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!