Rhodes Hall – A Haunted Castle on Peachtree?!?


Atlanta, GA – Sitting on a high point on Peachtree, this castle (a mere 9,000 SF) was built in 1904 for Amos Rhodes – a furniture store magnate, you may recall Rhodes Furniture or Rhodes-Haverty – well, he was king of this castle.  Total cost $50,000.  That’s in 1904 dollars, so today it’s $1.45 million.  I thought that sounded low, but inside you find that Mr. Rhodes went to lengths to cut costs in parts of the house.  And yep, this is built out of Stone Mountain granite.  It’s been a private home, the state archives, and a non-profit headquarters – and a haunted house too!

Amos Rhodes


The historical marker outside has some good info:



They call this Romanesque Revival architecture, inspired by medieval castles on the Rhine, with a big dose of Victorian decor inside.  Now the home of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, tours are offered on Tuesdays and Saturdays.


The house had state of the art features for 1904 – including over 300 lightbulbs (both gas & electric, more on that in a sec), electric call buttons, and a security system.  The entrance hall is large, and the wall fixtures have 3 lights in them – 2 are electric, and 1 is gas.  Remember electricity was still fairly new, so gas was a known quantity for lighting.  Seeing 1 bulb out of 3 unlit set my OCD off, I was ready to go change the lightbulbs!  I learned this was the gas part of the gas/electric lighting fixture.


Detail of the painted glass on staircase


So this was the Ga State Archives for quite some time.  When they moved out they took the staircase and painted windows.  Glad to see these came back home after many years.  The windows along the curved staircase are painted.  No.  Not stained glass.  Painted.  They are a variety of scenes of the rise and fall of the confederacy.   The hallway and staircase are quite huge, I felt like a shrimp here!


The front parlor is a historically accurate color, though I just call it PANK.  Really PANK.  The home is often rented out as a wedding venue, so not much in the way of furniture in here.  You know it’s a big room when a grand piano looks small in it.

The dining room is just as large as you’d expect in this kind of home, with huge built ins for china and serving ware.  I got sidetracked by the biggest cuckoo clock I’ve ever seen.

What’s interesting walking through this house – you see such contradictions when it was built.  Really intricate mosaic work, painted windows – then you see where Mr. Rhodes cut costs, using prefab molds on some woodwork and of course much plainer trim in the family areas of the house.

Here’s a floorpan of the first floor, courtesy of the Georgia Trust (the second and third floor are Ga Trust offices etc):

Microsoft Word - Rhodes Hall Rental Information.doc

When you go up to the 3rd floor, you go into the Billiard Room, which was an exclusively male domain.  I always think of that game “Clue” when I hear Billiard Room.  I’m looking for Colonel Mustard and a candlestick.

And yes – it’s supposed to be haunted as well.  Some have stated it’s Mrs. Rhodes ghost, others say it is the children, and some say it was a caretaker.  Lots of theories that I read about from multiple sources. Ghost Hunters ran a segment on this several years ago, and is hosting a Ghost Hunt Weekend THIS weekend at Rhodes Hall.

Right here in Atlanta, this one is worth a visit!



Covington Homes, Part 1


Covington, GA – county seat of Newton County, just 35 miles east of Atlanta,  a good size town of about 12,000 residents.  Covington was incorporated in 1822 and the railroad arrived in 1845.  Part of the cotton belt, many planters built town homes here that have survived  over 150 years.

I managed to put the wrong address in my car’s navigation system, went right by the Visitors Center and to the town square.  Make that I drove around the town square about 8 times.  It’s a picturesque town square, and no surprise why so many shows and movies have filmed here, from In The Heat of The Night to Vampire Diaries – you can call this Sparta, MS or Mystic Falls, Virginia.  There’s some great information available in the Visitors Center, definitely worth checking it out.



The Victorian Courthouse, built in 1884.  Town square with multiple monuments.  Originally the courthouse was IN the town square.  


On the square panorama view.


This is known as the Porter-Rogers-Tuck House, built in 1903. Interestingly, this is the same Porter family that owned the nearby Porterdale Mills.

Right across the street is the Graham-Simms House, built around 1850 or so.  One of the highlights of this house is a circular staircase.  This house didn’t look as southern as most of the others, more of a Federal type style to me.  And that is one major iron fence around the property.


This is Swanscombe, built around 1828.  It’s thought to be the oldest clapboard house built in town.  It is said there are some great gardens in the back of this home.


Floyd House, from about 1830. So, this is who the street is named for – Judge John J. Floyd. Interestingly, his niece became the first woman member of the US Senate. Also you notice that the end columns on this house are square, not round.


Many more beautiful old Georgia homes in Covington, so will break this into additional posts.


When You Own Stone Mountain, Build a Granite Mansion!


Atlanta, GA – Ponce de Leon Avenue – This granite mansion, known as “Stonehenge” was built in 1914 for Samuel Hoyt Venable, along with his sister and her family. It’s now the home of St John’s Lutheran Church, and had an opportunity a while back to take a tour. Researching the family, I learned the Samuel Hoyt Venable went into business with his brother, and the company they formed was the first to own Stone Mountain in its entirety (1887).  They also owned Pine Mountain and Arabia Mountain in the late 1800s.  Guess they liked mountain ownership, huh?  Oh, and they had 2 (yes, TWO) summer homes at Stone Mountain.  I didn’t think traffic was so bad 100 years ago that your summer home needed to be 8 miles away…


They actually quarried granite at Stone Mountain, so naturally this house is built from Stone Mountain granite.  I got thinking “hey I bet my granite foundation is from Stone Mountain too!” but no, quarry operations were stopped early in the 20th Century.

Georgia Historical Society has a neat vintage postcard of the mansion, along with the Candler mansion next door, which has also become a church.

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As we toured the house, I was struck by the sheer scale of it, which doesn’t always translate in photos.  It’s ginormous!  I was thinking “wow, I’d hate to heat and cool this place”, just one more reinforcement that I am hopelessly middle class.  I don’t think they were clipping coupons at this mansion!

We entered into the sunroom, which is now the pastor’s office.  The tile in there, with 100 years of use had a worn, but beautiful finish.  Painted ceiling beams are found in several rooms.

Another one of Venable’s sisters was a talented painter, and did paintings in a room now being used for meetings.  This was my favorite room in the house.  I called it the dining room, but was corrected.  And no, ceiling fan is not original to the room 🙂




Another impressive fireplace on the first floor, and more of the painting that his sister did.  What talent!:


One feature that reminded me of an English County House was the grand hallway just inside the front entry.  The woodwork was amazing.


Check out some more of this woodwork!



Not much to take any pictures of up on the second floor, a multitude of beds as it operates as a cold weather shelter and houses visiting groups.

Another feature that I found unusual was in the basement – the family had a summer game room that they used, that can best be described as an English Pub theme.



With the home being purchased by a church in the late 1950s, they have added an octagonal sanctuary to the front of the house.  Sounds weird, but it has been done well, and blends as much so as it can with a great old mansion.

Definitely worth a stop by here if you’re out on Ponce!






Gordon-Lee Mansion, circa 1847


Chickamauga, Georgia – Looking good for a 168 year old home!  The Gordon-Lee Mansion took 7 years to be completed.  Can you imagine 7 years to build your dream home?  This is the only building standing that was a part of the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.

Before this house was built, this site was significant – it was the site of the first Cherokee Courthouse and also used by settlers as their seat of government in the area.  During the Civil War, the home served as a hospital for both sides – and General Rosecrans used the parlor to plot strategy for the Battle of Chickamauga.

The house is open to the public between Memorial and Labor Days each year.  Naturally I discovered this the weekend before Labor Day, so off to Chickamauga I went.  Upon walking up the long drive, met a nice lady from the Friendsof Gordon-Lee Mansion, paid my ticket fee and was about to walk in when I was stopped…by someone’s Mawmaw!  A family was touring the house and Mawmaw was in a wheelchair so she didn’t go in.  I said hello to her and asked her how she was doing.  She asked me if I had brought her a hamburger because she was hungry LOL!  That’s me, your cultured tourist.

The first floor had the usual suspects – Library, Parlor, Dining Room, and my favorite – a warming kitchen.  Despite this being a self-guided tour, I somehow ended up with 2-3 people blocking my way into each room, so these photos are the “yo I’m making photos over your heads people!” variety.


Now the warming kitchen, that was my favorite – includes a toaster from the 1840s, spinning wheel, and candle molds.


Headed upstairs after this, big center hall 3 bedrooms, and a room that’s a museum of various relics found around the house.  Didn’t linger too long as a lot of the relics were medical instruments – not my thing!  Interestingly in the bedrooms it’s mentioned how the big 4 poster beds were designed to be quickly assembled/disassembled – after all, this was the frontier!  Never knew when you might have to pack up and move FAST. And yes, pro photographer manages to get himself in the photo.  #winning


Looking off the front balcony you get a sense of the expanse of front lawn.


Glad I made the short drive up to Chickamauga.  Despite growing up around Atlanta, never made it up here before.  Really pretty area of Georgia, and several interesting old homes to check out. Just remember – wait until after Memorial Day!