The Georgia Trust

PRESERVATION ISSUES

TWO TRUSTS OFFER HISTORY FOR SALE
The Trust for Public Land and The Georgia Trust Purchase Peters Property

The Peters Property (Ivy Hall), 1895

Amid Midtown Atlanta’s new luxury apartments and condominiums, restaurants and high-rise buildings lies an unusual piece of prime real estate. The multi-million-dollar asking price includes an exceptional example of Queen Anne architecture, a two-acre park and a whole lot of history.

The Trust for Public Land and The Georgia Trust are partnering to purchase the 3.4-acre Peters property in an effort to save it from development in this popular area of the city. The two organizations hope to raise $2.5 million. They are optimistic the property will attract a nonprofit seeking to relocate who will purchase the property for the balance of the acquisition cost and then restore the house (formerly The Mansion restaurant) and landscaping. The acquisition and restoration process could run as much as $7 million. A preservation easement and open space easement will be retained on the property.

“Both the house and the history of the Peters family are extremely significant to the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta,” says Greg Paxton, president and CEO of The Georgia Trust. “With the property in transition, this represents an excellent opportunity for a long-term solution.”

The Peters House may not be Atlanta’s most famous house, but its inhabitants’ influence touches almost all facets of the city’s history. With a park-like setting and the first and one of the finest Queen Anne houses in the state (built 1883), the Peters property represents an opportunity to blend land conservation and historic preservation in a major project, as The Trust for Public Land and The Georgia Trust recently succeeded in doing with Hardman Farm at Nacoochee Valley.

The Peters family name may not ring a bell, but in the late 19th century Richard Peters and his offspring set in motion many events affecting the entire state. Mr. Peters, as superintendent of the Georgia Railroad, spent 10 years building the rail line and rode the first passenger train from Augusta to “Marthasville,” as Atlanta was then known. It was under his supervision that the first rudimentary sleeping car was invented.

According to author Royce Shingleton in his book “Richard Peters: Champion of the New South,” Mr. Peters “set the city on the path to greatness” as he directed the development of Atlanta. Mr. Peters thought “Marthasville” an unsuitable name for a major city and in a company circular designated the terminal “Atlanta.” Three months later, the Georgia legislature officially adopted the new name for the city. He was an integral member of a group of businessmen who successfully maneuvered the move of the Georgia state capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta in the 1870s. Mr. Peters and Henry Grady also persuaded the state legislature to establish a technical school—which we know as Georgia Tech—on land Mr. Peters owned and donated for the purpose.

The Peters Property, 2002

Mr. Peters was also known as an exponent of scientific agriculture. From his farm in Calhoun, Gordon County, he conducted extensive experiments with grains and grasses, shipped specimens of peach trees as far as California and New Zealand, and in 1854, joined with two other businessmen to introduce Chinese Sorgum cane, also called Chinese sugarcane, to Georgia. Mr. Peters himself figured out how to process the cane, which later produced a substance known as molasses.

Mr. Peters passed his entrepreneurial leadership on to his son, Edward, who with his father founded and became superintendent of the Atlanta Street Railroad Company, the city’s first horse-drawn trolley line—Atlanta’s first mass transit. The trolley was initiated to spark development on Mr. Peters’ property in West End and later Midtown. Richard Peters owned what became nearly 65 square blocks from the eastern edge of Midtown to Georgia Tech between North Avenue and Eighth Street. Edward Peters led the building of “Athletic Park” on family land near Peachtree Street and North Avenue, so people would use the trolley to get to games played by Atlanta’s first semi-pro baseball team, which he named the “Atlantas.” On June 3, 1882, Edward Peters and city officials laid the ceremonial blocks to pave the first street in the city of Atlanta, Alabama Street.

It was Edward Peters who constructed the Peters House, then known as “Ivy Hall,” in 1883 on a block of land his father gave him and his bride as a wedding gift. The house was designed by Gottfried L. Norrman, a prominent Georgia architect who also designed such notable buildings as the Windsor Hotel in Americus, the Church of Christ Scientist in Atlanta’s Ansley Park and Fountain Hall on the campus of Morris Brown College. A house on a full block was a rarity for its time. Today it is the only such historic house in this area of Atlanta. The house is the city’s foremost tangible link to the Peters family.

In 2000 a developer sought to build condos surrounding the house, without a clear preservation plan for the historic structure. Since the house is a local landmark, the decision went before the Atlanta Urban Design Commission (AUDC), who vetoed the idea 5-1. The AUDC, however, charged preservation groups including The Georgia Trust and the Atlanta Preservation Center to find a feasible use for the property while helping its owner obtain a reasonable return. The house is now unoccupied after a minor fire, but it is still in sound condition.

“This would probably be the best—if not the last—opportunity to preserve the property,” says Russ Marane, executive director of The Trust for Public Land. “We are looking for someone to occupy the house and become stewards of the property.”

For more information about the Peters property, contact Glen Bennett, Georgia Trust senior director of preservation services, at 404-885-7804.

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