(UPDATED AT 7:40 P.M. THURSDAY WITH CORRECTED INFO ON THE TOY MUSEUM'S YEARS IN EXISTENCE)
The Toy Museum is an aberration, an image so clear in my memory yet it left barely a trace.
It was in an old home on the north side of Peachtree Road across from Rumson Road in Buckhead. There were thousands of antique toys — tricycles, metal cars, wooden toys, old stuffed animals — spread through several rooms.
Toys filled the windows, which were just a few feet off of Peachtree. There were cool toys, too, comic book action figurines and “Star Wars” figures still in their original packages.
I constantly asked people about it, but no one seemed to remember. I spent afternoons at the Atlanta History Center searching every combination of “Toy” and “Museum” continuously coming up empty. I began to doubt my memory.
It took me nearly two years, but I finally found someone who knew the story of the Toy Museum in Buckhead. Richard Perry, author of “A History of the Cathedral of St. Philip,” wrote about the house that once stood where there is now parking for the church. Once I got Richard on the phone, he said the words for which I had been looking, “You are asking about the Toy Museum?”
There was indeed a toy museum in an antebellum home, he confirmed (according to Daole's daughter, it was there from 1978 until 1984). The cathedral purchased the house and some apartments in 1984 and promptly demolished the apartments for parking. The answer as to what do with the home, which had belonged to the Adair family, was answered by a gentleman named Joe Daole.
The name should be familiar if spelled slightly incorrectly. Daole, pronounced “Dale,” owned a number of steakhouses in Alabama and Atlanta. His most famous perhaps was Dale’s Cellar, but he also owned a restaurant where McKinnon’s Louisiane Restaurant on Maple Drive is today. In decorating his many restaurants, he chose a motif of toys. A career in the restaurant business left him with literally thousands of toys. The restaurants funded this extensive collection, Perry said.
The toys were moved into the house and the museum was born. It didn’t keep regular hours, if memory serves. Years later, when Daole’s health started failing (he died in 2007), Perry was one of the people who helped to auction off the collection. He said it netted more than $6 million at auctions in Chicago, Boston and New York. One news item from a Chicago paper notes that a doll house from Daole’s collection went for $30,000.
The church had plans for the house, and those plans were for parking, not toys. One day the toy museum was there and seemingly the next it was not. Now that I know the story, I wish I could thank Daole for sharing that collection with us if only for a little while. And thank goodness for Richard Perry, who restored my faith in my occasionally failing memory.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.