Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was a Black artist known for her colorful and impressionist work. Born in Columbus, Georgia, she and her family lived there until she was sixteen. In 1907, they relocated to Washington, DC to escape the racial hostility and threats of violence that were directed towards the Black community at the hands of whites.
She was considered a member of the Washington School of Color. A lifelong art teacher, she was the first graduate of the art department at Howard University.
Built around 1879, William Yates built this Italianate in an area formerly known as Rivertown. By 1893, William Yates fell into financial trouble due to a national financial panic. James Jethro Jones eventually purchased the house from the bank in 1894. The home has been expanded twice.
Atlanta’s history with saving important structures is weak, at best. You can imagine my surprise when I learned that there is an 1866-1867 central hallway cottage still standing in Atlanta. It is a contributing structure to the Capitol View Historic District.
Frederick Deckner and his family arrived from Wisconsin in 1866 after one of his sons, Charles, urged his father to take advantage of the Atlanta climate for farming. They are one of the early settlers of this part of Atlanta. They built up several homes surrounding the original cottage, which are still standing.
While the home is structurally sound, it’s location lends itself to neglect and possible vandalism. My understanding is that it is owned by the Atlanta Metropolitan College. If there are any plans to do something with the land, the house should be moved because of its historical importance to the city. It is surrounded by privately owned property, so I recommend not trespassing.
Located west of Senoia is this gorgeous, neglected home. James Bailey and his wife, Sarah, were married in 1855. They are indentified as one of the founding families of Coweta County.
In searching the history of the house, I discovered that several generations of the Baileys are buried in the cemetery next door, the White Oak Associated Presbyterian Church. From what I can pull together, descendants of the family occupied the house until the 1990s.
According to the 1860 Slave Census, the Bailey family enslaved 16 people, and there were 3 slave houses located on the farm. Those structures seem to be long gone.
The Carpenter Gothic details make this one of my favorite homes. I hope someone can restore the house. You can see additional photos on Old House Love and an old Redfin listing.
Completed in 1910, the Herndon Home was the residence of Alonzo Herndon and his family. Herndon was the first Black millionaire in Atlanta, and one of the first in the United States. He built his wealth by running several successful barbershops in Atlanta and starting the Atlanta Family Life Insurance Company.
Herndon was born into slavery in 1858 in Social Circle, Walton County, Georgia. After Emancipation, he left Social Circle and began work as a farmhand and learned how to barber in Jonesboro, Georgia.
He eventually moved to Atlanta where he began his barbershop business. He helped save a mutual aid association which eventually evolved into the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
Designed by Adrienne Herndon, a professor at Atlanta University and Alonzo’s first wife, the two-story, 15-room Classical Revival mansion with Beaux Arts influences, was built by local Black craftsmen. It was simultaneously added on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000.
Upon his death, Herndon’s son Norris took over Atlanta Life Insurance and built upon his father’s success by turning it into a multi-million-dollar business.
The Herndon family are all buried in Southview Cemetery.