When Lisa Martinez agreed to plan Historic Brookhaven’s annual street party, she didn’t realize she’d inherit decades of notes detailing committee assignments and potluck dishes.
But that’s the kind of neighborhood Historic Brookhaven is.
At 103 years old, the community has developed traditions that make something as seemingly mundane as a neighborhood get-together into a well-orchestrated civic affair.
Martinez, president-elect of the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association, said it was the friendliness of the neighborhood that made her fall in love with it even before she moved in six years ago.
“I always found myself driving around Historic Brookhaven,” Martinez said. “It was beautiful, all the houses were different. The streets were wide, everybody still waved at each other.”
And Martinez said the neighborhood has proven to be a great place to raise her 9-year old twins.
“There’s a rebirth of young kids and family and community,” Martinez said. “Everybody knows each other and people walk around and visit.”
There are about 900 homes on 46 streets in the Historic Brookhaven neighborhood. The community is split with 2/3 in the city of Atlanta in Fulton County and 1/3 in the new city of Brookhaven in DeKalb County.
At the center of the neighborhood is the golf course of the prestigious Capital City Country Club.
According to the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association, the community was the first in the state to be designed around a golf course. When it opened in 1912, the Brookhaven Country Club was Atlanta’s second golf course. The Capital City Club purchased the Brookhaven Country Club in 1915 and expanded the course from nine to 18 holes.
The Brookhaven Estates Company sold land around the club and, by 1928, there were 19 houses surrounding the club, the association says. Development continued over the years, and several prominent architects designed homes in the area. The neighborhood has been on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1985.
Residents love their community’s long history. Neighborhood association President Frank Clementi’s home dates to 1929. Martinez said her house is built on land that was once owned by Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield. Residents are so proud of their community that some objected to sharing its name when the new city of Brookhaven was created by the state Legislature last year.
People from outside Historic Brookhaven love the lush lawns and historic homes, too. Houses in the neighborhood are often used as venues for fundraisers and movie studios regularly use the neighborhood as a location for filming. “They love the diversity of the neighborhood, the different architectural styles, the big lots and big trees,” Clementi said.
Recently, the movies “Life As We Know It” and “Hall Pass” were filmed in the neighborhood. And Clementi said his kitchen is being considered as the set of a commercial.
Clementi said Historic Brookhaven is home to people in all stages of life. There are people who grew up in the neighborhood who now want to move back and raise their own families there.
One Historic Brookhaven family has been in the neighborhood for four generations, he said.
Martinez said some residents love the neighborhood so much that they will move to a new house just a few blocks away.
“They might move, but many of them move within the neighborhood because they don’t want to leave the neighborhood. Nobody wants to move,” she said. “Many of our houses sell without even going on the market.”
The Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association is not your average homeowners association. Run by a 14-member board, the organization keeps watch over zoning and transportation issues in two counties in addition to replacing pillars at the entrances to the neighborhood and hosting welcome parties for new neighbors.
“I think there’s a real passion on the board that really cares,” Clementi said. “There’s so much going on here — like development — that we need to take an active role.”
Despite being more than a century old, there is an ephemeral quality about Historic Brookhaven.
“Many neighborhoods go through ebbs and flows and cycles,” Martinez said.
“Here, you have a neighborhood that has been pretty active for 103 years.”