Learn About the DeKalb County Courthouse on the 100 Year Anniversary of Its Fire


Did you know that the Old DeKalb County Courthouse that sits at the center of Decatur is the FIFTH such courthouse to reside on that spot?

Next Tuesday, September 20th’s talk – given by DeKalb History Center staff members Fred Mobley and Jenny Goldemund – will focus on the fire at the fourth DeKalb County Courthouse that took place 100 years ago.

According to details for the event, the talk will focus on the fire, but will also “include background information on Decatur’s square and why the courthouse is located here…the history and architecture of the 1898 courthouse” and a discussion of the fifth courthouse, which still stands today.

Photo caption: Scott Candler used this image of the burning courthouse on a 1941 New Years’ Eve postcard expressing his appreciation for the community’s support.


Learn About the Journey of Decatur’s Swanton House at January “Lunch and Learn”

swanton house

Head over to the Old DeKalb Courthouse on Tuesday, January 19th and learn about one of Decatur’s most transient buildings, the Swanton House!  If you’ve ever wondered why Swanton Way in downtown Decatur is so far removed from the house that also bears its name, this will be the lunch and learn for you!

From the DeKalb History Center

DECATUR – The January Lunch & Learn presented by our archivist Fred Mobley will chronicle the various plans for historic restoration that were developed and considered for the Swanton House in the early 1960s until the dedication ceremonies on December 10th, 1972.  Come learn the fascinating history of this house including the various concepts that were up for consideration.  and the final results reflecting not only on the practices of historic preservation of that period but the forces at play in the cultural landscape that landed the Historic Swanton House where it sits today.

The Benjamin Swanton House is one of the oldest structures still standing in Decatur – it has a log cabin as its core estimated to have been built about 1825.  The house was enlarged and updated throughout its long history, each change reflecting the popular trends of the times.

Utilizing his Master in Heritage Preservation and educational experience gained at the Jefferson Monticello Historic Landscape Institute, and the Georgia Historic Landscape Initiative Fellowship at the Cherokee Garden Library of the Atlanta History Center, Mobley will use resource materials from the DHC Archives to show the house’s changing history. Mobley received his Master in Heritage Preservation-Public History Track from Georgia State University in August 2010.

Free!  Bring your lunch.

Tuesday, January 19, Noon – 1:00 p.m.

Historic DeKalb Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur GA 30030, Second Floor, Superior Courtroom

Love this old 1965 photo of the Swanton House provided by the DeKalb History Center.  This is while it still sat in downtown Decatur.

Decatur Cemetery Stories at the DeKalb History Center Tomorrow

decatur cemetery

From the DeKalb History Center…

Our next Lunch and Learn will be presented by Cathy Vogel who will share stories from the historic Decatur Cemetery; the oldest burial ground in the Atlanta metropolitan area. It dates to 1823 and today encompasses about 58 acres and over 20,000 graves. A portion of the cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes a number of locally important graves including Mary Ann Harris Gay (1828–1918); Dr. Thomas Holly Chivers (1806–1858); Col. Milton A Candler (1837–1909); and Col. George Washington Scott (1829–1903). There are also three veterans of the American Revolution and numerous orphans buried there.

Founded in 1993, The Friends of Decatur Cemetery is a group of citizens devoted to supporting the historic cemetery. These volunteers advocate for the continued preservation and improvement of this gorgeous property. They have produced a walking tour brochure highlighting 40 grave sites.

Vogel is a former DeKalb History Center board member, one of founding members of Friends of Decatur Cemetery and the originator of Second Sunday Strolls through the cemetery. She also volunteers at Oakland Cemetery, the Fox Theatre and the Atlanta History Center.

Free!  Bring your lunch.

Tuesday, November 17, Noon – 1:00 p.m.

Historic DeKalb Courthouse, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur GA 30030, Second Floor, Superior Courtroom

Photo caption: Thomas Holley Chivers is remembered most for his tumultuous friendship with Edgar Allen Poe and their similar poetic style. His first burial site was at the foot of the front steps to his Decatur home called Villa Allegra.  Shortly afterwards his remains were moved to the Decatur Cemetery marked with the draped urn as shown in the circa 1940s picture from the DHC Archives. 

DeKalb History Center Hosting Civil War Symposium on July 11th


From the DeKalb History Center

The DeKalb History Center will present a Civil War symposium on July 11 with a series of events and presentations lasting from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

The focus of the day’s activities will be on people and events in and around Atlanta and DeKalb County during the war. Events include a walking tour, lectures, a panel discussion, lunch, a play and an optional bus tour. History Center programming and preservation coordinator JennyGoldemund said “This is a ‘can’t miss’ event for those interested in the history of the Civil War in our area.”

The schedule for the day begins at 9 am with a Civil War walking tour of downtown Decatur followed at 10 am by a presentation by Gordon Jones of the Atlanta History Center entitled The Battles In and Around Atlanta. At 11 a.m. Robert A. Pratt of the University of Georgia will present The Fate of the Freedmen. The 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. segments are both free and sponsored by the Georgia Humanities Council.

Lunch and a panel discussion with Pratt, Jones and Will Bryant from The Battle of Atlanta Commemorative Organization (B’ATL) will begin at noon. Lunch will be provided by Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q and will be followed at 1 p.m. with a production of Shadows of the Past, a play about the Civil War in DeKalb County

From 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. there will be guided bus tours of the front lines of the war in DeKalb County by B’ATL (The Battle of Atlanta Commemorative Organization). There is a $15 charge for the bus tour; advance reservations are required.

Advance paid reservations include all events except the bus tour. The advanced reservation price is $35 per person for members of DeKalb History Center and $40 for non-members. The bus tour is an additional $15 per person. Walk up tickets are $60 per person and do not include the bus tour.

For additional information or to register by phone call (404) 373-1088, ext. 20 or visit www.dekalbhistory.org

Photo courtesy of DeKalb History Center’s Facebook Page

DeKalb History Center Now Offering Decatur Civil War Walking Tour


This sounds pretty darn cool…

Beginning Oct. 7, 2014 the DeKalb History Center, located in the historic DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur, will offer Civil War walking tours in downtown Decatur. The cost is $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 6-18, and free for children 5 and under. The tours are scheduled at various times and they begin and end in the lobby of the Historic DeKalb Courthouse. Please call 404-373-1088 extension 20 for information or visit www.dekalbhistory.org.

The tour familiarizes participants with the early history of the county, the effects of the war on the civilian population in DeKalb, the Atlanta campaign, and the Battle of Decatur. The hour-long tour complements the History Center’s new exhibit, Tears and Curses: A Human Perspective on the Civil War. “Our research for the exhibit yielded so much fascinating material that we wanted to share some of this additional information with the public,” said Jenny Goldemund, Programs and Preservation Coordinator for the History Center. Accordingly, the tour uses photographs, letters, diaries, newspapers, meeting minutes and other documents to show how people thought and felt about the war and the events around them. “The tour has a personal feel because of the local sources used” said Goldemund, “I think people will enjoy the tour and learn a lot.”

Continue reading “DeKalb History Center Now Offering Decatur Civil War Walking Tour”

Eight Dates of Log Cabin Storytelling This Summer

Melissa Forgey at the DeKalb History Center sends along this announcement…

Bring your children to Storytelling this summer! 10 – 11 a.m. most Wednesdays at the historic Biffle Cabin, 720 W. Trinity Pl., Decatur 30030 (Behind the Swanton House)

For ages 6 – 12. $4 per child for members or $6 per child for non-members. Reservations are suggested. Call 404-373-1088 extension 22 or email [email protected] for reservations  or information. Additional information can be found on each session on our webpage at www.dekalbhistory.org.

  • June 5, Fun with Brer Rabbit and Friends with Josie Bailey

  • June 12, Gotcha! Trickster Tales with Cathy Kaemmerlen

  • June 19, Tales of the Gullah with LaDoris Davis

  • June 26, Georgia Tales and Tails from Possums to Gourds with Cathy Kaemmerlen

  • July 10, The Tapestry Cats with Ann Ritter

  • July 17, Take Me Out to the Ballgame! With Deborah Strahorn

  •  July 24, Appalachian Folktales with LaDoris Davis

  • July 31, Fiddlin’Dan the Mountain Man with Reuben Haller

DHC Lunch & Learn Series: The History of the Streetcar in Atlanta

From the DeKalb History Center

The History of the Streetcar in Atlanta & DeKalb County. Presented by Patrick Sullivan. Patrick Sullivan will present a talk on the establishment, growth, and decline of streetcars and inter-urban commuter lines in the Atlanta area with a special focus on the development of the transportation network in DeKalb County.

The history of the streetcar is as large and as colorful as history gets. Expansive, fast (for their time), noisy, and romantic, they were much loved by urban Georgians. Businesses, neighborhoods, recreational sites, and schools were tied into the new transportation system that provided movement to places people wanted or needed to go. Social relations changed as they brought white and black riders into close contact within the Jim Crow South. While the trackless trolley and personal automobile would bring an end to their use, funeral parties held in many cities honoring “last trolley rides” testified to their strong hold on the traveling public.

In 2011, the Georgia Department of Transportation hired New South Associates to develop a context for resources associated with Georgia’s historic streetcar systems, with an emphasis on the metro Atlanta area. The purpose of the report was to provide GDOT staff and preservation professionals with identification guidelines for streetcar-associated resources when they are encountered during road construction projects and a framework for evaluation of their historic significance and eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Patrick Sullivan is a historian and architectural historian with New South Associates in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He received his M.A. in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University in 2007. Over the course of his seven-year career at New South Associates, Mr. Sullivan has worked on a number of architectural and historic resource surveys throughout the eastern United States for clients that include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the General Services Administration, the Georgia Department of Transportation, and the National Park Service among others.

  • November 13, From Noon to 1:00 p.m.
  • Historic DeKalb Courthouse, Second Floor, 101 E. Court Square
  • Free – bring your lunch!

Photo courtesy of the Wren’s Nest