Here to fore, the area — and that is the best way to describe it at that time — was mostly owned by a few pioneering families who scratched a pretty impressive living out of dense forest and farmland.
But the land offered something beyond agriculture, something rare during the summer months when the dust and dirt of the bustling downtown combined with the oppressive heat to make life in Atlanta a bit of a challenge. The tall trees and a general lack of development meant it was substantially cooler and more tolerable. Those who had the means made their way out to the Chattahoochee River on the weekends, which gave rise to communities like Vinings.
In 1903 James Dickey, the president of Dickey-Mangham Insurance Co. — a business that still exists today under the Travelers Insurance umbrella — purchased 400 acres from F.M. Powers along the road connecting “Buckhead” with Hardy Pace’s ferry on the Chattahoochee River. The next year, Robert Maddox purchased 73 acres from Dickey and built a summer residence.
In 1911 Maddox would build the important and impressive Woodhaven, a large, rambling English manor house surrounded by manicured gardens where the governor’s mansion sits today. The home was built for entertaining and no doubt hosted many of Atlanta’s key social and political events throughout the years. Maddox, who was chairman of Atlanta & Lowry Bank, was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1909 following his service on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
Like a burning star creates a solar system around it, so, too, did Maddox’s presence in Buckhead create a gravitational pull. His prominent friends would soon follow, people like William H. Kiser, who created a fortune as a dry-goods wholesaler and built the impressive Knollwood nearby. Designed by Philip Trammel Shutze, the English Georgian-style home set atop a knoll was visible for many years from Paces Ferry Road. Among the others were attorney Morris Brandon, politician and former Florida Attorney General William Bailey Lamar, banker John Grant and James W. Morrow, who owned Morrow Transfer and Storage. All built magnificent summer estates where they, too, could escape downtown Atlanta and entertain their prominent friends and acquaintances.
Developer Charles Black purchased the remainder of the Dickey estate in 1911 to create Tuxedo Park. With enormous land lots the neighborhood consisted of homes of comparable size and style to those already in area. Across West Paces Ferry Road, Eretus Rivers and his business partners acquired nearly 400 acres from the estate of Wesley Collier in 1906 and in 1911 developed Peachtree Heights West. Over the course of the next few years, additional subdivisions developed around this area, which is remarkable given the continuity of the styles.
Thus Buckhead became the destination neighborhood, rising above the former trendy enclaves of Druid Hills and Inman Park in drawing the city’s politically and socially connected families.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.