418 Church Street, Decatur GA circa 1982 (pic submitted by Udog)
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You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own…
My great aunt Katie Houston was living in this house at that time. From what I remember from my visits, she had old newspapers piled high to the ceilings in just about every room. She lived there until she died. Her dad (Washington Jackson Houston) built the house in 1905; it faced the Square for about 10 years until they turned it around with a pack of mules to face Church Street.
How? Why? My mind is boggling.
The house sat where the Brick Store and Sweet Melisa’s sit today. The story is that my great great grandfather Houston realized that because of the commerce that took place around the courthouse, that parcel made more sense with commercial structures on it. But since he just built the house for his family (and for his small doctor’s office, with a separate entrance on the left front of the house, which you can’t see in this pic) he decided to have it picked up and moved to the back of his lot, which faced Church. And then built, what my family always called, “the stores.” You’ll sometimes hear of the alley next to the Brick Store called “Katie’s Alley,” named after crazy ol’ Aunt Kate.
Prior to the Houstons building a house on the lot where the Brick Store is, I believe there was actually a store there that sold bricks but it, interestingly, burned down. That last part didn’t involve my family, I don’t think, so I’m less certain about those facts.
My great-aunt & great-uncle did the same thing with their large, old house in the 1960s — rotated it 180 degrees and moved it to the other side of the block. (I’m sure they used trucks, though.) My great-aunt, nearly 70 at the time, was born in the house and lived in it most of her life (except during nursing school and a few years as a newlywed). After turning it around, she complained forever after that she couldn’t find things in the kitchen.
That’s when the city implemented a moratorium on turnarounds.
Geoff, I had a friend who was a friend of your great aunt. The story I heard was that her father was a doctor and that he had his office upstairs in the house. I remember the story that at the time of her death, the doctors office was still intact in the house. Can you confirm?
The doctors office has a separate entrance that is still there on the left side of the front of the house (as you are looking at it from the street). That is, there is a front door for the family and another front door for the doctor’s office. If I remember right, the door is accessed via the front porch but actually faces the alley, which is why you can’t see it in this picture. The sink for the doctor’s office is still in that front room (or was the last time I was in there). Dr. Washington Jackson Houston apparently came to some local acclaim during the flu epidemic of 1918 as he had a “medicine” that was said to cure the flu. People came from all over, and he traveled all over, to administer this wonder drug. The story goes that it was mostly whiskey.
Geoff, thanks for the insight!
I love this kind of stuff and just wanted to say thank you. Hope to meet you and I’ll buy you a beer at a local watering hole sometime…
Udog, where did you pick up this picture? I would love to get my hands on old Decatur pics!
I shot it. I have most of the Square area during and soon after the MARTA construction. A while back DM posted some shots of the Hotel Candler and Leon’s when it was Decatur Auto Seat Covers.
Aunt Kate lived in this house through the MARTA construction. I remember how she lamented the changes being wrought to her little hometown. She liked it just the way it was.
My memory was a bit off – the doctor’s office door is very visible from the street and this picture. It looks like a window on the left, but that is a door, you can see that it is more narrow than the window on the right. Confirmed as I drove by this morning. So Udog, your friend was correct except that the Dr. Houston (pronounced HOW-ston) office was downstairs to the left, not upstairs.
This ifon is so cool, Geoff. Thanks for posting it. I’ve often wondered about the stone in front of the house, engraved Houston. Were your Houstons related to Houston Mill House?
That stone is a carriage step. Used to assist passengers getting on an off of horse-drawn carriages. Given the advent of the car around the time of the placement of the house, this is likely one of the last steps placed in Atlanta. Not too many of them left around.
Yes, Washington Jackson Houston’s ancestors go back to the original white owners of the land that Emory is now on. These Houstons built Houston Mill. That mill was the city of Decatur’s first dedicated source of electricity around the turn of the century, I believe.
His (my) ancestors built a log cabin in the 1820s that still exists – was moved to Stone Mountain. This history is actually documented on the roadside marker near Decatur Package on Clairmont Rd. Google: “Dr. Chapmon Powell’s “Medicine House” and W.J. Houston Plantation”
Also – W.J. was related to the Hardmans of the Old Hardman Cemetery that is a cool little spot tucked in behind a parking deck on Emory’s Clairmont Campus.
Geoff, Your Aunt Katie must have been quite a scraper in her latter years protecting her turf in the changing city. She posted a hand made sign that read “Keep out or be shot” in the back yard.
That sign is being used as the model for the ones being installed along the new moat at the city line.
stephen, that little nugget seems left out of family lore. However, it would fit her profile; she was the epitome of a “scraper.” Also, blind. So not sure who she reckoned would be doing the shooting.
I’m liking the potential deterrent effect of “I can’t see worth a toot and I have a gun.” Small town, didn’t need to spell out the subtext on a sign.
Principal Greg Wiseman Canoes Through Decatur
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