The three road names in Buckhead’s Tuxedo Park neighborhood represent the apex of Atlanta, drawing tour buses full of out-of-towners on weekends to gawk at the purposefully pretentious homes. For runners and cyclists the roads are a destination.
Tuxedo evokes style and sophistication, success. Valley is what it is: a valley cut through the earth by Wolf Creek almost parallel with West Paces Ferry Road.
The more important road, however, is Blackland. If Blackland doesn’t evoke a thought, it should. It is named for Charles Black and Charles Black Jr., the visionaries who brought Atlanta’s premier neighborhood to fruition.
Tuxedo Park’s founding can be traced back to 1911 when the elder Charles Black purchased the estate of James L. Dickey, 300 acres that fronted West Paces Ferry from roughly Northside Drive to the current governor’s mansion and all the way back to Powers Ferry Road for $75,000.
He divided the West Paces Ferry frontage into eight lots and held onto the rest. Those original lots would be developed by the Rhodes family and the Whitehead family and many others who built magnificent country estates that rivaled any in the country. It was not until the 1930s that Black began laying out the signature roads that would come to define the neighborhood. The way Tuxedo, Valley, Knollwood, Woodhaven and Blackland roads were laid out are largely credited with the development’s success, as they followed the natural lay of the land and were “environmentally sensitive,” according to Robert Michael Craig in his book “The Architecture of Francis Palmer Smith, Atlanta’s Scholar Architect.”
During the time in between the first phase and the second, roughly 1910 to 1930, Buckhead had transitioned from a country getaway for the city’s business and civic leaders into a year-round suburb of the city of Atlanta thanks to the popularity of the car.
What separated Tuxedo Park from the others, even Peachtree Heights, was the size of the lots offered by the Tuxedo Park Co. and the Valley Road Co. Again, according to Craig the advertisements for the new neighborhood offered homes surrounded on all sides by nature. With lots that were 250 feet across and 1,000 feet deep, that was virtually guaranteed. The enormous lots allowed substantial homes to sit comfortably on them and be surrounded by world-class landscaping. It has been written that many of the homes are 400 feet from the road, which still offered ample room for a large back yard including guest houses, garages, gardens and swimming pools.
The people who purchased these lots hired significant architects like Pringle & Smith, and Frazier and Bodin, which Craig said worked closely with the Blacks in designing many of the homes in Tuxedo Park.
Many of those homes still stand to this day, and even the more recent additions generally fit the original concept and design of the well-thought-out neighborhood. It would be a challenge for anyone to “overbuild” one of the lots.
Tuxedo Park easily rivals the great neighborhoods in the country if not the world, and for that we can thank Charles Black and Charles Black Jr.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.