Tag Archive | Historic Homes

Atlanta 2018: Atlanta History Center Homes

In my last post, I told you about the indoor exhibits at the Atlanta History Center.  After seeing them, I then headed outside to check out the historic homes.  There are three historic homes, from two different periods in Georgia history on the site.

The homes there are amazing.  When you head outside, first you come upon the Robert Smith Family Farm, which was an antebellum hog farm, built in the 1840s.  The family was well off for the times, owning about 800 acres, and up to 13 slaves.  They raised six children in their small home.  They had sheep, goats and a house cat on site at the history center, but no pigs.  Pigs are probably harder to deal with on a museum farm…  You can tour the cabin, and see an old slave quarters, which is original but was not originally on the Smith Farm.  You can also look at the goats and sheep and even see cotton growing.


Next I went over to the Swan House, which was built in 1928 by Edward and Emily Inman.  Edward was a very successful businessman, and Emily was known for her work for charitable and civic causes, including women’s suffrage.  The house has period docents, in character, playing the parts of Edward and Emily, their maids, and the home’s architect, Philip Trammell Shutze.  You can wander the house at your leisure and ask questions of the docents.

The home is very nice; it was acquired by the Atlanta Historical Society in 1966 with almost all of the family’s original furnishings.  It has all the bells and whistles, including an intercom system, and my favorite, historic toilets!  This is the first time I have seen a wicker toilet.


Downstairs in the Swan House is an exhibit on the collections of Philip Trammell Shutze, the architect.  He had quite a fascination with Chinese culture and collected furniture, ceramics and other artwork, and had an extensive variety of items.  It was neat to see, and nice that they explained the connection to the Swan House, because otherwise it would have seemed out of place.

The last building on site at the Atlanta History Center is the Wood Family Cabin. The cabin was built in the 1840s, and was originally located in Piedmont, Georgia, before being moved to the site.  Even the Elias Wood family was considered fairly well off, at least well off enough to own a slave; they farmed and hunted. I was unable to find out any more about the cabin though.  It is located off in the woods of the history center, and I didn’t see anyone else on my walk there.

I really enjoyed these historic homes at the Center!

Atlanta 2018: Atlanta History Center Exhibits

Day 5, Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday was my last full day in Atlanta and I decided to head over to the Atlanta History Center.  I took the subway over – the furthest distance I had traveled on the subway so far, and then had to walk about a mile to get to the Center.  It is an easy walk through a busy neighborhood with a sidewalk, but there was lot of traffic on that road, passing lots of big hotels, chain stores and strip malls, so it isn’t really much of a leisurely, scenic walk.

The center has multiple parts.  A full museum inside, an annex building with a special exhibit, and three historic homes outside, two of which have been moved to the property.  This place is fascinating!

Inside the museum, there were exhibits on Atlanta’s history from its founding to the present day.  It touched a little bit on the Civil War, but focused more on businesses and industries in Atlanta, its civic pride, and daily life.  I have to admit the KKK shield was disturbing, but an important reminder of the dark side of our history.


Another exhibit went into detail on the Civil War and had a lot of great artifacts.  The exhibit explained which major events were happening during each year of the war.  It told about life in camp, life at home, the customs of mourning the dead, and about the occupation of the south by the Union Army.


Another exhibit explored the Trail of Tears, and the removal of the Cherokee and other tribes, but it didn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked.  They did have a lot of first-hand accounts from Native Americans about their present-day experience and the experience of their ancestors.

Another exhibit was on folk art objects and they had a lot!  There was crockery, from the 1600s all the way up to present day, musical instruments, furniture, and tools.  It was really interesting to see how some items have changed over time, and others really haven’t!


I did skip the exhibit on golfer Bobby Jones; I have just never been much into sports and I am really not into golf…  I am sure that golf enthusiasts would find it fascinating, but there are a few things that I just can’t muster up the motivation for…

I had lunch at Souper Jenny, the onsite café, and it was really good.  I had a soup and salad combo, which came with a roll and cookie.  It was so much food that I saved my roll and cookie for later and ended up eating those for dinner instead of going out.

I would have liked to see the special exhibit on the Doughboys of World War I, but I wanted to see the historic homes outside first and by the time I was finished, I was a bit worn out.  Sometimes you can’t see it all, but I will share about the center’s historic home exhibits next!

Virginia 2015: Fredericksburg Historic Homes

Day 9: Monday, October 12, 2015

Our morning in Fredericksburg started off with a tour of the Hugh Mercer Apothecary. It is restored to the 1771 period, when Hugh Mercer actually lived and worked here before joining the Revolutionary War. Mercer was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (near where some of my relatives lived) and was present at the Battle of Culloden, another place I have visited in my travels.  After living as a fugitive in his homeland, he was able to escape to America, and eventually made his way to the Virginia colony.

Hugh Mercer Apothecary - they didn't allow photos inside

Hugh Mercer Apothecary – they didn’t allow photos inside

An apothecary, if you don’t know, is a pharmacy. The druggist used a combination of proven medicine and folk remedies to treat and heal the sick. As we know now, some treatments worked, some didn’t.

Hugh Mercer owned the shop for 15 years.

Hugh Mercer owned the shop for 15 years.

The docents at the apothecary go full “period” during their tour. By that I mean, they live and breathe their roles as assistants in the centuries old apothecary. The tour starts out with a broad overview of all the various herbs and medicinal substances, from alum for cough to crab’s claw for indigestion and upset stomach. They explained the unpleasant side effects of various treatments, from exhaustion after being bled to all out poisoning from substances we know to be toxic today.

The apothecary’s docents also showed us the surgical side of the business, including several live medicinal leaches, and instruments for extracting teeth, and even doing cataract surgery. Did you know they had cataract surgery dating back to Roman times?! The surgery involved cutting the cataract away from the lens and letting it fall to the bottom of the eyeball. You were already blind by the time you got the surgery, so really, what did you have to lose? Cringe…

Sadly, Hugh Mercer died during the Revolutionary War, so he never did return to his apothecary…

I worried that Jon would be irritated by the period docents, but he listened patiently, and told me afterwards that he found the museum fascinating. I thought it was really well done, and they gave you a lot of information in an engaging way. Sadly, they didn’t allow photos inside, but I would say it is one of the best tours I have been on!

After the apothecary, we headed a couple of blocks over to visit the Mary Washington House. We got there a few minutes late for the tour, but they let us sneak in and then sit in on the beginning of the next one to catch what we missed. The house was the retirement home of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother. He bought the house for her so she could be closer to family – both his brother and sister lived in Fredericksburg.

The Mary Ball Washington House

The Mary Ball Washington House

Mary lived in the home for 17 years, before she finally died of breast cancer; between 1772 and her death in 1789. Interestingly, she was a customer of the apothecary just a few streets away.  The museum doesn’t mention when Mary’s home was built, but it was an existing home when George Washington purchased it, although he did renovate and enlarge it for his mother.

Mary Ball Washington lived here between 1772 and 1789.

Mary Ball Washington lived here between 1772 and 1789.

After Mary died, the home went through a series of owners, and was finally saved by Preservation Virginia in 1889, when there was talk of disassembling the home to ship it to the 1893 World’s Fair. What was up in the Victorian age – why were they so interested in shipping all of their historic buildings to World’s Fairs? Sigh…

At any rate, the home was saved, and visitors can see where Mary lived in the last years of her life. Most of the furnishings are period, but not hers, although they do have her beautiful mirror and some of her dishes. In the back, the original kitchen and slave quarters have been restored as well.

The kitchen of the Mary Ball Washington House - this is an original kitchen.

The kitchen of the Mary Ball Washington House – this is an original kitchen.

This was another tour with period docents, although they didn’t work as hard to remain in period. The Mary Washington House also doesn’t allow photos inside, and like the Hugh Mercer Apothecary they didn’t have postcards of the interior either! That was a disappointment.

After our two historic tours, Jon and I got lunch at a restaurant called Cantiglia’s in downtown Fredericksburg. Jon had a steak salad and I went with the more carb-loaded Chicken Parmesan Sub sandwich. It was sooooo good!