The Best part of owning an historic home, is well the history, and 688 Peeples has plenty. I have attached an article written by Lee May, one of 688 Peeples St.'s former owners, which details the rich history of the West End and the residence. Enjoy.
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
April 29, 1994 Section: HOME & GARDEN Edition: The Atlanta Journal Constitution Page: F/1
Unearthing facts about erstwhile residents ups home's allure
By Lee May
Columnist Lee May writes: Ever since we moved to southwest Atlanta's West End five years ago, Lyn and I have wondered about those who lived before us - long before us - in our home, built in 1890. What were their names? What did they do for a living? What were their favorite parts of the house? Did they entertain a lot? How long did a family stay? Was the house a one-family dwelling, or two? And what kind of gardens did they have? Like an amateur archaeologist on a fun dig, I trekked to the Atlanta History Center in search of scraps of information about the people who have lived in our house through the years.
Ever since we moved to southwest Atlanta's West End five years ago, Lyn and I have wondered about those who lived before us - long before us - in our home, built in 1890. What were their names? What did they do for a living? What were their favorite parts of the house? Did they entertain a lot? How long did a family stay? Was the house a one-family dwelling, or two? And what kind of gardens did they have?
These and a million other questions have surfaced as we've sat in this old home, eyeing the listing floors and hearing them creak when our 15-pound cat, Calvin, waddles from one of the 10 or so rooms to another.
Of course, not all these questions could be answered, but I was delighted at what I did learn at the center - with a lot of help from Tammy Galloway, manuscript archivist, who helped me leaf through pages and pages of street directories. And, as a bonus, Ted Ryan, visual arts archivist, provided me with a copy of a poster (on exhibit at the center) announcing the May 9, 1883, auction of our lot and 10 others on Peeples Street. Ours is labeled No. 9, located near the intersection with Baugh Street, now Oglethorpe Avenue.
The poster, distributed by auctioneer C.W. Adair, notes that the properties car line running down Gordon Street (now Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard), that the area had "pleasant neighbors, good water, good titles and good schools" and that the lots were "just the spots for nice, small cottages." Those attending the auction were promised a free ride on the streetcar and "a cool drink of mineral water from the celebrated Stanton Springs near by."
Terms of the sales were cash, except for one lot with an existing dwelling. That one was offered for half cash immediately, with half financed at 8 percent. So began our home. Someone bought our lot that day, or maybe later, and built a two-story Queen Anne Victorian in 1890 in West End, a suburban community that wouldn't join Atlanta until the turn of the century.
The year 1905 was the first in which Galloway and I found the house listed in the Atlanta street directory. Price E. Allison and his wife, Alice V., were the residents. His occupation was listed as "electrical supplies." By 1910 he had moved to Ivy Street and was working as a "mgr." The electrical connection made me wonder if Mr. Allison had installed any special, wonderful electrical gadgets or superwiring in the house. Or was he like so many of us who dislike doing personally what we do professionally, like the auto mechanic who never repairs his own car?
In 1906 Benjamin and Hortense Ulmer were in the house. The directory said he was editor of Southern States Publishing Co., information that resonated with the writer in me. But what did his company publish? And did he work at home? What kind of desk did he have? In which room? Did his children always interrupt him just as he was about to write that great thought that he could never quite retrieve in its original greatness? In any case, some four years later, Mr. Ulmer went on to the car business, according to the directory, working at Seldon Car Co. of Georgia.
In subsequent years, our house was home to James L. Murphy, a railroad vice president; Robert Freeman, a chief clerk at Liquid Carbonic Co.; Fred A. Raleigh, a salesman; and by 1927 Walter D. Marshall, a civil engineer, and his wife, Renee.
It was in the 1927 directory that the current Peeples Street addresses first appeared, our block having been renumbered from the 200s to the 600s. It was also at this point that I realized how many people have lived in our home. That Carole King song that asks, "Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?" could have been written 100 years ago.
I continued to look through the names and the occupations, finding in the 1930s a Boy Scout executive and a clerk for the Federal Reserve.
Then, in 1960, I saw the ravages of time, as two women were listed, one a widow. Did she lose her husband after a long marriage, or did he die young, maybe in an accident? It may have been coincidence, but the names were the same as those of some 1920s residents, indicating that the widow and her husband may have moved and rented out the house for many years.
Local historians say time also took its toll on the houses in West End in the 1960s, wearing many of the Victorian dwellings down to a nub as absentee owners failed to keep them repaired. History continues to repeat itself.
And history continues to intrigue. What we have learned about our home has only whetted our archaeological/detective appetites. "I want to know more and more and more," Lyn said the other night, as we pored over old maps of neighborhood properties.
We are not alone. Galloway says digging for facts on residences is "a real popular thing" at the Atlanta History Center library. "A lot of people want to restore them, duplicating the original gingerbread, for instance. So they're looking for anything that will help return their homes to their heyday."
We have already fought the physical restoration wars, living through what seemed a lifetime of knocked-down walls, stripped-down floors and lowdown contractors. Thus, this quest was a spiritual one; we wanted to restore some memories. We have made a start. Color photo: In digging through old street directories at the Atlanta History Center, Lee May (left) - here with neighbor Wade Burns - learned that former owners of his West End home included a railroad vice president and an editor./ DIANNE LAAKSO / Staff
Photo: An 1883 auction poster shows the site of Lee May's house: lot No. 9.
Copyright 1994 The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution