In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

“Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” – Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

Clark Ashton remembers the first time he saw him. There was a man who wore the three-piece white suit; he would hang out on the street corner, swinging a gold chain. To a young Ashton, this man was fascinating. The man who fearlessly stood out in the small town of Augusta, Georgia. He was unique, inimitable.

For a new generation, Ashton has become a similar figure, “that strange man over on Druid Hills road.” Each year, for the past twenty-four years, he has sat on a throne in his front yard, waving at local school children who are trapped in morning traffic. He is trying to show kids that it is okay to be different, that people can prosper in alternative lifestyles. In his view, independent thought and action are increasingly important in a highly regimented society. Most people react favourably, but a few laugh or yell. It doesn’t bother him. Ashton believes in what he is doing. Continue reading “In the Kingdom of Dreams and Madness: Clark Ashton’s Druid Hill

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“A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection

“My father used to say that stories are part of the most precious heritage of mankind.” ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

I love perusing through old scrapbooks. An unorthodox hobby, I know, but I find them utterly fascinating. This strange amusement supports commonly held assumptions: that historians and archivists are fundamentally nosy, digging through people’s mail and scrutinizing their written records. Personally, it as an extension of natural curiosity. Most of us are captivated by the past. If we know where we come from, we can forecast where we are headed. Continue reading ““A Horrible Demoness:” DeKalb History Center’s Historic Scrapbook Collection”

Fighting Fires in DeKalb

Stop! Drop! and Roll!

Who doesn’t remember learning fire safety growing up?  Fire alarms and sprinklers are so much a part of the buildings we enter that we hardly give them more than a moments’ notice.  In the event of a fire, we all know who to call, and we can be assured that there will be a response.  Whether on highways, in neighborhoods, or during the occasional false alarm at school, we have all likely seen a fire truck rushing past with lights flashing and alarm at full volume.

Continue reading “Fighting Fires in DeKalb”

Merging Chambers, Diverging Chambers

The Chamber of Commerce in DeKalb County has had a rich history of pursuing business and community development over the course of its eighty years of existence.  However, for a brief window of around six years, the Chamber’s sole focus of DeKalb County expanded to include Metropolitan Atlanta through an affiliation between the DeKalb and Metro Atlanta Chambers of Commerce.

Due to the fact that the affiliation lasted less than a decade, one has to wonder what motivated it in the first place.  According to various local news articles, there were talks going on as early as 1993 about a potential merger with the Atlanta Chamber.  The 80s was somewhat of a slump decade for Chamber growth.  There also seemed to be a feeling that if the two Chambers combined, there would be less waste of money and effort as  both had similar goals they could be working toward together.  Added to that was the fact that the South Fulton Chamber of Commerce had by then already affiliated with Atlanta, providing a precedent for DeKalb. Continue reading “Merging Chambers, Diverging Chambers”

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”