of 1920.
Back in America, Shutze worked briefly for the New York architects F. Burrall Hoffnam, Jr. and Mott Schmidt. In 1923, he returned once again to Atlanta to practice with the firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler until 1926. Upon the death of Neel Reid in 1926, he was promoted to a full partner in the firm which became Hentz, Adler and Shutze. This partnership continued from 1926 to 1944. Warren Armistead joined the firm as an associate in 1936. After the death of Rudolph Adler and the retirement of Hal Hentz, Shutze and Armistead maintained a joint practice until 1950. Shutze’s date of retirement is listed as 1960 although he was involved with later architectural commissions and held a valid architectural license in several states as late as 1980. Until his death on October 7, 1982, he remained a staunch advocate of the classical mode.
Shutze’s interest extended beyond architecture. The interior furnishing of structures concerned him; he often assisted his patrons in selecting antiques for their homes. Shutze was devoted to the cultivation and growing of the Camellia Japonica. During the 1930s, he added a greenhouse onto his residence and introduced many exotic camellia varieties into the Atlanta area. Shutze also collected furniture, porcelains, silver, object d’art, paintings, books, photographs, professional papers, drawings, and other items of decorative arts, which he bequested to the Atlanta Historical Society.
A. Architectural Plans:
Hentz, Adler, & Shutze plans for additions and alterations to the house are at the Atlanta History Center (Job #707, 25 sheets). Plans allow reconstruction of the original floor plan of the house.
B. Biographical Sketches:
"Lucian Lamar Knight," Coleman & Gurr, Dictionary of Georgia Biography (University of Georgia Press, 1983).
Elizabeth Meredith Dowling, American Classicist: The Architecture of Philip Trammell Shutze (Rizzoli, 1989).
Atlanta City Directories, 1910-1921. Address first appears in 1914 directory (data collected fall of 1913); first numbered 505 Argonne; renumbered 555 Argonne in 1992.
D. County and Local History
Cooper, Walter G. Official History of Fulton County. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Publishers, 1978 reprint of 1934 edition.
Garrett, Franklin M. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of its People and Events.
2 vols. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 edition.
Garrett, Franklin. "Necrology." Unpublished MSS at Atlanta History Center.
E. County Records at Courthouse
Fulton County, GA. Records of Deeds, Mortgages, and Plats provide chain of title and prove house’s existence in 1913.
Legal description: Fulton County Deed Book 15059, p. 45; Fulton County Plat Book 90, p. 47. See Fulton County Deed Book 4933, p. 366, for restriction on subdivision of property.
The daughter of Shelby Smith was interviewed by the Northside Neighbor in 1989 (see below). The present owner has provided notes from interviews with the daughter of Walter C. Hill, Sr.
G. Historic Maps and Plats
1913 plat, Fulton County Plat Book 6, p. 46. Shows roads, property boundaries, footprint of house and of servant’s house, but no internal drives or walks.
1927 U. S. G. S. Map. Shows relatively isolated location of house. Modern road system was in place but development was limited west of Habersham.
1968 plat, Fulton County Plat Book 90, p. 47. Shows Argonne Drive, boundaries of 2.07 acre tract, footprint of house, and shaded outline of part of Shutze’s 1933 rear driveway pattern.
H. Newspapers and Magazines
"Spottswood [sic] Hall Home of Georgia Historian, Is Sold," Atlanta Constitution, 1930. Recounts sale of house but does not offer any explanation for Knight’s move to Florida.
"Walter C. Hill, Sr. Dies; Retail Credit President," Atlanta Constitution, 19 October 1962. Lengthy obituary.
"‘Spotswood Hall’ takes Marjorie Bell on a trip down memory lane," Northside Neighbor, 1989. Marjorie Bell was the original owner’s daughter and lived in the house as a child.
"Sitting Room Kitchens," Kitchen and Bath,, July 1990, pp. 28-31. Shows kitchen remodeling of 1989 but offers little information on the building’s evolution.
Norris Broyles, "‘Atlanta’s Monticello’ Graces Argonne Drive," Atlanta 30305, January 1997. Some inaccuracies.
I. Historic Photographs
"Spotswood Hall," c. 1925, Atlanta History Center photograph #3890.
"Spotswood Hall", c. 1929, photographed prior to Shutze remodeling and featured in Annie Hornady Howard, Georgia Homes and Landmarks (1929), pp. 136-137.
Three interior photographs, c. 1950. Reprints of photographs and press release, acquired from Hill descendants by current owner. Taken for Reed & Barton promotion that was photographed at Spotswood Hall.
Exterior photograph, c. 1950. Reprint of photograph acquired from Hill descendants by current owner.
"A. Ten Eyck Brown, A. I. A.," architectural catalog, 1924. Copy in Brown file at Historic Preservation Division, Georgia DNR. Does not show Spotswood Hall.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of the Spotswood Hall Landmark Building-Exterior meets the above-referenced specific criteria, as well as the minimum 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.