By Amy Wenk
Hanging on the wall of Steve Fuller’s office, is a map of Bennett Street, located off the 2100 block of Peachtree Road in Buckhead. The document is dated May 28, 1910, and advertises lots for sale from owner John H. James. At a cost of $500 each, the ad promises a great location and high return on investment.
These lots, according to Fuller, were mostly bought by landowners on Peachtree Road. At the time, Peachtree was lined with mansions, and many of those homeowners housed their servants on Bennett Street.
Surprisingly, a street with such humble beginnings has become one of Buckhead’s most distinct shopping districts. Bennett Street houses an eclectic mix of art galleries and antique stores. In its shops, you can find a variety of handcrafted items, including furniture, picture frames and many media of art.
Fuller, managing partner of Bennett Street Properties L.L.C., which owns a majority of the shops, has witnessed and aided in the transformation of this street over the years. When he bought property in 1973, there was a mix of car repair and carpentry stores in the buildings, which were built shortly after World War II.
“There was light manufacturing when we got down here,” Fuller said. “As they started moving out [in the late 1970s], I had a friend who wanted to hold an antique auction. He was way ahead of his time.”
In the mid-to-late 1980s, Fuller decided to divide the buildings to create smaller spaces for art and antique dealers.
“It just sort of evolved,” he said.
Today, Bennett Street has about 30 tenants, who represent more than 100 businesses. Here’s a closer look at some of the offerings found in this unique district.
One of the hallmarks of Bennett Street is its array of antique stores. Interiors Market has 10,000 square feet of space and presents everything from English porcelain to Asian art and accessories.
“We market and manage sales for 40 antique dealers,” said Milton Roberts, the store manager. “We have everything home furnishers could want.”
Designer Antiques, established in 1977, imports mid-to-late 1800s English, Irish and French furniture, including buffets, armoires and bookcases. The gallery also sells custom pieces made from aged and reclaimed timber.
In its 6,000-square-foot showroom, Nottingham Antiques sells European imports, as well as custom items like chairs and tables the company manufactures in Atlanta.
The owner Brian Young “has sources for old wood,” Fuller said. “He does a wonderful job.”
Another store, Anne Hathaway Designs, supplies cabin and cottage furnishings such as pine-cone lamps and furniture made from reclaimed wood. Owner Anne Hathaway also creates whimsical paintings of flowers and animals, which she has expanded to needlepoint pillows and chairs.
Fabulous Things offers French furniture from the 18th century, as well as hand-painted pillows and lamps created by owner Bob Garner and his staff.
Other stores include Beaman Antiques, Deadwyler Antiques, Mimi Williams Antiques and Interiors, The Stalls, Tyner Antiques, and Southern Comforts.
Bennett Street is also home to premier Atlanta galleries and artist studios.
An icon in the district for 20 years, the Bennett Street Gallery houses artwork from about 35 artists, including Kim Schuessler, Rodney Hatfield and Atlanta-based Kenson. Owner Suzie Pryor also displays her impressionistic pieces of children, coastal scenes and still lifes at the gallery.
“We’ve got about 35 artists,” said Nancy Turner, registrar at the gallery. “We have people come from all over.”
The Matre Gallery carries contemporary abstract and realist art, as well as fine-art photography. The gallery is home to Steve Penley, who is the World of Coca-Cola’s artist of the year.
“This is the only gallery where you can buy his work,” Fuller said.
Horton Custom Frames, tucked away on a small lane between several galleries, offers frames that are hand-carved and gilded by owner Gary Horton.
“The frames I make are put together the same way they were 200 years ago,” said Horton, who has made frames for paintings by Salvador Dali and Peter Max. “I have come across many important pieces of art.”
Also on Bennett Street is the Tula Art Center. Tula is home to a variety of art galleries and more than 30 working artists, such as Barry Sons and Maggie Raper, who have their studios there.
“It’s a wonderful place to be,” said Raper, who creates mixed-media pieces of garden scenes. “There’s a wide range of things to check out.”
Other art galleries include Anne Irwin Fine Art and Thomas Deans Fine Art.
Bennett Street also has stores that carry handmade and antique rugs. Allan Arthur offers a wide selection of rugs, including oriental, Persian, Art Deco and American hooked rugs, as well as European tapestries.
Antique rugs, including oriental, Turkish and Persian, often spill out from Overton Rugs’ Bennett Street location onto the sidewalk. The store also specializes in antiques like ornate mirrors and books.
New to Bennett Street this year is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA), which relocated to the Tula Art Center in February.
With 15,000 square feet, the museum features an education resource center downstairs, which houses the permanent collection and the archives. The gallery space is upstairs and opened June 13 with the Larry Walker exhibition. There are plans for a capital campaign to purchase the entire Tula building for future expansion.
MOCA GA features Georgia artists, including Benny Andrews, Beverly Buchanan, Radcliffe Bailey, Herbert Creecy and Rocio Rodriguez.
“We opened our doors in 2002 with 250 works of art,” said Annette Cone-Skelton, the president, CEO and director. “We are now around 600. It has grown rapidly.”
She added that the move to Bennett Street is helping to increase the visibility of MOCA GA, which has about 1,000 members.
“We will become a destination,” said Cone-Skelton, who is herself an artist and has a piece displayed in the Wieland Pavilion of the High Museum. “There will be enough going on here that people can come and enjoy being in the environment where art is — other art venues and the antique shops. [Bennett Street] is a fun place to stroll along.”