The fine houses of Historic Brookhaven could be coming to a coffee table near you, immortalized in a limited-edition book.
The book project, led by a Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association committee, is not just decorative. It’s an attempt to raise awareness of the area’s historic value as many houses are changed or demolished to make room for bigger, infill mansions. The book’s publication, which is not yet guaranteed, relies on pre-sales from homeowners and history-lovers in general.
“Unfortunately, since [the book idea was raised] five years ago, many of those homes are either altered so significantly they would no longer qualify [as historic] or have been torn down,” said book committee member Lauren Jackson. “Things are changing. This is a pretty unique neighborhood.”
“They’re losing these historic houses,” said Richard Diedrich, an architect and author of two coffee-table books about clubhouses who has agreed to write the Historic Brookhaven book. He lives in a 90-year-old house in the neighborhood.
Historic Brookhaven is the neighborhood around the Capital City Club golf course in Brookhaven. It straddles the border of Brookhaven and Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. The book project is focused on a smaller area within the neighborhood—the official Historic District that has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.
The neighborhood dates back to a 1910 plan for what was then called the Brookhaven Country Club in an area of summer cottages. A community called Brookhaven Estates was plotted around the club’s borders, soon followed by two other subdivisions. Homes dating from the 1910 to 1942 era are now part of the Historic District.
The National Register designation offers recognition and eligibility for preservation-related grants and tax credits, but does not protect buildings from demolition. About 150 historic homes remain in Historic Brookhaven, but at least 50 others have been demolished or heavily altered in recent years, Jackson and fellow book-planner Mike Elliot estimate.
The book would feature high-quality photos of the houses’ facades mixed with historic photos. The Capital City Club, already featured in Diedrich’s previous books, would be included, too.
Diedrich said the book idea gained momentum over the past year when the neighborhood association formed the special committee and the Historic Brookhaven Foundation created an LLC to publish it.
The committee is relying on owners of the historic homes, as well as interested neighbors, to pre-purchase special, signed editions of the books for $250, with other extras available for bigger donations. They’re also seeking loans of historic photos of the houses from anyone.
“We don’t want a book that is just a series of facades,” said Diedrich, explaining that vintage photos would show the “richness of the history.” It also allows residents who don’t own a historic home, but may own historic photos, to participate, he said.
Jackson is an example of an interested neighbor, as she lives in the Buckhead side of the neighborhood, but not in one of the Historic District homes.
The committee aims to publish the book in time for the holiday season in 2016. That means getting financial commitments and a production schedule in place much sooner. “You don’t want them to be dead-of-winter photos,” Jackson said.
On Oct. 15, the committee held a private reception for the 150 homeowners. About 40 percent have responded, Jackson said, but more will have to participate to make the project feasible.
“In small groups, one-on-one, everyone is really enthusiastic about the book because they’re enthusiastic about the neighborhood and they’re enthusiastic about the history. But that doesn’t mean it will come together,” Diedrich said of the project. “As you’d expect, we haven’t been overwhelmed with riches, but I really believe the committee will find a way to do it.”
To see a map of the Historic District and more information on participating in the book project, visit brookhavenlibretto.com.