Street signs keep disappearing from Marsha Sims’ neighborhood.
“The Verdun and Marne sign always get taken,” she said with a laugh. “I think people are fascinated with the World War.”
That’s the Great War, the one generally known as World War I. Argonne Forest, the Buckhead neighborhood where Sims and her family have lived for the past eight years, takes its name from a battle fought in that war. And major streets in the neighborhood also were named for World War I battles, including Verdun and the Marne.
Sims doesn’t know why her neighborhood, which was developed mostly in the 1950s, memorializes battles of the First World War. She and several of her neighbors describe their community as more or less the opposite of a place of conflict: an off-the-beaten-track enclave in the heart of Buckhead that’s a kid-friendly place with a mix of young and old residents, a community social life all its own and yards big enough to hold pickup ball games.
The neighborhood association throws an annual Christmas party and has a big community blow-out on Halloween, said Walker Sullivan, a 57-year-old financial planner who’s lived on Verdun for a quarter century, so long some of his neighbors jokingly call him “The Mayor” of Argonne Forest.
At one time, the 180-home community even had its own Fourth of July parade, he said. Kids on decorated bikes and trikes marched down the street behind a city fire truck.
“What’s great about [this neighborhood] is a sense of what I grew up with in Atlanta,” Sullivan said. “We used to have street parties. We used to have cakewalks. … Kids knew kids. There were no cellphones. There were no texts. You picked up the phone and said, ‘There’s a baseball game in my yard.’ You could hang out and parents wouldn’t worry about you.”
Sims’ 11-year-old triplets describe the neighborhood they’re growing up in much the same way. “We can go to a friend’s house without it being a 20-minute walk,” said Jack Schramkowski, one of Sims’ two sons.
“It’s fun. I have a lot of friends in the neighborhood,” said Olivia Schramkowski, Sims’ daughter. She pointed one direction up the street, then another. “I have a friend over there who’s a year younger than me. And over there is a girl who’s a year older.”
“I like the backyard,” Jack added. “Me and my brother like to go out there and play football.”
“We can all play together because everybody knows everybody,” added the third of the triplets, Nicholas Schramkowski.
Parents get to know one another, too. The Argonne Forest Association was created about four years ago amid fears that Atlanta Public Schools would redraw its attendance zones so Argonne Forest students would go somewhere other than Morris Brandon Elementary, Sullivan said. It also provides added security by hiring off-duty police officers to patrol the area, puts out a neighborhood newsletter and hosts community get-togethers, he said.
“There is a closeness because people actually know people,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got ties that bind. … People genuinely know each other and care about each other and rally when we need to, both for social occasions and causes, when it’s needed. I don’t think you get that in a lot of places anymore.”
Many houses remain the single-level brick ranches popular the time Argonne Forest was developed. Some had been expanded. Sullivan, for instance, added a second floor to his home. Real estate websites show houses in Argonne Forest listed for sale at prices ranging from about $800,000 to several times that. One seller asks nearly $16 million for a mansion on West Paces Ferry Road.
“We truly have a mix of people,” said Sims, who has represented Argonne Forest on the board of the Buckhead Coalition of Neighborhoods for four years and who helped start the neighborhood association. Some of her neighbors, she said, have called Argonne Forest home for 40 years. Others are young families attracted by the reputation of Morris Brandon Elementary.
“What’s interesting to me is the turnover,” Sullivan said. When his now-grown children were young, he said, “at one time, I counted 25 kids on my street alone. It’s still that way today. It just keeps turning over. It’s this cycle of life that continues in the same vein. The continuation of the neighborhood is just terrific. … The neighborhood is still very strong.”