When I started this blog, I swore to myself, that
I would never write about Gone With The Wind. But, I have come to realize that
all great cities have their own mythology.
For instance, The Great Gatsby to New York City. Atlanta’s most prominent one, has people around the globe enamored– by Margaret Mitchell’s iconic literature and the 1939 Oscar-winning film. Granted, Margaret Mitchell was more like Zelda than Scarlett, but that’s okay.
My motivation, initially, was to encourage the saving of the neoclassical revival house at 1109 West Peachtree Street. The home is slated for imminent demolition, which, in Atlanta, means it was probably razed yesterday, or certainly, before you drive by the beautiful classic old home again.
I knew the house had been renovated by a prominent gay Atlanta doctor for his offices– because many of our friends had been catered to there, over the decades. The practice was dermatology and cosmetic surgery, so many well-to-do intown Atlantans were his pampered patients.
After research about the house’s earlier history, I found that the home had a much greater relationship to the U.S., the State– and with Georgia Tech. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it was built for one of Georgia’s most esteemed educators, Dr. Marion Luther Brittain, Sr. After his tenure as a State School Superintendent and having modernized Georgia’s school system, he became the fourth President of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He held office for twenty two critical years, from 1922 to 1944– directing the school into the great research institute for which it is esteemed today.
The site, bounded by 12th Street, West Peachtree Street, 13th Street, and Peachtree Walk is planned to become one of Midtown’s more densely packed blocks, with a 32-story office building, and a hotel/condominium tower of 18 floors, including street level retail and a 7-story parking podium covering the entire site.
So, I brainstormed moving the structure.
There are a precious few sites available for private citizens to move the potential residence, within a few miles, although it is a possibility. More likely, with it’s strong relationship to Ga Tech’s history, it would be an admirable idea to move the historic building to Ga Tech’s campus. However, Ga Tech saved, only begrudgingly, the beautiful 1928 Crum-Forster Building by Ivey & Crook (Ga Tech alumni architects) on the CODA high performance computing center site. Then I realized that, less than a half mile away, is the Margaret Mitchell House, a popular historic site and tourist attraction– somewhat lacking in giving the global public what it wants–
what it really, really wants… ‘Tara’.
Four stout Corinthian columns support it’s well-proportioned classical Greek temple facade. Although it is most certainly not ‘Tara’ or ‘Twelve Oaks’, it conjures up that irrevocable image our consciousness can never forget. It is a well-established fact that tourists want to find that idea in Atlanta. Yes, it never was here– perhaps more likely down south in McDonough or Jonesboro. But, let’s face it– it is hard to get way across town in any huge city. (I’ve never seen the Frank Lloyd Wright houses of L.A. because the traffic has always been so bad, but that is another story.)
Here is a great opportunity, to save the historic home of a kind, gentle, well-educated man who gave back to the education community of the state and helped to define one of the great universities of Atlanta.
By relocating the historic home to the left of the Margaret Mitchell house,
where another stately home once stood, it gives the Mitchell house a context better scaled to the site. It would give the site two important Atlanta citizens, instead of just one. And, it would help give the public the imagery that Margaret Mitchell grew up knowing– that we can hardly find today.
Additionally, it would be both authentic in it’s essence and not offensively a re-creation of a plantation home, giving due respect to African-American Atlantans. It would be saving a piece of good architecture and giving it a contextual home along Peachtree Street, just a small remembrance of the magnificent Leyden House which once stood where Macy’s/Davisons closed store remains Downtown.
During my research, I thought of some other locations of which the Brittain House could be relocated.
Perhaps second best to next to the Margaret Mitchell House, would be to the right (north) of the
Spring Hill Chapel & Mortuary, which I hope will be preserved as a park and museum,
giving Midtown one last green space on its most prominent hill and with a gorgeous building designed by renowned Atlanta architect Philip Trammell Shutze.
There are multiple sites on the Ga Tech campus, like to the right (west) of the President’s home. It could possibly be moved next to the GT Alumni Association, or at the R. Kirk Landon Learning Center in Home Park.
Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) could also be a great benefactor, due to their expertise in historic preservation, like Midtown Atlanta’s Peters Mansion, or Ivy Hall as it is now known.
In a city park, within a neighborhood like Morningside, Poncey-Highland, or Vine City, the Brittain House would make a great community center for arts & crafts, small events, garden clubs, or classes.
Also, there are around a dozen residential lots within two miles of the historic house that a private citizen could relocate it to reconfigure as their residence.