Renaming Sandy Springs’ Barfield Road for Mercedes-Benz would be a “slap in the face” to the Barfield family, according to a Hapeville woman who said she is among its descendants.
“I feel like I owe that to my ancestors…to make an effort, even if it’s not successful,” said Nancy Kite, who opposed the renaming in a letter sent to the city on Nov. 8. “What price do we put on this, destroying history?”
Kite said her mother was born Claris Lorene Barfield in the family’s farmhouse that once stood on the road where MBUSA intends to move its corporate headquarters. Heritage Sandy Springs previously said the road is named for a Barfield family, though further details were not immediately known.
MBUSA recently informally notified the city of its intent to request renaming part of Barfield Road, between Abernathy Road and Mount Vernon Highway, to Mercedes-Benz Drive. MBUSA is going ahead with that request, said company spokeswoman Donna Boland. She said that naming the corporate headquarter’s street as Mercedes-Benz Drive is a “tradition we have had for over 40 years.”
“Nothing has changed,” Boland said. “If there were any objections raised in the interim before the council votes, we’re confident that a fair resolution could be reached.”
Mercedes-Benz Drive also was the street name at MBUSA former headquarters in Montvale, N.J., which it is leaving for Sandy Springs. Kite pointed to a similar situation in Hapeville, where the Porsche car company in 2012 got Henry Ford II Avenue renamed to Porsche Avenue.
“Here in Hapeville, we’ve done away with a little history,” Kite said. “What if this company [MBUSA] moves on?”
Kite is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sometimes attends its Atlanta temple, which is located on Barfield and would face an address change. She said that it is a coincidence the temple ended up near her family’s former land, as the church purchased the property from a different owner. However, it does mean she drives on Barfield from time to time.
Choking up, Kite recalled that when she drives on Barfield Road she often thinks, “‘Wow, this is where my mother played and where she had her joyous memories as a child, and the connection to a great-grandfather I never knew.’ It just means so much to me.”
“Changing the name of this street would be a slap in the face to me and my family as well as to a community that has always been proud of its history,” she wrote in her letter to the city.
Kite, 56, said she learned all of the Barfield family lore from her mother, who died in 1994. Kite described the family and its connections in detail and shared some photos of the family that she said came from her mother’s albums.
The Barfield family owned property between today’s Barfield Road and Glenridge Drive from sometime before the Civil War to around the mid-1940s. That’s when Kite’s great-grandfather, William Monroe Barfield, died.
“They were farmers,” Kite said. “They called it a plantation. It may have been [a plantation] before the Civil War.”
Kite’s mother said she was “born in that plantation house…She remembered playing up and down the street when she was a child.”
The Sandy Springs area at the time was considered part of Marietta, where more Barfields lived, Kite said. She said her grandfather, Ernest Barfield, identified himself as a cousin of Mary Phagan, the 13-year-old victim in a notorious 1913 murder case that led to the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta.
Kite said she learned about MBUSA’s street renaming proposal from a friend, Terrence Smith Sr. Smith said sent Kite’s letter to the city on her behalf. He said a city staff member later told him that MBUSA will have to go through an approval process.
Meanwhile, Kite said she is attempting to identify other Barfield descendents in the area to see if they will take a stand on the Mercedes-Benz Drive proposal.