Writing Westview’s History

When we’re not renovating the house or working in the garden we really enjoy pretending we’re historians. Since moving to Westview in early 2007 we’ve spent countless hours digging through old files at the Atlanta History Center, searching newspaper databases and microfiche, emailing with old residents of the neighborhood and examining deeds and plat maps at the Fulton County Courthouse. It’s like piecing together a really exciting puzzle!

At this point it is difficult to even say where our search began. I honestly can’t remember. It is quite possible it began with this blog. In the early days we had a regular reader (Marsha, hopefully you’re still reading!) contact us about her time spent in the neighborhood as a child. Steffi and Marsha exchanged emails for a while before losing touch. Or perhaps it started when we made our first visit to the Atlanta History Center’s Kenan Research Center and found a map dating back to the 1890s that showed our street. No matter, it has been an interesting journey that has taken us down some dark paths – including murder – and some very bright paths – including a rock n’ roll star that lived on our street during the 1950s. It saddens me to also say we’ve lost some people along the way. People that were very generous sharing their memories and photographs with perfect strangers.

I’ll give you a brief overview of the history and some of the highlights that stand out to me. We’ve written a great deal about it on the Westview website, so you can hop over there after you finish reading the blog if you’d like to know more.

In 1884 land was set aside for the Westview Cemetery. This was the second cemetery built in Atlanta after Oakland, and even today Westview Cemetery remains the largest cemetery in the Southeastern United States. The cemetery is important to the neighborhood because a street car was built to transport people from downtown to the cemetery. The original street car was pulled by a mule and of course later went on to use electricity. The gate to the Westview Cemetery is an awesome stone structure that was featured on postcards. We have a framed postcard on our wall that one of our neighbors (a real life historian) gave to us. Needless to say the entrance still stands, so if you’re in the area you should go check it out. Lots of famous Atlantans are also buried there.

Westview Cemetery Postcard - It is postmarked 1909.

Westview Cemetery Postcard – It is postmarked July 1909.

The early growth patterns of Atlanta were really dependent on the street cars, so along came a company from Minnesota, called the Ontario Land Company, that bought the land adjacent to the cemetery. They called the subdivision Westwood Park and laid out the original plan for the streets. The streets today still reflect these original names – East and West Ontario Ave are named for none other than the Ontario Land Company and Westwood Ave is named for Westwood Park. Well, things didn’t go so well for the Ontario Land Company and despite their best efforts the land remained undeveloped. You have to remember it was still rather rural at this point, so perhaps people weren’t quite ready to live so far away from the city. (Today by car we’re only 5-10 minutes from downtown.)

The Westwood Park plat map that shows the original planned streets.

The Westwood Park plat map that shows the original planned streets.

Here’s where one of the dark twists comes in to play. The Westwood Park property sat vacant for a number of years before it was re-subdivided. During this time a highly publicized murder took place. A man from Roswell named Forrest Crowley was lured to the site on the promise of buying some mules. When he arrived he was murdered and robbed. The murder took place by the lake, which can be seen in the plat map above. There is no lake in the neighborhood today.

Murders aside, in 1910 a man named William J. Davis purchased the land for $100,000 and announced it would be called “West End Park.” The land was subdivided and lots were sold by Forrest and George Adair at auction over the next few years. Our lot was sold at the very first auction in June, 1910 for $750.

"High Class West End Residence Lots" from 1910

“High Class West End Residence Lots” from 1910

Our house wasn’t built until the end of 1916. The original owners were two women that owned their own multigraphing (copy) shop. Their mother also lived with them. Neither of the women had children as far as we know, so we’ve had difficulty locating any of their living relatives. If anybody reading this is related to Cora and Lucy Thomas please contact us! Their mother was named Frances Thomas. We’d love to hear from you!

This is not our house, but it is a house from one street over.

This is not our house, but it is a house from one street over. We found this photo at the Atlanta History Center.

From there the neighborhood chugged along as a popular residential district. Lots were sold, the neighborhood was expanded, streets were paved, a school was built. In 1927 a real estate/home building company focused heavily on building and selling homes along Stokes Ave. The company, F.P. and George J. Morris, even opened a real estate office near the corner of South Gordon St and Cascade Ave. The storefront is still there today (but of course it serves a different use).

The Great Depression seems to have temporarily halted the overall development of the neighborhood, and we’ve had people verbally tell us some homes were split up into duplexes during this time. However we found a single newspaper article from 1931 that shows that houses continued to be built and sold – though the pace must have been dramatically reduced.

The WWII housing shortage saw a number of smaller homes built in the community. This rapid construction was intended to be 2/3rds rentals and was controversial with the existing homeowners. Mayor Hartsfield even got involved to try and diffuse the situation.

The 1950s saw the rise of rock n’ roll and our neighborhood was no exception. Tommy Roe, who was getting lots of practice playing gigs around town and at Brown High School, lived just down the street from our house. During a tour in England with Chris Montez a new group called The Beatles was billed as one of the opening acts. And when The Beatles played their first gig in the U.S. one of their opening acts was Tommy! How cool is that?! In case you’re unsure of who Tommy Roe is here is a couple of his videos. I’m sure you’ll immediately recognize these songs.

Fast forward a few years to the 1970s when Mayor Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, lived in the neighborhood. The family that currently owns his former home still occasionally receives junk mail addressed to him. We have also been told his bodyguards lived across the street in order to offer 24-hour protection.

And I’m starting to realize my brief overview about the history of the neighborhood has become quite long, so I’ll wrap it up there. The research into the history is an ongoing project and new artifacts from the past continue to come to light. It’s really been quite an exciting journey for the small group of homes in southwest Atlanta. As people always say… if only these walls talk!

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Annual Snow Day

Here I was ready for March to bring spring. Apparently so were the plants because daffodils were already coming out and some trees were starting to show blooms. March 1st decided to take it back a step though – and SNOW!

Snow piling up in our backyard.

Snowed in back yard

The front of the house. I think I was just slightly too late because some of the snow was already turning back to slush.

Westview Bungalow snowed in

Awwww, look at the gorgeous houses in our neighborhood! I heart Westview!

East Ontario Avenue snowed in

So what do you do on a snow day? (Besides excitedly taking pictures, of course.) You go strip the dining room. Not that we ever stopped, but definitely an encouraging day to continue. Maybe one day all the work will actually look like we made progress again, because at this point all the time consuming detail work certainly won’t show in photos. Sorry folks!

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Composting for Newbies

We did it. We finally joined the composting culture.

Growing up in Germany composting was always such a natural thing. Just about everyone I knew had a little vegetable plot in their yard and a compost hidden somewhere in the corner of the garden. My parents always had a compost. Actually they must have been pretty serious because they had the three bin compost going on. I’m not sure what sparked my interest in wanting to do a compost here, but I told Patrick I thought it would be cool to start composting so we can have our own healthy earth for the garden. The space behind the garden shed seemed perfect because it will be pretty hidden back there. Patrick was game and ready to start. For that matter he was ready quicker than I was because he said “let’s just start a pile.” Being the German that I am I needed order…I needed a box to contain the pile in. So even though we didn’t have a box yet we added scraps to a pile. But the compost didn’t really become official in my eyes until we built the box today!

After some internet research we determined the easiest way would be the stacking method. You put the legs an inch lower than the boards so that one can be stacked on top of the other:

Compost Diagram

Patrick determined that even though it won’t be the cheapest method we should build it with cedar so it won’t weather as quickly. So off we went to the big box store and bought some 1″ x 6″ x 8′ cedar boards for the walls and 1″ x 2″ x 8′ for the supporting legs. Thankfully the big box store offers cutting, so we went ahead and got them cut in half (1″ x 6″ x 4′) so we wouldn’t have the extra work ourselves. The store had the super saw and was able to cut all eight boards in one go!

So here’s our pile of materials all ready to go!

Cedar wood for compost

Step 1: Nail/screw together your boards to make a box.

Step 2: Cut the supporting legs into 7 inch pieces (1 inch larger than the boards to allow air flow). Attach legs to interior box walls.

Building cedar compost

Step 3: Stack your boxes on top of one another over the started compost pile hidden behind the shed.

Step 4: Throw in some leaves that you haven’t cleaned since fall for good measure.

Composting leaves

Step 5: Mix up the pile of kitchen waste and leaves.

Step 6: Keep adding to pile and repeat steps 3 through 6 until your waste turns into earth. (Or so we’re told.)

Raking compost

Since we’re composting virgins we’re obviously curious what our mess will turn out to be. I understand not too much will probably happen until the temperature goes up a bit more. We also bought one of those earth test kits. I haven’t actually used it yet. That way we’ll hopefully be able to find out what our compost pile will need most of to neutralize the existing earth in the garden. Wish us luck in our new venture!

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Fireplace Paint Removal Update

We finished paint removal with PeelAway on the brick and tile of the fireplace last night. Well, or at least the front. I suppose we didn’t do the thin strip on each side.

So this is the result we got after using the PeelAway one time. You can tell how we did it in sections because the PeelAway hardened more at the edges. You can also tell we were in a hurry in the top left corner! We removed it, but had to leave to go to a BeltLine meeting and weren’t able to do our usual thorough cleaning. As we progressed with each section we tried various methods of after-PeelAway-cleaning. Initially we used the sponge method and lots of towels and switching out water. Towards the end we used a spray bottle and a dust pan to catch the drippings. Then we’d use a little nylon brush to rub off the remains in the cracks as best as possible, as well as our metal scrapers to get things out of the cracks.

Using the PeelAway on the extremely textured brick versus on the flat tile was definitely a different experience. The texture takes a lot of work because there are just so many places the paint is able to stick to. The flat surface was really rather quick. The paint never truly “peels away” like the product title seems to indicate. If you think you can remove the waxy paper with your pinky and all the paint will just magically stick to it and be gone then well…perhaps you should either not remove the paint, or hire someone to do the work for you. This will definitely still require some scrubbing and cleaning and work, but I think it helped a lot and we were probably able to cover a larger area quicker than we would have with the KleanStrip. Obviously the more textured the area, the harder the work will be. So overall we’re very happy with the results from the PeelAway.

Result after one-time PeelAway use:

Fireplace after PeelAway

The fireplace when we bought the house (where someone had gone white-paint-happy, and before we refinished the floors):

Fireplace before PeelAway

Thankfully my sister is coming in town for a visit today, so it will give our fingers time to recuperate and will give our mind some time off because otherwise we may have started getting burned out on the project. (There are only so many days in a row you can work on the same thing before you get worn out and need a break.)

So the next steps will be to apply the PeelAway on the metal cover. We have worked on it with KleanStrip on a previous occasion, so we already know it should be a brass cover. We’re curious though if we will uncover any additional details! (We’ll show what we’ve uncovered this far when we work on it some more.) Then we have to also remove the paint from the brick on each side of the fireplace. Lastly we’ll probably use KleanStrip to go back and try to remove some of the leftover paint, like where the seams show, or where we ran out of time to properly clean the area. But we’re really excited about how good this looks already!

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The BeltLine Needs Your Support


I’m sure you have heard about the recent events with GDOT and Amtrak in regards to the BeltLine. If you have not heard about the situation here are a couple articles to bring you up to date:

AJC – BELTLINE: Amtrak wants land for heavy rail
Creative Loafing – GDOT, AMTRAK throw wrench in Beltline plans

On Saturday the 31st at 2pm there will be a rally held in support of the BeltLine in Piedmont Park. The meeting point is at 10th and Monroe (by Park Tavern) where the BeltLine tracks cross Monroe. PLEASE come out and show your support!

The rally is organized by BeltLine Network. You can read more about it on their website at


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