Another Edgemoor home built in 1940 by the Newbold Development Company.
Another Edgemoor home built in 1940 by the Newbold Development Company.
Chateau Daisy apartments. Curiously, the City of Decatur’s consultants who prepared the 2009 Citywide Historic Resources Survey included this property which is physically located in Southwest Decatur — Oakhurst — in what they called the “Southeast Decatur Survey Area.” Although the property appears in the consultant’s maps, there does not appear to be a corresponding survey form documenting the property in the final version of the survey posted at the City’s website..
Read more about the baronial brick manse that will replace the home demolished here:
The “1,000 Year House” nears completion. This 5,300 square-foot “sustainable” building has consumed more than 100,000 bricks, 124,000 pounds of concrete, and an unspecified number of tons of slate roofing shingles. All of the new building materials required energy to extract, process, and transport the raw materials: brick clay, slate, granite (lintels), and concrete.
And the clock is ticking: 999 years left and counting …
An Oakhurst resident wrote to me about this property inquiring about a zoning variance hearing to be held Nov. 11, 2013 — one week after this photo was taken. The BZA variance application (final item in agenda materials) shows that the builder wants to receive setback variances for all lot sides.
The partially constructed new house was deconstructed in early August 2014.
This property was one of the 113 “dollar homes” the City of Decatur sold between 1975 and 1982 in the Urban Homesteading Demonstration Program. Decatur was the smallest of the original 23 pilot cities to participate in the program and Oakhurst, then known as South Decatur, the city’s urban homesteading neighborhood.
One of Decatur’s Urban Homesteading Demonstration Program homes. Sold in 1980 for $1.00, this home was one of a handful out of the 113 urban homesteading sites photographed by the Decatur Housing Authority for its reports and program public relations materials.
This property was sold in 2013 and subsequently altered.
Another former Urban Homesteading Demonstration Program “dollar house.”
Demolished April 2013.
Demolished late 2012-early 2103
Demolished early 2013
Viewing hints: Select HD under the gear icon and crank your speakers. Remove the Google ad by clicking in its upper right hand corner. (Ads come with YouTube soundtracks. Sorry, I wanted to keep things legal and the music fit.)
This comment about Oakhurst’s trees was posted at the Decatur Metro blog:
Someone using the screen name “Pierce” replied to LilyinEastlake that Oakhurst’s trees were valued and were by no means endangered. “We have an abundance of trees that help to define the character of our community,” wrote Pierce. “And I do not see that defining characteristic to be at significant risk.” Bravo for LilyinEastlake’s response: ” ‘Had’ an abundance of trees. I am sure things will look like the “safe” burb’s soon enough.”
Personally, I wonder if anyone has kept track of how many trees Arlene Dean, Thrive, and Stoney River have cut down in Oakhurst over the past 18 months ….
Decatur as sustainable? Only if you believe the PR. More and more folks just aren’t buying it. In January 2012, I interviewed an environmental professional who lives in Decatur. Here’s what s/he had to say about Decatur and its policies towards trees and sustainability:
They’re doing a sustainability study right now and I’m like, “Sustainable? All of Oakhurst is becoming unsustainable.” You have huge amounts of impervious surface. Ripping down the trees. Throwing tons of stuff into landfills. Still having to heat and cool a huge house. I mean what’s sustainable about that? It’s a joke. It’s a joke. — Name Withheld, January 9, 2012.
Listen to the audio clip (pitch altered to protect interview subject’s identity):
In October 2012 Oakhurst residents affiliated with the Wylde Center distributed this email:
And they spoke to the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association at its September 2012 meeting:
Yet, it appears that the Decatur Preservation Alliance and all other parties declined to get involved in the effort to prevent another home from being sent to a landfill and in October 2012 the home was demolished. Its replacement? A new “High-end 5br/3.5ba” home.
Pop-top on Third.
I don’t think Decatur needs a new historic preservation planner, despite the fact that it appears the incumbent seems to have been missing in action from Oakhurst since she was first hired by the City. Rather, I believe that Decatur does not need a historic preservation planner at all. Or, for that matter, a historic preservation commission. I think the city should repeal its historic preservation ordinance.
If the City of Decatur is going to hold private property owners to a higher regulatory standard than it has for itself, i.e., City properties are not subject to historic preservation commission review; if the City is going to ignore entire segments of its population and their heritage sites simply to ensure smooth regulatory sailing for high-profile redevelopment projects; and, if Decatur’s only use for historic preservation is as a marketing tool, then the State of Georgia should not be funding “preservation” activities in the city and Decatur should lose its Certified Local Government status.
As my interview with the city’s historic preservation planner shows, there’s a wide gulf between Decatur’s historic preservation rhetoric and its historic preservation policies and practices. But I’m simply a former Decatur resident and that’s just my opinion. Any action or advocacy must come from Decatur taxpayers.
© 2012 D.S. Rotenstein
Another property that appears to have been omitted from the 2009 Decatur Historic Resources Survey. The ranch house pictured below in the screen capture from Google was located next to brick apartment buildings at what appears to have been 179 Olympic Place. A builder has demolished all of the 1960s buildings in these parcels and is constructing new homes (Sept. 2012).
To get the full experience, view the HD video in full-screen mode
Oakhurst’s neighborhood association hosted builders at its August 2012 meeting. The meeting minutes published in the Leaflet newsletter failed to mention gentrification, teardowns, historic preservation, and the elderly’s high property tax burden. The ONA did, however, provide this report on its esteemed panel:
Oakhurst Neighborhood Association
Continued from Page 2
A panel of neighborhood builders and renovators shared their insights and expertise about home construction and home improvement projects, as well as observations about trends in Oakhurst. The participants were Arlene Dean of Arlene Dean Quality Homes, Ali Herriot of Hammertime Construction, Inc., Peter Michelson of Renewal Design Build, and Eric Rawlings of Rawlings Designs, Inc. Eric is an architect. Hammertime and Renewal focus on renovations and additions. Arlene Dean focuses on entire home renovations (rather than individual rooms) and new construction. The participants answered several questions posed by President Mike Vajda and audience members. Mike thanked the panel participants for their time, as well as for the support that each of them has given to the ONA and Oakhurst over the past several years.
Just because we moved away from Decatur, that doesn’t mean this blog will be frozen in time. Small homes continue to be demolished and McMansions continue to rise throughout Oakhurst. Posts appearing in this blog from this point forward will feature new teardowns and new mansionization. Follow along as we document Decatur ruining its most distinctive and arguably most historic neighborhood.
For more historical background on Decatur’s Oakhurst neighborhood, visit my main blog: blog.historian4hire.net
This house was one of the Newbold Development Company’s homes built in the Edgemoor subdivision in 1940. The company was nationally recognized for its high-quality small houses. The historically authentic 1,096-square-foot 1940 home will be replaced by a 2,800-square-foot historically inspired McMansion:
Torn down in 2010; completed and opened August 2011.
Read more about the school.
An example of the visual and identity-related incongruity that result when a historic school is replaced with a new building that does not complement its surroundings can be seen in the new 4/5 Academy in the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur. — Amber Rhea, Educating DeKalb: Midcentury Elementary Schools in DeKalb County, p.32.
Preservation, historic and more.
Three weeks after I received this letter I met Menne for a chat at a Decatur coffee shop. We discussed historic preservation, the environment, and gentrification. When I raised some of the interviews I had done with elderly African American homeowners in Oakhurst being preyed upon by builders, she offered no solutions to preserving small homes (not historic preservation; housing preservation) and affordable housing in general. And then she said, “They’re just going to die.” After that happens, there’s nothing the City can do about their properties. An assistant city manager said that. I asked her to do a more formal, recorded interview and I received no response. I did, however, get this email from her:
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on the lack of follow-up. She did write that she’s a “ponderer” and that she requires time to contemplate issues. Since our meeting in April, Oakhurst houses have continued going into landfills weekly and elderly residents continue to be hounded by opportunistic builders.
Update (August 9, 2012): After this post went live I read the August 8, 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A letter to the editor from Jesse Clark, executive director of Atlanta’s Historic District Development Corporation, underscores why Decatur’s housing and preservation policies are a failure. Clark wrote,
There are very few subsidies available to nonprofit community development corporations in Atlanta to help us with our work of revitalizing and historically preserving communities, while preventing the displacement of low- to moderate-income residents. However, those that do exist have proven to work (as seen from the transformation of the eastern portion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic District). The continued support of our mission of revitalization, historic preservation and affordable housing is a prudent and necessary public investment to ensure that our community is thriving and inclusive going forward.
Decatur city commissioner Patti Garrett on teardowns, taxes, and the environment, February 2012:
Thrive Homes divided the lot at 120 West Hill Street and built a pair of historically inspired homes that are juxtaposed against modest postwar ranches.
I typically try to show the properties posted at this site using photos from the 2009 Citywide historic resources survey. Unfortunately, despite Decatur Historic Preservation Planner Regina Brewer’s assertions that the 2009 survey was complete and met all of the city’s requirements, this property and its neighbors in the heart of the Town of Oakhurst‘s former core appear to have been omitted from the survey. The City of Decatur paid a consultant $35,000 to conduct the survey.
Brewer wrote to me in February 2012 to complain that I had described the 2009 survey as incomplete:
Subject: RE: Decatur teardown diary
You have stated that the work is incomplete, there is a difference. Further, every survey has some mistakes especially when it is a windshield survey. I believe HPD tried to make this point to you in your meeting with them regarding Decatur’s preservation practices. I imagine even your work has some mistakes as no one is perfect.
I would again respectfully request that you change how you phrase your comments and consider what your goal is in making these comments.
Update (July 24, 2012): Silly me. Why would I think this block would be included in any proposed Oakhurst Historic District. According to Brewer, it’s in the so-called “West Decatur Survey Area“:
Brewer’s correction does not change the basic fact that yet another historic house in Oakhurst has gone to a landfill. And, it begs the question why the block was not included in the proposed Oakhurst Historic District. As one reader noted in an earlier version of this post, a Decatur attorney who lives in the block was one of the leaders opposing the creation in 2007 of an Oakhurst Historic District. Does omission of this block from the area included in Oakhurst have anything to do with that? And if so, do all Decatur residents get the right to gerrymander historic district boundaries because they live within proposed boundaries?
Many homeowners and communities value the history embedded in early twentieth century kit homes. Sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co., Aladdin, and other national firms, these homes were well-designed. And, if built according to the manufacturer’s instructions, remarkably durable.
Kit homes are historic and that historicity is recognized in books, academic articles, and by historic preservation designations. Decatur builder Arlene Dean, though, does not appear to be a historic kit home fan. In 2011 she described this property as an “ugly duckling” in her request for a zoning variance to increase the FAR for the lot. A single picture from the 2009 City of Decatur Historic Resources Survey does not provide sufficient information to determine if 136 Madison Avenue originated in a Sears, Roebuck and Company kit or from a Sears competitor, like Aladdin.
This property was a vacant lot when we made an offer to buy the house at 316 Spring Street in June 2011. A house contemporaneous to the one we bought had been torn down after the 2009 citywide historic resources survey had been completed.
By the time we moved into 316 Spring Street the first week in September 2011, this new home was nearing completion:
We lived at 316 Spring Street for 10 months and seven days. We moved because we didn’t want to continue as participant observers in a community undergoing rapid gentrification through teardowns and mansionization.
Sadly, the project will be neither. Despite the builder’s assertion that the modest house was a “farmhouse,” it actually was a New South Cottage built along the Atlanta Consolidated Streetcar Company trolley line linking Decatur with Atlanta. The line was constructed in a right-of-way its owners had hoped would become their version of the more prominent Ponce de Leon corridor, complete with parklands and stylish suburban homes. Like 1210 Oakview Road.
The builder proposes to construct a rear addition and add space to the existing block by piercing the classic cottage hipped roof with massive shed dormers on the front and west side facades.
@Oakhurstgossip, call it a renovation or something else but don’t call this project “historic preservation” because it isn’t. This project embodies the “Ruined Decatur” principle.
Brick multi-family apartment building demolished; lot subdivided; two McMansions built (2011-2012).
Spotted by Terry Kearns in February, 2012.
This property was one of the Decatur urban homesteading dollar homes. In November 2012, the home was torn down, along with its neighbor at 1020 Adams Street. Prior to its acquisition by the builder in the summer of 2012, the home had been owned by the same family who bought it in 1978 for $1.00. To date, this builder has torn down several of the former homesteading homes and replaced them with homes 2 and three times the size of the teardowns. The copy from a real estate Website hints that the lot is ideal for another McMansion:
Design your own modern classic home with Decatur’s premier builder, Arlene Dean. This is an opportunity to work directly with Arlene and her team of professionals, including award winning architect, Eric Rawlings, AIA, LEED, to custom build a home from the ground up on this oversized corner lot. You will be able to walk to McKoy Park without crossing any streets and easily stroll to Oakhurst Village and 5th Ave. School. Known for her classic designs, skillful use of materials and advanced building techniques, Arlene Dean will build the home you’ve been dreaming of.
Another urban homesteading dollar home.
Go drive down Maxwell and tell me the enormous home under construction that cantilevers out over the double-wide driveway leading to a two-car garage is “in character” with the neighborhood. It’s freaking huge and dwarfs everything around it.
Putting a couple tapered columns on the front porch doesn’t make something that wide “fit” with surrounding buildings. The scale of craftsman architecture breaks down when you try and force it onto a 5 bedroom, 3 story home. — “Red92S, July 26, 2012.
… it’s hardly “in character” with the neighborhood, and I think it’s pretty offensive. Adhering to building ordinances does not make something automatically kosher. That thing would never get off the page if the lot were in the MAK district, which in my opinion would have been a much preferable situation. I’m sure agents working in the area love these huge things and the commission checks that come along with them. Hard to fault anyone personally benefiting from this development for being in favor of it’s continuation. It’s obviously a product people want, I just wish it didn’t have to come at the expense of older homes. — “Red92S, July 29, 2012.
It’s interesting to compare comments like those Red92s left at the http://www.city-data.com site to how builder Arlene Dean describes her work and its relationship to the existing built environment:
No matter the style, utmost consideration for the existing neighborhood ensures that Arlene Dean always complement as well as enhance the streetscape. — Arlene Dean Quality Homes Website.
One inartful addition was replaced by a faux Prairie.
Read this post for a complete rundown on this teardown. This was the teardown that raised my awareness to Decatur’s unsustainable policies.
In the video you can make out clothes still hanging in a closet and an attic full of family belongings.
The backhoe tears through the attic and the abandoned family belongings go into the debris pile.
As the house was being demolished, I tweeted a picture of it with a comment about the builder razing with the family’s contents still inside. Tony Sullivan, an Oakhurst resident who lives nearby, sent this compassionate tweet:
TonySullivan (@tsullivan007) April 30, 2012
According to the 2009 citywide historic resources survey, 235 West Benson was one of a small number of historic homes credited with being in excellent condition. Now, the property no longer retains its historic integrity.