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Column: Old plantation home holds a special place
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
August 15, 2012 03:48 PM | 1724 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
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When people think of our city, I dare say many conjure visions of Tara, the stately home of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”

Such is the popularity of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book and the movie based on it. I doubt many are surprised to find most of the estates in Atlanta are much younger than the Civil War, most dating back to the 1920s and ’30s. The novel makes clear what happened. In 1864 Atlanta burned to ground and had to rebuild. Even the mansions built shortly following the war in Atlanta are few and far between. Still, “Gone With the Wind” created a fantastic vision of Atlanta, one that the world in many ways has come to expect from us.

When Clark Gable, the actor who portrayed the dashing Rhett Butler in the movie version, and his wife Carol Lombard came to Atlanta for the premiere in 1939, they were famously photographed in front of a Buckhead mansion reminiscent of Tara. The home, which is on Blackland Road, was built in 1937.

The home of choice for nostalgic photographs is the Swan House on Andrews Drive, dating back to 1928. Then there was, and soon will be again, the May Patterson Goodrum House on the corner of Habersham and West Paces Ferry roads. For many years it operated as the Southern Center for International Studies and was used as the backdrop for many splendid weddings and celebrations. The Goodrum was completed in 1932.

There is one grand home in Buckhead that truly harkens back to the early days of plantation life in Georgia. It is not native to Atlanta. The house was moved here brick by brick from Washington, Ga., in the 1960s. The home of Wiley Woods Pope was built in 1797 and has quietly served as a restaurant and meeting place off Piedmont Road for the last 45 years. The old plantation house, called the Pope-Walton House, stayed in the Pope and Walton families until it was moved to Piedmont Road in 1964. It took three years to move it. The house opened as a restaurant, Justine’s, in 1967. It wasn’t long before it was purchased by Anton Anthony in 1974 and became a fixture on the Atlanta dining scene as Anthony’s Fine Dining. It even made an appearance in a Folgers coffee commercial, where they secretly replaced freshly ground coffee with instant coffee to see if the diners could tell the difference. Shockingly they couldn’t.

The draw of Anthony’s, its main appeal, was always the home itself and the grounds. Now comes word that Tony Conway, founder and president of A Legendary Event, will operate the Pope-Walton House as an event space called Piedmont Estates and Gardens beginning this fall.

We don’t often think of what we are missing because our community has so much to offer. Through preservation organizations, many people are working to preserve the little we have left with limited dollars. It is good to see one of our historic structures filling a need and having the unique ability to sustain itself.

Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at thorntonkennedy@me.com.
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