‘Second-Hand’ Information

“Time in itself, absolutely, does not exist; it is always relative to some observer or some object. Without a clock I say ‘I do not know the time’. Without matter time itself is unknowable. Time is a function of matter; and matter, therefore, is the clock that makes infinity real. – John Fowles, Áristos

Time is one of those things that we never think about. In a way, we take it for granted. Our lives are paced out according to the dictates of the hour, minute and second hand. What are our days other than a collection of hours? Time elapses, and we live in the seconds in-between. Yet, keeping time has not always so easy. Unlike the easy convenience of digital time, our ancestors had to painstaking wind clocks weekly, taking care to reset the time.

Similarly, in the historic DeKalb County Courthouse, the clock is wound without fail on Saturday. Access to the clock is restricted due to the difficulty of reaching the clock. Visitors rarely think about it, but the clock remains as it was when the courthouse was rebuilt in the early 1900’s. The first picture shows the clock as it is wound, while the bottom images depict the clock mechanism. Symbolically, it connects the past to the present. Time is always passing, advancing our lives forward. If you listen closely, you can hear the next tick coming.

Written by Samantha Mooney


America’s ‘Black Mecca:’ It’s Complicated


The DeKalb History Center was honoured to have Dr. Maurice Hobson, an associate professor at Georgia State University, lecture at our July Lunch & Learn about his new book The Legend of Black Mecca. In his talk, Hobson argued that Atlanta’s status as a “Black Mecca’ is complex. Poor African-Americans were disenfranchised by the city’s political elite and were left outside of the city’s prosperity, problematizing common understandings of Atlanta’s racial dynamics.   

There is some truth to every legend, but at some point, the story gets embellished. It is only natural as human beings that we expand the truth, stretching it to be more entertaining, to be bolder, to be more than the sum of its parts. Such has been the case with Atlanta’s reputation as a Black Mecca: a place where African-Americans could achieve their economic, social and political goals. Dr. Hobson complicated this idea, stating while this experience has been true for some, it has not been the reality for all. Continue reading “America’s ‘Black Mecca:’ It’s Complicated”

Little England in Georgia: Avondale Estates


“There, Clover found the “gardens and great trees and old cottages…so beautiful” that seeing them exhausted her. It was as if, she joked with her husband, “this English world is a huge stage-play got up only to amuse Americans. It is obviously unreal, eccentric, and taken out of novels.” ― Natalie Dykstra, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life

Imagine this: you are driving along, baking under the hot sun that never stop s beating down. You feel a trickle of sweat bead your forehead, and you wipe it away, a bit absentmindedly. As you continue, you see all the hallmarks of suburbia: cookie-cutter houses stamped out one after another, interspersed with the occasional business. Yet, suddenly you spot a Tudor building, and then another! Soon a miniature English village surrounds you in the middle of Georgia. What is this place? You have found yourself in Avondale, a quaint town located twenty minutes from the center of Atlanta.

Avondale is a mimicry of an English town, transplanted into the South. George F. Willis, a  pharmaceutical magnate purchased the entire town of Ingleside to create his vision in 1924. Willis had recently travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. This influenced the architectural style and bequeathed the city its name, Avondale. The visual look of the estates was an important aspect, intended to create a harmonious life. One advertisement claimed that “art is a part of the everyday life of Avondale Estates,” and buildings were “graceful,” roads were “symmetrical curves,” and shrubbery was “artistic[ally] arranged.”


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Avondale was the first planned community in the Southeastern United States. Avondale had many amenities: paved streets, a lake for fishing, leisure boating, and swimming, a pool, tennis courts, dairies, and a business district. The community sought to bring nature into the community, creating a sense of idyllic peace and “beckon to restful pleasures.” Avondale described itself as “[a] magnificently appointed community… where neighborly friendship reigns.”

Continue reading “Little England in Georgia: Avondale Estates”

Courting Your Lady-Love


“Well, I’m sure you’ll find someone somewhere who’ll have you.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Often, I get asked, as a historian, how did people in the ‘olden times’ meet or date. Certainly, modern dating has fewer social limitations, but nonetheless, young men and women did mingle, often at community events. It is hard to give a definitive answer without direct evidence; luckily, when I was looking through archival files, I found an answer!

Apparently, Stone Mountain, the largest exposed mass of granite in the world, was a popular destination site. Men who took a fancy to a certain woman would take her out on a group excursion, to court her and, eventually if they were lucky, to see if she was amenable to marriage. This allowed courting to fit within permissible morality as women not alone in the presence of a man. Yet, as the excursions were on horseback, men and their ladyloves were paired side by side. Levi Willard, an early historian of Decatur history, says the following: “It was reported that matches were made on these little rides. It was easy to lag behind the company… [the woman’s] saddle was turning and must be girted tighter, or the blanket was slipping out of place, or some other excuse for the moment.”

Continue reading “Courting Your Lady-Love”

Happy Fourth of July!

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman

We here at the DeKalb History Center hope that you are enjoying your Fourth of July. As we celebrate our nations birthday, it reminds us, as historians, of how individuals have built and shaped America, how the past continues to affect the present. We hope that you enjoy a small sample of photographs, selected from our archive, which honours everyday citizens and our military members. Happy Independence Day!

Curated by Samantha Mooney