By Tom Reilly
The early 1900’s brought to Brookhaven the beautiful homes that still grace the area.
Plans were made for developing one of the nation’s first planned golf communities. The golf course itself opened with nine holes in 1912. The residential development continued up through 1945: Brookhaven Estates in 1910, Country Club Estates in 1929, then the Carleton Operating Company in 1936, the year that “Gone With The Wind” was first published.
Known as the Capital City Country Club, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Jan. 1, 1986, and remains the central location of Brookhaven’s elite to this day.
The oldest known photograph taken from the air of Oglethorpe University [circa 1940] clearly shows the main features of a campus largely unchanged until roughly 1965. Silver Lake, later Lake Phoebe, still laps against its shores as it has done since 1911. Originally begun as one of the South’s oldest denominational institutions in 1835 in Milledgeville, Georgia, the University saw a rebirth, beginning in 1915, on some 100 acres towards the eastern side of Brookhaven. Hermance Stadium and Field, Lupton Hall, Phoebe Hearst Hall, and Lowry Hall, constructed from 1915 through the late 1920’s, still dominate the view of the campus at 4484 Peachtree Road.
Around the university, the miles of woods and swamps are largely gone, taken over by hundreds of upper-price-range residences. Dr. Thornwall Jacobs, the institution’s president from 1915 to 1943, laid the foundations for Oglethorpe’s “make a life and make a living” vision which sustained both faculty and students for generations to come. The University’s motto is still “Nescit Cedere,” Latin for “He does not know how to give up.” The famed poet Sidney Lanier [class of 1860] remains among Oglethorpe’s most prominent nineteenth century graduates.
My family came here shortly after my father’s death in 1951. The next year we moved across the street from a brand new Our Lady of the Assumption church and school.
Our house stood then on the edge of woods, deep valleys, creeks, waterfalls, and swamps that went for miles. School, religion, sports, pre-dawn hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing filled my days. We would shoot mistletoe out of a tree for Christmas decorations. There was a boy in our class from a strange place that only he knew about–he called it “Norcross.”
We traveled to what we called “Brookhaven” by car or by trolley, with electric sparks shooting from the trolley lines. Solomon Goodwin’s farmhouse still stood at its original location. Northward stretched a cluster of small businesses, some joined together while others stood separately.
The “Neeson Law Building,” actually a small one-story green frame house and a local joke, glared at us from the sidewalk. Mr. Neeson, the owner and our neighbor, claimed Southern ancestry back to ancestors who knew the priest who baptized Pocahontas.
The barber shop offered both haircuts and shoe shines. The Brookhaven Theatre, about the size of a ranch house, was where we watched “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” while a little man with a flashlight kept running down the aisles keeping us quiet. The drug store, with its temptingly sinister men’s magazines, next to the grocery store, were both where the MARTA station now stands. The F. W. Woolworth store was there, long before the sports bars, where a comic book cost 10 cents, and a really big weekend-long comic book cost 25 cents.
There were Kinsland’s Flower Shop at the current Waffle House site; the Veterans Administration Hospital at the intersection of Osborne Road; the wooden frame grocery store across from the VA, literally the size of a small closet and operated by one solitary woman, where I never saw a customer; the nameless, solitary, silent man who roamed the streets all day. Life went on.
Tom Reilly has lived near Brookhaven for more than half a century. In honor of Brookhaven’s centennial, he put together this brief history of the area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org