Dig Into Decatur’s Historic Resources Survey!

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Due to its sheer size, it’s taking the city some time to get the recently completed Historic Resources Survey up on its website.  So until that time, I’m providing it here in full for your perusal. Just be aware, it’s a big ol’ PDF file.

Beyond the sections of wonk-ish methodology, the report also offers a lot of info that could be of interest to any city resident.  Like what?  Like parcel-level maps and summations of Decatur’s many existing and potential historic areas, (Is your home “historic”?  Check the maps!) along with a developmental history of Decatur and a list of the city’s “landmark buildings”.

The map above indicates all the districts in the city that – by the strict 50-year rule definition – could be deemed historic at the national or local level in bluish green.  Existing local and national historic districts are in red.  Decatur has so much historic residential, it’s actually easier to summarize the large non-historic areas:  the now urban-renewal showcase that was once “Beacon Hill”, the Decatur Cemetery, East Decatur Station and Decatur Heights.  See?

I’ve included full list of “landmark” buildings after the jump.  And because I’m such a nice guy, I’ve even provided direct links to visuals of every building on the list via Google Streetview.  (Make sure to check out 303 Fifth Ave.  I never knew that house even existed and it’s freakin’ awesome!)

DeKalb County Courthouse, 101 East Court Square – Built in 1917 in the Beaux Arts Classical style, the Courthouse anchors the city square and presides over an important community gathering place for residents and visitors.

Railroad Depot, East College Avenue – Built in 1892, the historic depot was recently moved by the Decatur Preservation Alliance and today is a popular restaurant.

The Pythagoras Lodge, 106 East Ponce de Leon Avenue – This impressive Italian Renaissance Revival style building was constructed in 1924, and is an important community landmark just off the Square.

Old U.S. Post Office, 141 East Trinity Place – The “Old Post Office” was built in 1935 in the Stripped Classical style. After serving as Decatur’s main post office for many years, it now houses a popular confectionery.

City Hall, 509 McDonough Street – Built in 1926 in the Neoclassical Revival style, this recently renovated building is still the center of city government.

DeKalb County Library, 215 Sycamore Street – Serving as the main branch of the county library system, this Classical Revival style building was constructed in 1950.

Chapel, Decatur First United Methodist Church, 318 Sycamore Street – One of the oldest churches in Decatur, the 1899 Gothic Revival church sanctuary building was constructed of Stone Mountain granite. Now functioning as a chapel, it continues to serve an active congregation.

Sharian, Inc., 368 West Ponce de Leon Avenue – Located in a landmark Moderne building built in 1931, Sharian, Inc. is one of Decatur’s oldest businesses. Sharian’s is regionally recognized as a premier retail dealer of fine and antique carpets.

Fraser House, 903 Church Street – Recently moved from its original location on Williams Street, this small, two-room building is one of the oldest buildings in Decatur. The wood structure, built circa 1870, is thought to have been part of the Donald Fraser School for Boys that was organized in 1892.

138 Fayetteville Road – Built in 1900 of granite with a distinctive red-clay stucco- and-rock finish, this unusual residence also features battlements and a turret.

Hope Clinic, 603 Church Street – Constructed in 1952, this small brick building is an excellent example of an office constructed in the International Style. Today it serves as a medical clinic for Emory University.

303 Fifth Avenue – Built circa 1880, this wood-frame, clapboard-sided, two-story Victorian house is one of the oldest in the Oakhurst neighborhood. It features trademark sawn trim and turned spindlework.

High House, 309 Sycamore Street – Purportedly the oldest two-story house in Decatur, this antebellum house is also reputed to be a stopping place for General Sherman when he was visiting the Atlanta area in 1864.

Blair-Rutland Building, 215 Church Street – Constructed in 1942, this two-story office building is another fine example of the streamlined Moderne style.

Neville and Helen Farmer Lustron House, 513 Drexel Avenue – Unique in the City of Decatur is this 1949 prefabricated house, whose walls and roof are constructed from Lustron, porcelain-enameled steel panels. Only 2680 Lustron houses were built in the nation, with only about 1000 remaining—one of which is in Decatur.

12 thoughts on “Dig Into Decatur’s Historic Resources Survey!”

  1. Funny – I see several odd designations on my street alone. My house is dramatically altered and considered ‘contributing’, but my neighbor’s, built at the same time and never altered, is considered “non-contributing’. Can’t say this makes any sense.

    On top of that, I continue to get a very uneasy feeling about how this will be used. Seems to me that this report falls all over itself to categorize as much of the city as possible as “contributing”.

    To anyone reading too much into this survey: do not start getting any funny ideas about LHD based on this.

    1. George, were your two homes built at the same time?

      And though you’re certainly entitled to feel uneasy about how this report will be used, I honestly don’t think there’s too much to worry about anymore. Mainly because the housing bubble has burst and there isn’t the sort of ridiculous artificial growth that began to change neighborhoods at an unsustainable breakneck pace.

      For better or for worse, most LHD’s are created when neighborhoods are threatened. Ask Decatur’s other LHDs (except Ponce Court I think)…the way to get widespread agreement is to have a common enemy, usually in the form of a large development that threatens multiple properties. And though there was A LOT wrong with the way the Oakhurst nomination was approached, another aspect that made it unique and contentious was it was it didn’t have a common enemy.

      Everyone has a different threshold for when government should intervene to protect a piece of property. Individual right vs. community value. It’s nothing that will ever get resolved, so the back and forth is important. So, I welcome people with both “funny ideas” about LHDs and unrestricted individual property rights to speak up and be heard.

      1. DM – yes, the two houses were built at (effectively) the same time. The neighbor’s house even has the construction date proudly displayed on the front wall, while mine has a decidedly “un-historic” two-story addition rudely bolted onto the back of the original cottage front.

        So it’s just peculiar that theirs is considered non-contributing and mine is the opposite. In my mind, it calls into question the accuracy of the study.

        As to your other comment, I lived in both the MAK and Oakhurst districts when those LHD’s were discussed, so I’m a relative veteran — and I completely agree with your “bogeyman” theory as to why one was successful, and one was not. However, it doesn’t mean that an unnecessary, unwanted LHD couldn’t have been pushed through if the community was not vigilant.

  2. What’s wonky about the methodology? Just curious if you know something I don’t or care to editorialize further …

    1. Sorry, poor choice of words. Meant to use it as an adjective version of “One who studies an issue or a topic thoroughly or excessively” not as something that was “shaky and unsound”.

      Should probably have said “wonk-ish” and not “wonky”.

      But if you’d also like further editorializing, I’d be happy to oblige.

  3. I’ve always loved 303 5th Ave and have wanted to give it some love in return. Does anyone know what the story is there? At one point I thought they were going to paint it, but they seem to have stopped with a couple pieces of siding (as you can see in the Google image). That was years ago.

  4. I know for a fact that many of the homes in the ponce de leon heights area are historic, but we do not seem to have that designation on the map. We have homes on our area that date to the early 1900s– plus, we have interesting tidbits of Decatur history–I also know that the beloved toy park used to be a cow pasture … the Peavine Creek flood plain area behind Northern also served as a place to pen ponies….am I missing something on the map — is Ponce Heights there?

    1. Ponce Heights is being grouped with Clairemont Heights and Vidal/Lamont as a “West Clairemont” district. I’m also slightly surprised by this since Ponce Heights has it’s own distinct history….like it’s roads were built as an off-shoot of Druid Hills in the 20’s but it wasn’t fully developed until right before WWII. The houses this larger area are similar and from around the same time period, but I think a case can be made either way.

      As for the pastures, I love knowing the history of some of our open spaces, but I don’t think they would count towards deeming the area “historic”.

      1. I am intrigued that they grouped Ponce Heights into the Clairemont Heights Vidal/Lamont district, this is not consistent with the school maps drawn for Westchester lo those many years ago. As to my info on pastures/and peavine creek, it comes from a local resident who has lived in this area since the 1940s … and another former resident remembers when Scott was practically a dirt path, and I quote ” it was all trees to Emory”
        btw, we had two huge oaks go down in our backyard … counted the rings, and they were about 80 years old, give or take a decade.. not old by ancient tree standards but we were devastated by their loss

  5. Very interesting…where are you guys finding this info on Ponce Heights and Peavine Creek info? Would love to read more on the history of it…The creek is interesting…some of the trees behind Coventry and Lamont are huge!

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