Brief History of The Fischer Mansion
I began this web site around 1999 as part of a walking tour of Atlanta Unity Church which owned the property for many years. I was an active church member and board member, and this was a labor of love, not just for the Fischer Mansion but for the church, the stately hardwood trees, the creek... I no longer update these pages, but thought I would update to say that in 2016, Valerie Biggerstaff is writing a book about Brookhaven history, and the Fischer Mansion will be included!
Located just inside I-285, it faces Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Nancy Creek, and the grounds once included the land now occupied by D'Youville Condominium and Atlanta Unity Church. The brick front porch features two story white columns, a wrought iron railing and graceful curving staircases on either side of the porch leading to the front lawn.
The rear drive of the Mansion (1999)
The interior hall features beautiful crystal chandeliers and Persian rugs, and runs from the front of the house to the back. In 1999, the home retains much of it's original detail in the magnificent carved mantels, hardwood plank and tile floors, and original art deco bath fixtures.
In the early 1800s the land dominated by the Creek Indians for centuries was acquired by the government and opened to white settlers. The property on which the Fischer Mansion stands was granted in 1824 by Governor George M. Troup to John Barrette of Hall County. Little is known about John Barrette or his immediate successor, but both were homesteaders who farmed the land for several years, sold it at public auction, and moved on.
In the 1880's William R. Wallace farmed most of its 1100 acres but cut a small portion of timber acreage for a saw mill, where he cut and crafted the finest furniture around.
The Wallace estate was divided among the seven children. John, the eldest, received the homestead site and held onto it until 1925, when it was sold to the Fischers.
The area north of Chamblee, along a stretch of Old Chamblee Dunwoody Road where Nancy Creek spun a long loop through the valley, was chosen by Dr. Luther Fischer, prominent physician and co-founder of Atlanta’s Crawford W. Long Hospital, and his wife, Lucy Hurt Fischer, as the site for their new home.
Luther Fischer was born around 1873. He attended the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons, selling Coca Cola syrup all over the state to finance his studies, and graduating in 1899. After post-graduate studies in Europe, he returned to Atlanta where he married Lucy Hurt, daughter of Dr. C. D. Hurt and niece of Joel Hurt. Lucy Hurt was a descendant of Crawford Long who discovered anesthesia.
On October 21, 1908, Dr. Fischer opened the Davis-Fischer Sanitarium with his former teacher, Dr. Edward C. Davis. Three years later, they moved the hospital to its present site, bounded by Peachtree Street, West Peachtree Street, Linden Avenue, and Pine Street. In 1931 it was renamed Crawford W. Long Hospital.Dr. Fischer was devoted to his wife (said to have been an invalid), and it is said that he planted the six acres of gardens and built the mansion overlooking them, entirely out of his love for her. They called their estate ‘Flowerland,’ and it was extraordinary. The landscaping along the creek was breathtaking with the old water wheel restored and a wooden bridge to stroll across, but the rose garden remained Miss Lucy’s favorite.
The New Rose Garden (1999)
The beauty of her roses was known throughout the region and many Georgians still recall those Sunday afternoons hitching up the old buggy or piling into the shiny Ford to visit Flowerland. Flowerland was open to the public on weekends. The family of Tom Reilly, member of Atlanta Unity Church, has lived in this area for several generations, and his mother actually visited them in the year 1935.
The Fischers must have been a very generous couple as there were many social gatherings. At the height of the rose season, the Fischers were the most hospitable people in Atlanta, opening the gates to their little kingdom for literally hundreds of visitors. (Painting by George Parrish, Jr.)
But with the death of Miss Lucy those golden days passed away. The big house grew dark and the gardens were rained away. In time, Dr. Fischer married again and the house was put up for sale. Some say that Miss Lucy still haunts the corridors she knew so well. " I’ve felt a ghostly presence twice myself, very strongly, on the west garden trail and on the grand staircase just at twilight," says Tom Reilly.The Carriage House 1999
During World War II buyers for such a large estate were hard to come by, but fortunately the Lee family, new to the region, fell in love with the place, purchased it and restored the big house and the gardens.
The Lees were quiet people but once in awhile they polished the grounds and strung up the lanterns for some gay affair...a garden party or debutante ball.
Franie Tye Lee was first married to Texas oil man, H. L. Hunt, in 1925. Nine years and four children later, she discovered that he was already married with a family. She received a settlement for herself and each of her children, with the promise that she would never make any future claims on Mr. Hunt. Twelve days later she married Hunt Oil Company employee and army colonel, John W. Lee. They moved to Ft. Benning, Georgia, and then, right after World War II, purchased Flowerland Estate.
Mrs. Lee was a well known art patron in Atlanta. Her daughter Helen Cartledge and son-in-law were among 101 Atlantans who died in the 1962 crash of the Air France near Paris. Mrs. Lee funded the construction of the 700-seat theater, now known as Center Stage Theater, in her daughter's memory.
When her children were grown and Mrs. Lee was left alone, her beautiful domain, once a source of strength and tranquility, became a burden. For years she had dreamed of establishing a Catholic school for girls in the community. In 1957 she sold the property to the Catholic Church for a minimal sum. D’Youville Academy (named after Mary Margaret D’Youville who founded the Canadian order of Grey Nuns) was established on the 48 acres and supervised by the Order of Grey Nuns.
Tom Reilly's sister, Elaine, was a student there. "She told me that the classes were on the ground floor while the nuns used most of the second floor for a convent. Many times I’ve driven my 1965 Plymouth up that old driveway to pick up my sister after school. One of my fondest memories is of Elaine’s graduation day at D’Youville: all the students were lined up across the bridge that then spanned the waterfall, dressed in evening ball gowns, warmed by our applause."
The school grew solidly, adding classrooms and students of high ability. But, even as D’Youville was gaining recognition as a fine, private school, rising costs made it close its doors, and Mrs. Lee’s dream faded away.
In 1977 Atlanta Unity Church acquired the property and the mansion housed church services, Sunday school, church offices and the bookstore until the new sanctuary building was completed in 1985.
The building has been used for dinners, receptions, workshops and classes. The Rose Garden often is used for outdoor weddings and other celebrations. The Memory Garden is located on the edge of the front lawn, overlooking Nancy Creek and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
Many native Atlantans recall visiting Flowerland Mansion as children. Here are memories and background information submitted by, County Coordinator of the DeKalb County GAGenWeb and State Coordinator of the GAGenWeb Project (used with her permission):
"I can remember when I was a little girl piling into the old Chevy (my family never owned Fords) on Easter Sunday and getting in line on Chamblee Dunwoody to see the azaleas. My brother is in the landscape business, and he has long had a dream to re-do the gardens.
" That property has quite a history behind it. William Wallace was a Confederate soldier, and allowed the property to be used for a staging area and various meetings. The property is noted on both Confederate and Union maps of the era. The family sold off much of the land, of course, but Gordon Wallace lived near the Fisher place until he died a few years ago.
"After the Roswell Railroad was built, several of the Wallaces moved 'into town' (Chamblee). I live about two miles from the Fisher place, and have done a good bit of research on the Wallace family."
Sources: Original marketing brochure for the opening of D'Youville Condominium, interviews with Tom Reilly, Vivian Saffold, and others, original published history of Atlanta Unity Church, Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about Frania Tye Lee, and Atlanta architectural web sites and Crawford Long Hospital histories listed below. Thanks also to Annette H. who visited the Atlanta Historical Society, located the original blueprints, and identified the architects. All photographs on these pages were taken by Pat Sabin, and may be used only with permission.
You'll find LINKS below to photographs and additional information about the architects, the Fischer-Hurt families, and historic preservation in Georgia.
1999 - The back of the Fischer Mansion with the original slate roof
UPDATES ON THE FISCHER MANSION
ON JUNE 8, 2011, THE LUTHER C. AND LUCY HURT FISCHER HOUSE WAS ADDED TO THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES.
In 2005 Stafford Properties purchased the property from Atlanta Unity Church (which relocated to the Peachtree Corners area). Stafford Properties is building upscale townhomes and the Mansion as four separate units with the center hall and grand staircase intact. In 2006 the Fischer Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In December 2007, the Fischer Mansion has been completely renovated and divided into four spacious and fully updated luxurious condominiums with stunning views of Nancy Creek. Stafford Properties has done a remarkable job of maintaining the integrity of the original plan while offering enormous condominium homes fully updated. The carriage house is now a club room for residents, and a swimming pool has been installed. The grounds are lovely, and new upscale town homes are under construction. Please visit WWW.FISHERMANSION.COM for details.
In December 2007 we were invited by STAFFORD PROPERTIES to a holiday open house at the Fischer Mansion. It was clear to all of us who attended that this is a true rebirth of a historic landmark. God bless all of those people who worked unfailingly to save and restore this building, and bless the new owners whose love of each other and the Fischer Mansion will be woven into the fabric of this home.
On the night of the event, I stood in the driveway where I have stood so many times before, gazing at the brightly lit home surrounded by festivity, gazing up at the starlit winter sky, and was almost transported to a night when there may have been just such a party in the 1930s or 40s or 50s. The photo to the right was taken just before dusk on that December night. in 2007.
The stately Fischer Mansion was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Hentz, Edward and Shutze (formerly Hentz, Reid and Adler), and the original blueprints are on file at the Atlanta Historical Society. Structures credited to the architects of this firm, Hal F. Hentz, Neel Reid, Philip Shutze, and Rudolph S. Adler include many famous Atlanta landmarks including THE SWAN HOUSE. The property, formerly owned by Atlanta Unity Church, has been redeveloped as upscale townhomes, and the current owner, Stafford Properties, is working to have the Fisher Mansion listed on the National Register through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division.
I first visited Atlanta Unity Church in 1986, a year after the sanctuary building was completed and became a member in 1987. For many, many years it was my second home, and I served on the Board of Trustees at the time that we voted to restore the mansion and to give it its own identity back by calling it the Fischer Mansion. That was quite a debate. In the beginning, I believe it was eight to one (the one being me) to call it the Atlanta Unity Mansion. I have to give a lot of credit to Sharon Budnik for her vision, because it drove the effort in 1999 to begin restoration and find a way for the mansion to be self supporting.
Losing our beloved church campus was an enormous tragedy for many of us former church members, but losing the Fischer Mansion would have been a far worse for Atlanta. I applaud all of those, including Stafford Properties, The Save The Mansion group (Clifton Mack, Tom Reilly, the Hensens and so many more), and others who refused to give up. For many of those folks it became engrossing journey through the history of the Fischer Mansion. Thank you!
"In this very room, there's quite enough love for all the world" December 2007
From "In This Very Room" by Ron Harris
RELATED LINKS (I do not check this links often)
Atlanta's SWAN HOUSENational Register of Historic Places - Clickable US Map
Buckhead Architecture (Philip T. Shutze)
The Tuxedo House (Buckhead)
Rich's Department Store (Philip Shutze)
Academy of Medicine (Philip Shutze)
Philip Shutze, Architect
Neel Reid, Architect
Hentz, Reid and Adler
90 Years of Crawford Long Hospital (Dr. Luther Fischer)
Emory Crawford Long Hospital History
Handbook of Texas Online - Haroldson LaFayette (H.L.) Hunt
(Many sites in metro Atlanta!)
Historic Preservation, Travel, and You (interesting article!)
Radium Springs in Albany
1920's Casino Destroyed But Not Forgotten
Quote from Atlanta Architect and Georgia Tech alumni James L. "Bill" Finch: ""People have a tendency to associate progress with big over small, and new over old. They don't hesitate to take down some old building that has substantial character and is perhaps worth saving from a design standpoint or historical standpoint. Not if they can tear that down and build something five times as large that will return five times as much money. That's not peculiar to Atlanta." (from the Georgia Tech Alumni bulletin, 1998).
Background image by Jaycards