When residents of Ridgedale Park talk about their neighborhood, one word that seems to come up pretty frequently is “hidden.”
They describe their community as their little private hideaway, a 110-house slice of heaven hiding almost literally in the shadows of Buckhead high rises.
“It’s kind of out of the way and quiet, but you can walk to retail,” said Michael Graff, president of the Ridgedale Park Civic Association. “You can walk to Lenox Square in 10 minutes.”
Sitting on the eastern edge of Buckhead, the nearly nine-decade-old neighborhood feels like an unhurried island surrounded by a frenzy of big city. Evening rush hour may gridlock Peachtree Road just up the hill, but here the streets are filled with joggers, kids on bikes and people walking their dogs.
“I like that it’s in the city, but we’ve still got green space and neighbors – a community,” said Susan Taylor, who sat in her front yard one recent afternoon to watch as her three sons – Clark, 9, and the twins Grant and Lane, both 7 – played soccer with Zoe Schroeder from the down the street. Periodically, the ball would roll into the street and one of the players would tear off after it and retrieve it.
“It feels very ‘neighborhoody,’” she said. “But, also, if you need to run to the grocery store, you can be there in three minutes.”
One reason is that commuter traffic has been diverted around the community. The only roads into Ridgeland Park come from Peachtree. Streets that once provided entrances from Roxboro Road have been made exits only and their traffic routed to thwart cut-through traffic.
Taylor said she and her family plan to stay in their current home only temporarily, while they complete construction of a house of their own nearby. But others among her neighbors are in for the long haul. John and Linda Matthews have lived in their home just a couple of doors away from Taylor’s for 42 years, “longer than anybody else on the street,” John Matthews said.
“It’s a pretty little neighborhood,” Matthews, a retired college history professor, said as he took one of his dogs, a King Charles spaniel named Correen, for a walk. “It’s actually in better shape now than it was 42 years ago. It’s super convenient. Despite the fact it’s close to Lenox, it’s quiet.”
The community dates back to 1927, Graff said, and the houses offer a mix of styles and sizes. Residents work to preserve the feel of the community, he said.
“We’ve all been in neighborhoods where one house is 20 feet tall and the next house is 40 feet tall and it looks terrible,” he said. “We have all tried to preserve the integrity of our neighborhood.”
That doesn’t mean the homes all stay small. Graff said he renovated his house, built in 1938, to make it spacious enough to accommodate his large family, which includes five daughters. “The real job was to make it look like it was that [large] from Day One,” he said.
A few years ago, Jennifer Schroeder’s backyard got a makeover from a television show. When she and her husband Paul told an HGTV remodeling show they wanted both a place where she could work on her painting and where they could keep chickens in the city, the show came through with a fancy coop and a fancy backyard studio.
Now her two chickens, “Biscuit” and “Nugget,” guard the yard while she paints. “Now I’m a farmer,” she said. “An artist and a farmer.”
But the little studio didn’t work for her, so she moved her art projects back inside the house and the little backyard building became, to use her words, “fantasy football heaven.” On Sunday, her husband and his friends gather to watch NFL football on several TVs posted around the building. “It’s pretty cool,” she said.
Schroeder said she grew up in Buckhead and her husband grew up in Alpharetta. When they married, “he asked if I would move to Alpharetta. I was like, ‘OK…I’ll try it.’” But when they found the house in Ridgedale Park, things seemed to fit.
“We love it here,” she said. “It’s the place Paul and I have felt the most at home. …There’s something about this neighborhood.”