Lucy Stewart, left, and her husband Carl, moved to the subdivision in 1971 from Avondale Estates.
Lucy Stewart, left, and her husband Carl, moved to the subdivision in 1971 from Avondale Estates.

When Carl and Lucy Stewart settled in Dunwoody a little over four decades ago, they felt like they had moved to the country.

The Stewarts had been living in Avondale Estates, an older suburb in central DeKalb County. They relocated in 1971, joining the movement into the new communities rising in the northern end of the county. They were among the first to move into the new subdivision called Dunwoody Club Forest.

They recall that when they arrived, cows grazed in nearby fields. Not too far away, one long-time resident plowed his garden using a mule. There was a lake, where people fished and ducks named Sonny and Cher once took up residence. The Stewarts drove miles into Atlanta to find a place to go out for an evening of dining or dancing.

But things quickly changed. New homes crowded all around them and filled with families. Perimeter Mall opened and the Perimeter Center area soon sprouted office buildings and attracted restaurants. Cars packed the roads.

Still, the Stewarts think of Dunwoody Club Forest as a quiet, peaceful place. “This is great out here. It’s just like living in the country,” said Carl Stewart. “It’s quiet as can be, and we can drive up here and see the buildings of downtown Atlanta. It’s nice to be near a city.”

“It’s peaceful, quiet,” Lucy Stewart said. “[We have] wonderful neighbors. Now there are lots of little kids around. I just adore it.”

In fact, “quiet” seems to be a word Dunwoody Club Forest residents most often employ to describe their 495-home subdivision built on the rolling hills between Mount Vernon Road and Dunwoody Club Drive. Streets are lined with large, two-story brick homes and well-kept gardens. It’s the kind of neighborhood where many of the mailboxes that line the streets are encased in decorative brick structures.

Kerry de Vallette, with his dog ”Baer.” De Vallette and his family returned to the area 20 years ago, when his job brought him back from Florida. They chose Dunwoody Club Forest since it was an established neighborhood with homes on large lots.

Like many of their neighbors, the Stewarts joined the nearby country club that gave their subdivision its name. The Dunwoody Country Club started building a golf course in the area in the mid-1960s, and relocated officially in 1969. Subdivisions followed. Unlike the builders of other subdivisions in the area, Dunwoody Club Forest’s developers didn’t bother to build a swim or tennis club because the community was so close to the country club.

These days, the Dunwoody Country Club and Dunwoody Club Forest call different cities home. The club, north of Dunwoody Club Drive, lies in Sandy Springs. The subdivision, to the south of the road, sits in Dunwoody.

Dunwoody Club Forest differs from some of its neighboring large subdivisions in subtle ways. Dunwoody Club Forest Neighbors Inc., a group that provides social activities such as a Halloween party, and publishes a directory and website for the neighborhood, started not as an outgrowth of a swim-and-tennis club, as many other such groups did, but as a community garden club, said Tim Minton, the group’s vice president of communications. The club claims its own official flower, the daisy, and tree, the magnolia.

The Mintons settled in the neighborhood about nine years ago. Minton’s wife lived in Dunwoody as a child, he said, and they wanted to raise their children near the place where she grew up. Now their home backs up to a patch of forest, and Minton watches from his open kitchen as deer appear to nibble plants in his yard and garden. “There was a big old deer here just a minute ago,” he said one recent afternoon. “It’s nice to look at, but he eats all my tomatoes.”

The Dunwoody Club Forest subdivision can be found between Mount Vernon Road and Dunwoody Club Drive.

At his home in another part of the neighborhood, Kerry de Vallette sees deer, too. And he’s watched fox and coyotes wander through his yard. His dog, Baer, checks the deck carefully for strange visitors before going out into the back garden, he said. “When he comes out in the morning, he stops and sniffs because he knows other things have been around,” de Vallette said. “We have some wildlife around here.”

The de Vallettes settled in the neighborhood 20 years ago, when his job brought him back to Atlanta from Florida. His family lived in Dunwoody before, and knew they wanted to move back to the area, but “the real estate market in Dunwoody was crazy. Houses were on the market like three days,” he said.

They chose a house in Dunwoody Club Forest because at the time it was an established neighborhood with houses on large lots. They, too, joined the nearby country club and settled in. Through the years, they’ve found that through the homeowners group, their quiet neighborhood offers plenty of things to do. “As subdivisions go, it’s pretty active,” he said.

The Stewarts agree. They say residents of their cul-de-sac throw birthday parties for their neighbors, and now, as residents age and move on and younger families replace them, there are plenty of kids around.

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Lucy Stewart said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.