The owner of a historic Buckhead mansion designed by a prominent Atlanta architect is planning to restore the house and demolish an addition. The owner also plans to subdivide the lot, but he said he may alter his plans after community pushback.
The nearly 90-year-old house, known locally as the Pink Palace because it was adorned with pink stucco, was designed by Philip Trammell Shutze, the designer of the Atlanta History Center’s Swan House and other prominent local buildings.
The owner of the mansion, Thierry Francois, plans to subdivide the lot into three lots and demolish part of the home that is not original and was added on decades after the home was built, he said.
“My goal is to reduce the size of this land so it would be more cost-effective for a family to live in,” he said.
The current subdivision plan would create a new lot in the front of the house and a new lot in the back, but after the community expressed concern a building could be built in front of the Pink Palace, Francois said he may alter his plans.
A consultant, Dianne Barfield, applied for a permit on behalf of the owner to subdivide the lot Nov. 21, and in October received a permit to demolish a portion of the home, according to city documents. The subdivision request is scheduled to go before the city’s Subdivision Review Committee on Dec. 20.
The 1929 mansion, also known as the Rhodes House, is located at 541 West Paces Ferry Road near the Governor’s Mansion.
Before it was known that the owner was planning to restore the house and not demolish anything original, the preservation community expressed alarm and concern that yet another Shutze-designed mansion could be lost to demolition, showing the concern they have for these historic properties.
Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, said the city needs better preservation protections and incentives.
A review process is needed so the community can be made aware of changes owners want to make to historic property, he said.
“While the Georgia Trust is not aware of what portion of the building is going to be torn down, we think it’s unfortunate that there is not a review process for demolishing historic properties,” McDonald said. “There should be a review process so neighbors, residents and preservation groups can provide input on the plans,” he said.
McDonald also said that it is unfortunate Shutze-designed properties have been demolished in recent years, including the Maddox House, a mansion that was located on Tuxedo Road and demolished in early 2016.
James Ottley, the board chair of the Buckhead Heritage Society, said protecting historic homes like the Pink Palace should be a priority.
“Protecting significant historic buildings like this one for future generations should be a heightened priority for our area residents,” Ottley said.
Francois, who bought the house in May, said the back part of the house that he plans to demolish is a pool house and a garage addition.
“You have a lot of space in the back lot that is not being used,” he said. “[The demolition] will give the flexibility to do something in the back lot.”
He plans to have another building on the back lot. Although the application calls for subdividing the lot to create a new lot in the front, Francois said he doesn’t plan to build there.
He acknowledged that if he sold the property, the new owner could build something in front of the Pink Palace, and said he may change his application based on feedback from the community and preservationists.
“What’s important to understand is that there won’t be something built in the front. I want to make sure that I’m not going to impose something that’s going to be an eyesore on West Paces,” he said.
Francois is also planning extensive remodeling and renovations in the interior of the house to fix inappropriate or incorrectly installed changes made by former owners, such as kitchen countertops. He also found one of the original bathroom sinks in the basement and plans to reinstall it.
“The house needs help inside to bring it back to its former glory,” he said.
He also has removed its beige paint to reveal the original stucco and make the Pink Palace pink again.