By: Richard Reynolds, Hampton Hall
As is generally known, the development of Hampton Hall began in 1965. It was a project of Spratlin Associates, Inc. At the time they were major players on the Atlanta real estate scene. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for Sunday July 4, 1965 carried this headline: “Fashionable Hampton Hall Building First 14 Homes - - $35,000-$65,000 Range.” The article reported that these first homes were well underway, that the first 36 lots were ready for building, that 160 residences were planned, and that they were available to both builders and to individuals wanting to construct their own homes. Given this advanced state of affairs, Hampton Hall likely got underway in the early months of 1965.
City of North Atlanta
What is not so well known is that the land on which our neighborhood stands was once a part of a separate municipality - - - The City of North Atlanta. Instead of being created the usual way by an act of the Georgia General Assembly, it was charted in 1924 by the Superior Court of DeKalb County under a little used provision of Georgia law (repealed in 1939). The boundaries of North Atlanta may be described, generally, as follows:
South (Peachtree Rd in Brookhaven),
West (the DeKalb-Fulton line),
North (more or less along present I-285 that did not exist back then); and,
East (City of Chamblee).
At its inception it was truly north of Atlanta whose city limits were no closer than Ansley Park, some five miles south of Brookhaven. The Atlanta limits would not be extended out our way along Peachtree Dunwoody until 1952. Until that time Buckhead was just an unincorporated area of Fulton County.
North Atlanta included Murphy Candler Park, Marist School, Peachtree Golf Club, Oglethorpe University, and that part of the Brookhaven Country Club’s golf course inside DeKalb. In addition to our neighborhood, it included, inter alia, Oak Forest, Byrnwick, Ashford Glenn, Sunderland, Cambridge Park, Brittany, Lynwood Park, Club Trace, and Club Commons. (Some of these were not developed until after North Atlanta was gone). At the outset in 1924 only 35 persons resided in all of what would become North Atlanta. However, by 1960 it had about 14,000 residents, making it Georgia’s 26th largest city and second largest in DeKalb County, after Decatur. On the north side of Peachtree in Brookhaven stood the “United States Post Office, North Atlanta, GA.” However, across Peachtree (where the MARTA station is now located) lay unincorporated Brookhaven. Only the part on and north of Peachtree was inside the City of North Atlanta.
Oglethorpe University predated the City of North Atlanta. It had been founded originally in the 1830s near Milledgeville and later moved to Atlanta where it died in 1872. It was refounded at its new and present campus and received its first students there in 1916. [Peachtree Road was then unpaved in front of the campus.] Marist came to North Atlanta in August 1962 when it opened its new campus on Ashford Dunwoody Rd., having relocated there from its original 1901 site on Ivy St. (now Peachtree Center Ave.) in downtown Atlanta, adjacent to the 1898 Sacred Heart Church, which is still there.
Alas, as a municipality, North Atlanta never grew commensurate with its population. For one thing it had no city taxes, and its archaic charter could not be amended. By 1963 there was a move to abolish it. The Atlanta Journal Constitution urged its demise. That is not surprising since it usually finds needless inefficiencies and duplication of services in small surrounding municipalities. (Ironically, the paper’s owner, Cox Communications, now has its headquarters in the new City of Sandy Springs.) Several votes by North Atlanta residents were held. The first one was in favor of doing away with their city but another vote resulted in a tie. In early 1964 the Georgia legislature ended the controversy by passing a bill abolishing it. In March 1964 the bill was signed into law by Governor Carl Sanders (later your writer’s law partner). February 2, 1965 was the last day of existence for the City of North Atlanta after which its territory reverted to unincorporated DeKalb County. Interestingly, North Atlanta passed into memory just as Spratlin began the development of Hampton Hall.
In light of all the present talk about new cites around here, it is interesting to reflect that we once had one and gave it up, though, at the time, many neighborhoods now flourishing within its boundaries were not in existence. Dunwoody seems intent on becoming a city. Its proposed southern boundary would abut the northern limits of old North Atlanta. Hence, a case could be made that the new city should also include what was once North Atlanta. The whole might be named “Dunhaven,” since a good part of Brookhaven was once part of it - -it’s at least food for thought.
A Way Out
By the early 1960s authorities were seeking a way to provide Johnson Ferry Road with a southern egress and ingress so that traffic would not have to go way up to Peachtree Dunwoody (where the hospitals are now located - -they were not there then) or to Ashford Dunwoody Rd. and then down to Peachtree. Mill Creek Road was ideal for this purpose. The original proposal was to connect it to Lynwood Park. By the simple expedient of a modest bridge over the small Hampton Hall stream it could be connected to Osborne Rd which is just across the creek. That would provide a direct all-North Atlanta connection from Johnson Ferry to Windsor Parkway and beyond that to Peachtree in Brookhaven. In the end, the Lynwood proposal was dropped, and an alternate route was chosen. Mill Creek would be connected to Evergreen Dr. via a much larger bridge over robust Nancy Creek. The new bridge was built in 1965 coincidentally with the beginning of Hampton Hall.
Why Hampton Hall?
We (Delia and Richard Reynolds) were motivated to move to Hampton Hall because our two small boys attended Ashdun Hall on Ashford Dunwoody Rd. It was in the now vacant school building across Nancy Creek from Marist (that acquired it in 2004). The YMCA soccer fields are in front. At the time, we lived on Northrope Dr. in Martin Manor, the modest neighborhood behind the Varsity Jr. on Lindbergh Dr. Ashdun Hall was Atlanta’s first Montessori School. It opened its campus on Ashford Dunwoody Rd in 1965 or 1966, after having been in business for a while on Childerlee Lane off Briarcliff Rd.
Every morning we had to fight the traffic to take the boys ten or so roadway miles from Martin Manor to the school. That was wearisome, so we looked for a closer place. As things turned out, Hampton Hall was it.
I had never had much contact with our area, but Delia had. She is the oldest great-grandchild of A. C. Minhinnett, pioneer Buckhead businessman. Around 1910 he established a large grocery and meat market right in the heart of Buckhead, on Roswell Rd. where the Roxy (nee Buckhead) Theater stands today. He lived on a large Wieuca Rd spread near where GA 400 goes under. Closer to our neighborhood, Delia is also related to the Sexton family who settled on Harts Mill Rd. in the nineteenth century. Sexton Woods is named for them. They had a farm along Harts Mill. The old house was unheated save for fireplaces and had a separate kitchen building with a dirt floor. That was once typical; it minimized the danger of a fire spreading to the main living quarters. Delia recalls driving out to the Sexton place in the mid-1940s when Harts Mill was only a dirt and gravel road.
How Can We Afford it?
We moved into our place at 1186 Warrenhall Lane on January 4, 1968 - - 38 years ago. Our house was built by the Rogers Company (Rogers MacMillan). It was a speculative build as were most of the homes in Hampton Hall. Construction began in or about July 1967, and it was about 90% complete when we agreed to purchase it in November of that year. Spratlin and Associates, Inc. was the broker. We were its first and so far only occupants.
The contract price was $43,500. I arranged for a $32,600 mortgage payable over 25 years at 6¾ percent or $225.25 per month. (That is high in light of recent interest rates but was very good back then.) I was troubled by two things. First how in the world would I pay such a huge sum? Though I was a lawyer, the era of big bucks for barristers was not yet here – at least for small firms like Reynolds and Reynolds comprised of my Dad and me. Second, how in the world would I make a daily commute of 13 roadway miles (one-way) to my office in the Healey Building in downtown Atlanta? I had never previously lived more than five miles from the center of downtown Atlanta. Back then the overwhelming majority of Atlanta’s lawyers were located within a six block radius of Five Points in downtown.
Of course, the cost of living was very modest when we moved to the neighborhood. I kept a record of our monthly utility bills. For or first twelve months in our Warrenhall house, we paid an average of $13.49 per month for electricity, $17.38 for natural gas, and $6.82 for water.
As built, our house had a large attic fan but was not air-conditioned. That would make it unmarketable today but was not all that unusual for the time. Delia and I are both children of Georgia, she a native of Springfield (near Savannah) and I of Atlanta. When we moved to Warrenhall, neither of us had ever lived in a house with air-conditioning. Delia had it worse than I did. She grew up in South Georgia with its overpowering heat and humidity. Neither of us ever spent a day in an air conditioned classroom. That includes elementary school through college (altogether from 1939 to 1958). Between us we did four scorching summer quarters at Emory University without any air conditioning. For our second summer on Warrenhall (1969), we splurged and installed central air conditioning.
Getting To Town
I mostly used one of our two cars for the downtown commute. However, to save wear and tear and parking fees, I often took the No. 23 Oglethorpe bus which had the end of its line in a turn-around near the intersection of Peachtree and Ashford Dunwoody - - about where Patterson’s Funeral Home is located. Those were the days of the old Atlanta Transit Company, predecessor to MARTA. Delia would drop me at the bus stop. Or, I could park my car and leave it all day for free on the grassy, gravely east side of Peachtree, which was only half as wide as it is today. The parking area was next to the Southern (now Norfolk Southern) Railroad tracks before the rapid transit line was built eliminating that space.
For the return trip, I usually took the No. 29 Roxboro Limited. It had the advantage of putting me out nearer home. Though it took a rather circuitous route to our area, it ran non-stop out I-85 to Lenox Rd. That saved a lot of time vs. No. 23 Oglethorpe which had to creep along Peachtree. Once on Lenox, the Roxboro Limited wound around over Canter Rd., Roxboro, Peachtree, Hermance Dr. Windsor Parkway, and Ashford Dunwoody. I would get off at Cambridge Square and hike the rest of the way. A number of Hampton Hallers used No. 29.
I had grown up riding public transit (both streetcars and buses) to school, church, and entertainment venues (movies, football games, etc.) - -even using it to go out on dates before I got my driver’s license. During World War II public transit was mandatory because gas rationing limited private auto driving to the essentials. Hence, riding the bus to town from Hampton Hall was no big deal to me. In the case of the two lines mentioned above I could get off or board either of them right in front of my office building.
On December 15, 1984, MARTA opened its rapid rail line to Brookhaven which made commuting a snap. Of course, by then downtown Atlanta was no longer the epicenter of economic, business and professional activity that it had been when Hampton Hall was first developed. It would be interesting to find out how many of the present residents of our neighborhood use MARTA on anything like a regular basis.
When MARTA opened the Brookhaven station, it marked a return of rail transit to our area after an absence of forty-four years. From 1917 to 1940 Brookhaven and Oglethorpe were connected to downtown by a trolley or streetcar line (powered by overhead wires) with the tracks running along Peachtree. Now called light rail, there are proposals to build a new such line. In 1940 the Oglethorpe streetcar was discontinued in favor of trolley-coaches (also called “trackless trolleys”). Running from dual overhead electric wires, they looked like buses. They had the advantage of being able to pull over to the curb to board passengers. In 1963 they too were replaced - - by diesel buses. That is what ran on the No. 23 Oglethorpe line when Hampton Hall was first developed.
Where’s the Beer ?
The late Al DeGouttes was Rogers MacMillan’s construction foreman. In addition to our house, they also built the two immediately east of us, namely that of Winnie and Hobart Early (# 1194, now Sandra and Allen Bell) and Margaret and the Rev. DuPree Jordan (#1204, now Tonya and Nash Ogden). Those two houses got underway shortly after we moved in.
DeGouttes had a weekly ritual. Every Friday for lunch he would motor over to the Pizza Hut in Sandy Springs (Fulton County). It was located at 5670 Roswell Rd., on the west side, just south of I-285. There he would enjoy a pizza and a beer or two. I mention this because it bespoke a fact of DeKalb County life in 1967-69, namely, it was virtually a dry county. One could not buy a beer anywhere in DeKalb, save for a couple of spots well to the south in the Atlanta part of the county. Whiskey was totally forbidden. Though the sale of beer had been authorized by DeKalb’s voters in the late 1930s, no elected DeKalb official would risk the wrath of the preachers by granting a beer selling license. The pulpits had enormous influence with voters back then. When we moved to Warrenhall Lane, a beer run consisted of a trip to either Sandy Springs or down to Peachtree at Wieuca where a convenience store was located in a strip mall. All that changed in the 1970s when DeKalb at last allowed the sale of both beer and liquor.
Old Timers and Growth
The only present “Hampton Hallers” that come to mind as having been here longer than we have are Nancy and Joe Jones (3485 Hallcrest), Jackie Dauer (1134 Warrenhall), Ludie and Bob Webb (1194 Hampton Hall), and Frances and James Carter (1251 Hampton Hall).
When we arrived, the only other houses built and occupied on Warrenhall were those of the Dauers (#1134), Hunters ( #1088, now Holmes), and the Lougherys (#1156, now Boltz). There were no houses across Warrenhall from us. There was only the creek, the woods behind it, and a scattering of trees on the street side of the creek.. Ironically, Delia’s brother, Harry Bridwell, was a summer construction worker on the Holmes house when it was built in 1966. He was then a student at Southern Tech (now Southern Polytechnic State University) in Marietta..
One Sunday afternoon day in the late winter of 1968, while the leaves were off the trees, I took our two older sons, Rich (then 7, now 45) and Michael (then 5, now 43) on a hike. [Good grief, I was only 33 myself at the time!] Our Tim was born later, that April - - - but back to the hike. We started by climbing up the high hill behind where Cathy Wilson and Norman Chu now live (1183 Warrenhall). That is a steep grade and quite a challenge. In places we had to pull-up by grabbing onto underbrush. Once on top we walked quite a distance in a southerly direction through the woods until we came to the first house. I think it was on Breton Circle or Rennes Dr. in Brittany. Rennes Ct. was not there then. There were certainly no houses on the edge of the big hill overlooking Warrenhall as there are now. We circled around to the Brittany pool and across the Silver Lake dam. As best I recall, there were no houses then built on that part of Ragley Hall. The entire area was just woods.
In the late summer of 1968 construction of houses got underway on the creek side of Warrenhall. Memory tells me the first one was at 1163 Warrenhall – high up on the hill across the creek .The Symmes were the original occupants - -now the Boors. To get the heavy trucks (cement mixers etc.) across the creek, big trees were felled and lashed together to make a temporary bridge. They were laid across the creek right in front of where the Chus now live. The trucks crossed the bridge and turned right through the woods, across the property where Kurt Schlenz would later build (1175 Warrenhall), and then to the construction site.
Across Hallcrest from us, the two story red brick on the corner (3412 - - now owned by the Belisles) was up but vacant and remained that way until later in 1968 when Sue and Bud Osborne became the first occupants. They were very dear friends. Sadly, Sue passed away on March 8, 2006 in Madison, GA to which they had moved from Hallcrest in 1990.
Going up the hill on the west side of Hallcrest, I think the Steed house (#3446) was up but there was not another on that side until you came to the last one at #4374 where the Quinns lived (Eichelbergers now). Later in 1968 construction got underway on all the other houses on that side. Across Hallcrest, on the east side (behind us), the nearest house was #3457 (now the Kruegers).
Kennington Court (behind us), was cut through, cubing installed etc. but it was unpaved. Houses started going up on it later in 1968 as well. We had only been in our place for about month when a knock came of the door. There stood a sheepish looking late teenager and his girl friend. They had pulled into the dark on Kennington, obviously for some spooning. However, the rear wheel of their auto had dropped down into the curbside drainage culvert next to the Bocks driveway, and they were stuck. They must have seen the lights on in our house and rang our doorbell to call for a wrecker.
When we moved here that January (1968), Hampton Hall Way was the only entrance to the neighborhood. Hampton Hall Dr. ended just east of it. A Spratlin Associates portable office stood in the middle of what would become the eastward extension of Hampton Hall Dr. A salesman named Hal manned the office. Behind it were nothing but woods
Beginning in 1943 a developer named Mel Lyn constructed small, inexpensive houses along and around Windsor Parkway near Osborne Rd. and Mae Ave. The neighborhood took the developer’s name and became Lynwood Park. It was for blacks working at the Chamblee Naval Air Station and the adjacent Lawson General Hospital. The latter would treat wounded soldiers during the War. At its peak there were 10,000 at the hospital including patients and staff. Both the air station and hospital were built in 1941. Today we know the site as the DeKalb Peachtree Airport.
The land on which DeKalb-Peachtree stands had been assembled by the U. S. Government in 1917 for Camp Gordon, named for Confederate General John B. Gordon, who also served as Georgia’s Governor and as a U. S. Senator from our State. Camp Gordon was a Word War I Army basic infantry training post. It served that purpose for only fifteen months from September 1917 until November 1918 when the Great War ended. Nevertheless a total of 233,465 men were stationed there at one time or another. Alvin York was its most famous trainee. Gary Cooper won the Academy Award portraying him in the 1941 film, “Sergeant York.” Camp Gordon was deactivated in the early 1920s and the land lay dormant until the coming of the Naval Air Station and Lawson General Hospital. Meanwhile, Gordon’s name was assigned to a new military post in Augusta - - Fort Gordon. But, back to Lynwood Park.
As noted, it began in 1943. However, that was an unlikely year for any sort of real estate development. That was the most intense, nay frenzied, year of our all-out World War II industrial and military production. Construction materials were nearly impossible to obtain for private housing. There was an acute shortage of construction workers with most able bodied men in the military service or in high paying priority defense work - -women too. So the question arises: how was Lyn able to build houses at that time? Most likely he did so because his project was for workers essential to the operation of the nearby military installations. Rigid racial segregation in housing was the rule at the time, and there simply was no place in the surrounding community for a large number of blacks to live unless a separate neighborhood could be built for them, i.e., Lynwood Park. By 1970 it had 1,134 residents and three churches. Today, it is a dramatic example of the infill housing phenomenon. So-called McMansions are going up right next to the humble 1940s ones, dwarfing the latter.
When we moved to Hampton Hall, the Lynwood residents still enjoyed roaming through the surrounding woods and fishing in Silver Lake and along the Warrenhall creek and Nancy Creek. The development of Hampton Hall interrupted these activities. Emmett Hunter (1088 Warrenhall – now Holmes) recalled that not long after he moved into his house (built in 1966), he discovered one afternoon a group from Lynwood enjoying a cook-out in his back yard on the banks of the creek. During our first two summers in the neighborhood, Lynwood residents often fished in the creek just across the street from us. The swimming pool at the end of Warrenhall (now the Hampton Hall Swim Club) first opened in the summer of 1967. At the time it was run by Spratlin, the developer. Joe Jones was the resident overseer. On Christmas day 1967 he went to the pool to check it out and discovered some Lynwood boys enjoying a swim, having climbed over the surrounding fence.
At the time Lynwood Park had an elementary school and there was talk of sending the Hampton Hall youngsters there. Racial integration of the public schools was then gaining momentum. After all, Lynwood Park is just over the hill from our neighborhood as the crow flies. However, by the nearest combination of roads it was some four miles from Hampton Hall to the old Lynwood school. Back then Windsor Parkway was not cut through from Lanier to Ashford Dunwoody Rd. (alongside St. Martin’s) as it is now. One had to go all the way down to Peachtree and double back to Windsor Parkway via Lanier and Woodrow Way. Nothing ever came of the Lynwood school idea. There was also a proposal to build a new elementary school on then wooded and undeveloped land on the south side of Johnson Ferry where Cambridge Court is today. The location is almost directly across from Cambridge Square. The land was actually owned at one time by the Board of Education and was still shown on a 1972 map as the site of a proposed elementary school. That too went by the wayside. When our two oldest switched from Ashdun Hall to the public schools in the fall of 1970, they were assigned and bused to Nancy Creek Elementary near Murphy Candler Park.
Here Come the Horses
Horses were once stabled and pastured along Peachtree Dunwoody. There were stables on the corner with Evergreen and others in the Nancy Creek bottom land on both sides of Windsor Parkway at the intersection there. Around 1968-1970, Hampton Hall was a favorite spot for riding. Attractive girls in jodhpurs and riding helmets would take their steeds through the woods along the creek leading from Mill Creek to Warrenhall. Then they would ride up and down Warrenhall. They preferred riding on the street side grass instead of the pavement. However, we were all struggling to grow our new lawns and did not favor the plowing effect of horses hooves. The equestrianism in Hampton Hall signified an area in transition from the exurban to the suburban. I will end on that note.