By Bill Bell
|"Peachtree has been, is, and will always be Atlanta's popular
residence boulevard. ... Those who want home lots in which they can always take deep pride
and upon which they can realize not only their investment but a profit, whenever occasion
for it may arise can make no mistake in buying here."
This quote from Steve R. Johnston, councilman from the 6th Ward and noted auctioneer, appeared in the Sunday Atlanta Journal on April 27, 1913. His words still ring true today as they did 80 years ago, when the neighborhoods of Peachtree Heights East and West, Peachtree Hills, and Garden Hills arose from the farmlands and forests out Peachtree Road.
Peachtree Heights East was developed first. In 1906, Leontine Chisolm Andrews sold the land to Frank Owens and Eretus Rivers for over $52,000, which more than tripled her initial investment of $16,750 that she had paid for the land five years earlier. The property was bounded on the south by a dirt road which is now Lindbergh Drive. Another dirt road became Brookwood Drive and divided the property into two subdivisions, Peachtree Heights and E. Rivers. Peachtree Heights extended from Peachtree Road to Brookwood and was laid out in 1908. The E. Rivers Subdivision was laid out in 1910 and occupied the land between Brookwood on the west and the creek east of Acorn Avenue.
In 1907, Frank Owens moved to Atlanta from Greenville, bought a beautiful home on Peachtree, and started the Southern Land Company in the Candler Building. His real estate holdings included store fronts in downtown Greenville, property in Atlanta, and an orange grove in Florida near Orlando. His brothers John and William worked for the Central Trust Bank and could provide the funds required to complete the development. According to the advertisements prior to the initial auction of Peachtree Heights lots in 1909, "the trees are beautiful, the land is rolling and well drained, several flowing springs are found, and the added work by the hand of man has turned the property into all that can be desired as a center for homes." The duck pond, springs, and rolling hills were reminiscent of the Rivers estate on Roxboro Road, where Eretus and his wife Una resided.
Developments along Peachtree Road spread rapidly. Peachtree Hills Place started in 1910 by the American Securities Company of Georgia on the 6th floor of the Candler Building. In their plat of the subdivision they mention how "fortunes have been made on the Great Peachtree Thoroughfare. Peachtree Hills Place lies high and dry -- a site of most wonderful natural beauty -- 90 feet above the surrounding country; overlooking and fronting the beautiful Peachtree Road -- the Atlanta to New York National Highway -- the famous driveway connecting the South with the North -- just 18 minutes on the Buckhead car. Come out in the fresh open air where life is worth living." Extending from Peachtree Creek north to Junction Avenue, the subdivisions occupied some of the most desirable residential property, with lots costing $500 and up.
Peachtree Hills Place was bounded on the north by the estates of J.A Plaster and J.A. Austin, which occupied the land between Junction Avenue and Lindbergh Drive. The J.A. Plaster estate became the site of the Peachtree Terrace subdivision located between Terrace Drive and Branch Avenue. In 1912, the Peachtree Hurst subdivision was built on the J.A. Austin estate and included a "good two-story residence facing Mayson Avenue" that remains as one of the oldest homes in the area. Extending from Branch Avenue to the land lot line, Peachtree Hurst was "located on the crest of Atlanta's future fashionable residence section. [Its] natural scenic beauty is unequalled around Atlanta. The Highlands of Peachtree Road Section."
The subdivisions within Peachtree Hills and Peachtree Heights East lay between the Atlanta city limits and the town of Buckhead. Peachtree View was the first subdivision within Buckhead. Occupying the land developed by John Owens, a brother of Frank Owens, it was bounded by what is now Pharr Road, Lookout Place, Peachtree Avenue, and North Fulton Drive. The 1910 newspaper ad said that this was "the first auction sale of lots in Buckhead, therefore, you will get in on the ground floor." The ad went on to say that "everything is in favor of this property advancing steadily and rapidly. There is not a single factor adverse to its improvement. There is no better investment." Noted businessmen like Ivan Allen, who bought four of the lots, apparently agreed. One year later the first addition to Peachtree View extended the subdivision to what is now Delmont Drive.
According to the ads for the first Peachtree View subdivision, there was "over a million dollars' worth of development work in progress and prospect between Atlanta and Buckhead." One of these was the vast Peachtree Heights Park developed by Eretus Rivers and Leontine Andrews' husband, Walter. According to the plat "Atlanta offers nowhere within or beyond city limits today, so attractive, so desirable, so completely equipped a residence section as that now presented for the first time in the Peachtree Heights Park Company's subdivision of Land Lots 111,112, and 113, situated on the west side of Peachtree Road, Atlanta's nationally famed residence boulevard, at just beyond the five-mile post." The subdivision was bounded on the south by Peachtree Creek, on the north by Cherokee Road, and west to the land lot lines. People showed up in both horse-drawn and horseless carriages at the auction of property along Peachtree Road in 1912.
One of the people who would take up residence in Peachtree Heights Park over a decade later was Phillips C. McDuffie. With his wife Helen and their four children, he moved into a large home on Cherokee Road near the property that he would transform into Garden Hills. The brochure for Garden Hills in 1925 stressed the advantages of living there. "The health of your children is a vital factor in your life and theirs. There will be a playground in Garden Hills equipped with every modern appliance for the health and happiness of all those who live in this community of happy home lovers." Then as now, "beautiful Garden Hills offers unusual opportunity for investment where all the desirable features of a modern residential colony are merged into the rapidly increasing value of the individual location..." Lot prices started at $2,750 and the prices of residences ranged from $17,500 to $28,500.
During the 1910's through the Roaring Twenties, the visions for Peachtree Road expressed by Johnston had become reality. To the planners, architects and builders, these dreams had become the residences and subdivisions of some of the more fashionable early Atlanta suburbs. To the city of Atlanta, these visions have become the districts of Peachtree Hills, Peachtree Heights East and West, and Garden Hills. To generations of residents, these visions have become home..
Bill Bell is a Buckhead neighborhood historian and vice president of the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association.