They start appearing at the end of the school day. Kids leaving class head for the playground. Their parents stroll down a wooded path through the neighborhood and gather there, too, as they wait to make their daily after-school child pickups.
For members of many young families living on nearby streets, it’s a path to neighborhood bonding.
“That’s how Kim and I are friends,” Castlewood Drive resident Jennifer Srouji said one recent afternoon as she and her neighbor Kim Nagy walked past Morris Brandon Elementary, the school they see as the heart of their neighborhood. Srouji chairs the neighborhood garden club. Nagy is co-president of the school’s PTA.
“No, we met at garden club,” Nagy said. “You sent me a card. I still have it.”
“Oh, that’s so cute. But we became friends at the playground,” Srouji replied.
The Buckhead neighborhood known as Castlewood developed in the 1950s, residents say, when a group of post-war, ranch-style homes were built along five hilly streets – Castlewood, Dover, Edinboro, Mornington, Rhodenhaven and Rockingham. Later, homes rose as other streets – Arden Close and West Arden – were added. Now there are about 270 homes in the area, said Erin Mayo, president of the Castlewood Civic Association. “It’s a little pocket in a big city,” Nagy said.
That’s one of the first things several residents said in praise of their neighborhood – it’s close to things. Midtown and downtown Atlanta are a short jaunt in one direction, Cobb County a quick run in another direction. The heart of Buckhead is nearby, too. “The location is amazing,” Srouji said.
But even more than its convenience, residents talk of Castlewood’s sense of community. It’s the kind of neighborhood where Halloween is a big deal, they say. The garden club, which sprouted in 1954, sells greenery during the winter holidays so residents can decorate their mailboxes. The Civic Association, incorporated in 2003, hires security patrols, but also hosts a chili cook-off in the fall and a meet-the-neighbors party in the spring.
Srouji, who calls Castlewood “my family,” describes the neighborhood this way: “It’s a place where, if you’re in the grocery store and the line is long, there are 10 people you can call to pick up your kids,” she said.
Residents also say Morris Brandon Elementary’s reputation for success helps make the neighborhood attractive to young families. “For the most part, the nucleus of this neighborhood is Morris Brandon,” said former Civic Association president Josh Goldfarb. “Everyone walks there. That, in itself, creates a community.”
Goldfarb, a commercial real estate broker, grew up in the Druid Hills area and lived in Brookhaven before settling in Castlewood. When his family was looking for a new home, “my wife, who is not from Atlanta, wanted us to be in an area where I did not have a big history. She wanted kind of a neutral area,” he said. He moved into one of the neighborhood’s newer homes, built on Dover, in 2007. He likes the area. “It’s a very social neighborhood,” he said.
Mayo, his successor as president of the civic association, moved in just two years ago. She got her start with the association because she was outraged by a chain-link fence at the school, which is across the street from her home. “I knocked on the president’s door and asked about the fence,” she said.
She found herself recruited to be an officer of the association. The fence is gone now, and the neighborhood financed the landscaping of a small park alongside the school. “This view is a lot better than it used to be,” she said one recent afternoon as she, Srouji and Nagy met at Mayo’s home to talk about Castlewood.
Not all of Castlewood’s residents are young families or newcomers, of course. Mimi Roberts, for one, has lived in her home on Rhodenhaven for years.
Actually, she’s lived there twice. Her parents bought the house when they moved to Atlanta in 1955. Her dad was a salesman for a family-owned rope business and her mother a nurse. Roberts was off at college at the time, but moved in with them for a few years before and after she graduated. When her parents bought the house, she said, there were only a few others on the street. The street quickly filled with more new houses.
In 1995, after her parents had died, Roberts and her husband moved into the house. “The house has never sold but once,” she said. “That’s a record, I think, for this community.”
She’s expanded the house during those years – “I probably doubled it,” she said – but all around her she sees houses changing even more. Her neighborhood is being rebuilt a house at a time. The old ones are being demolished and new, much larger ones, being built in their places. Four new homes are going in on her street, she said. “If it’s an older house, it’s going to go,” she said. “So many [people] want the
She has no plans to leave herself. “No. I’m going to go feet first,” she said.
More recent residents express themselves nearly as strongly in their affection for the neighborhood.
“This is our family now,” Srouji said. “We went through Morris Brandon. My kids are in private schools now, but this is their home now. … We don’t have a picket fence, but we have one across the street.”
Srouji ran into her friend Jennifer Rosenfeld at the “triangle park” the garden club had landscaped. In the park, benches flank a “free little library” that offers books to passersby. Rosenfeld’s 11-year-old daughter is a student at nearby Sutton Middle School, and Rosenfeld was waiting at the park to pick her up after school. She described Castlewood as “a neighborhood where you can walk to school and you have an easy commute, no
And, she said, it was a place where she could count on her neighbors.
“We rely on our village,” she said.