An Oglethorpe University student is leading an effort to make standards for what should be included in the Buckhead Heritage Society’s wide-ranging map of historic community landmarks.
The “Buckhead Historic Treasures” map, available online at buckheadheritage.com, has more than 675 entries, from historical markers to cemeteries to notable houses. The map was made based on an ongoing survey of area historic resources that started in 2009.
“This is a project that’s been in the works for the 13 years we’ve been in existence,” said John Beach, the secretary of Buckhead Heritage.
As the map continues to grow, the college intern, Nyree Dowdy, is trying to make a standard for what should be included.
She’s been looking at the guidelines for the National Register of Historic Places and of other history societies like Buckhead Heritage as she tries to answer the question of what’s historic to one resident and what should be included on the map.
Buckhead Heritage has been making efforts to try to grow the map, including by hosting a public meeting to get input last year. The map includes hundreds of places and properties, like the Buckhead Theatre, Pace Academy and various stores and houses, some designed by famous architects.
The landmarks are broken into categories like religion, transportation, social history, architecture and black heritage.
The map was created with the goal of making the community more aware of Buckhead’s history and getting the organization’s files out of the archives.
“We’re trying to make history more actionable so we can learn from it,” Beach said.
Dowdy is also looking into ways to bring more diverse landmarks to the map, like ones tied to Native American or black history. Doing so could help more diversity to Buckhead Heritage itself, Dowdy said.
A lot of the organization’s membership is older, white men because that is who is typically interested in societies like this, but it’s not specifically what Buckhead Heritage wants, she said.
“They kind of want to dispel that image,” Dowdy said.
Dowdy, who is from Virginia, said she was interested in the internship due to her history major and background. But she has also found it’s helped her learn the city better after experiencing some “culture shock.”
She’s also learned about the city through her ambassador position at the Atlanta History Center, a museum in Buckhead that recently opened a revamped and restored “Battle of Atlanta” Cyclorama exhibit. As part of her position, she occasionally gives the speech about the history of the painting to visitors.
Beach said Buckhead Heritage has had conversations about how to be more inclusive, and that the interns “bring new, fresh and diverse ideas to how we do things.”
Buckhead Heritage has had several interns over the years, and found Dowdy through an experiential learning program at Oglethorpe, which is located in Brookhaven, Beach said.
At a Feb. 19 community meeting to solicit more historic entries from the Garden Hills, Peachtree Heights East and Peachtree Hills neighborhoods, Beach discussed some of the ways the society hopes to diversify its database. It may add entries for individual trees that predate the 1821 forced displacement of Native Americans from the area, he said. He also said the group is rethinking the notion of who counts as a significant local figure for historical mention, noting that many Americans may know Buckhead best from watching Phaeda Parks, the former star of the reality TV series “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Virginia Groves Beach, John Beach’s mother, at the meeting recalled some dramatic moments on Garden Hills’ Rumson Road, where she grew up. The family that owned downtown’s Winecoff Hotel, scene of the U.S.’s deadliest hotel fire in 1946, lived on the street and residents held a candlelight vigil in the yard after the blaze, she recalled. She also recounted a 1930s incident where the Ku Klux Klan “came down the street like an army” to intimidate or possibly harm someone in an apartment building; the KKK was long headquartered at what is now the Christ the King Cathedral complex.
The program, called the Atlanta Lab for Learning, or, more commonly, the A-Lab, seeks to connect students with real-world career experience. Beth Concepción, who leads the A-Lab, was Dowdy’s advisor and knew her interests well, so Concepción connected her to the Buckhead Heritage internship, she said.
The A-Lab also pairs students with other area groups like the Peachtree Creek Greenway and Dresden Elementary school, both in Brookhaven, Concepción said.
“I want to be the bridge, the matchmaker, between nonprofits and organizations and our campus,” she said.
–John Ruch contributed