Neale Fisher describes Brookwood Hills simply: “It’s a comfortable place.”
After finishing his schooling, Fisher, an investment banker, found work in Chicago and New York. When he decided to move home to Atlanta four years ago, he and his family settled into the neighborhood of tree-lined streets where he’d grown up.
“I now live on the same street I grew up on,” the 37-year-old said. “Most of our neighbors are the same.”
He serves this year as president of the 650-member Brookwood Hills Community Club, which operates a park in the center of the neighborhood that includes a pool, tennis courts and playground, and maintains the Clear Creek Nature Preserve that buffers the neighborhood. The club celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and plans to throw itself a birthday party Oct. 18, Fisher said.
What lured Fisher back to Brookwood Hills? “There’s an interesting mix of urban and small town,” he said. “We’re close to Peachtree [Street] and close to Midtown, and close to MARTA. At the same time, there’s a little enclave where people know their neighbors.”
“Enclave” is a word that comes up often when residents talk about Brookwood Hills. Elaine Luxemburger, co-author of a book about Brookwood Hills published as part of Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series, uses just that word to describe the south Buckhead neighborhood she’s lived in for more than four decades. She points out there’s only access to the neighborhood from Peachtree Street, so there’s no through traffic.
“To me, it’s an ideal urban neighborhood,” she said. “It’s close to an interesting business area, but it’s an enclave.”
Her co-author, Betsy Crosby, calls their neighborhood “a village within a city.”
That’s partly by design, residents say. Brookwood Hills was developed in the 1920s as one of Atlanta’s early “streetcar suburbs.” At the time, “prosperous professionals and business owners were beginning to look beyond the old downtown neighborhoods toward suburban life along the northern stretch of Peachtree Road,” Crosby and Luxemburger write in their book.
The developers named their new neighborhood after a nearby country estate. Some residents still debate whether or not the neighborhood is actually in Buckhead, Luxemburger said. “Someone put up signs that said this is Buckhead,” she said. “People in the neighborhood said, ‘No. This is Brookwood.’”
The neighborhood straddled the line separating Atlanta from Fulton County for many years and one of its streets, Pallisades Road, marks the place where Peachtree Street turns to Peachtree Road, Crosby and Luxemburger write.
The original developers lined the curving streets with oaks, and converted 5 acres at the bottom of the property into a community park, complete with a lake. Eventually, the lake was replaced by the swimming pool.
Fisher, who now heads the community club, once swam for the Bullfrogs, the community swim team, and remembers playing T-ball and pickup football games at the park when he was young. He calls the park “a communal back yard.”
“The pool really brings everybody together,” said Lee Loughran, who was taking part in a yoga class at the community club with her 14-year-old daughter, Khaki, one recent fall afternoon as part of National Charity League mother-daughter outing.
She said her family has lived in Brookwood Hills for 14 years, she said. “A lot of people stay,” she said. “We’re on our second house within in the neighborhood. A lot of people move within the neighborhood.”
And it’s not unusual for several generations of the same family to settle into Brookwood Hills, residents say. Fisher and his family now live just down the street from his parents. “I’m the third president in a row that’s a product of the neighborhood,” Fisher said.
Fisher says there’s a reason people like him return to Brookwood Hills. “It’s a place where people can raise their kids and grow old,” he said. “It’s a comfortable place at all the stages of life and in between. It’s a multi-generational neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood where people look out for their neighbors, young and old. …
“Families with kids are attracted by the park and the pool. … After they’ve had kids here and their kids grow up, they develop deep relationships with their friends. I think that’s what keeps a lot of people here when they might downsize or move … The sense of community keeps people here,” Fisher said.
Luxemburger, an architectural historian, remembers when she and her husband were hunting for a home in Atlanta in the 1960s and discovered Brookwood Hills. Now houses for sale in the neighborhood, many priced at $1 million or more, appear on the Internet, but, in those days, she said, few houses were openly marketed. “You really had to know someone,” she said, to find out a home might be for sale.
When a friend told her a Brookwood Hills home she admired could become available, she contacted the owner by mail. “I wrote her a letter and said I would take such good care of this house and just cherish it,” Luxemburger recalls. “She said, ‘Come over and we’ll talk about it.’”
It worked out. She and her husband were able to buy the house, which she said had been designed by prominent Atlanta architect Neel Reid.
Forty-six years later, they still live there.