Historic designation of Emory property remains uncertain

The status of Emory property included in a proposed Druid Hills Historic District remains uncertain after a June 25 voted by the DeKalb County Commission.

The county commission action follows a June 4 vote by the DeKalb Historic Preservation Commission to recommend approval of a Druid Hills Historic District as nominated by the Druid Hills Civic Association (DHCA), but without significant portions of Emory property included in the original nomination. Those Emory properties include the flood plain area on the east bank of Peavine Creek on the west side of campus, and the Burlington Road Building/Performing Arts Studio and a significant portion of the Haygood triangle (bounded by Haygood Drive, North Decatur Road and Ridgewood Drive) on the east side of campus. Emory owns several parcels in the Haygood triangle, but a number of individual homeowners also reside there.

While Emory favors the designation of a historic district for the central area of Druid Hills south of North Decatur Road, the University opposes including Emory property in the district because its residential orientation conflicts with Emory's institutional character, and because the properties in question have no historic significance.

The county commission voted to adopt the proposed district without the Emory property, as amended by the Historic Preservation Commission. Following that vote, however, Commissioner Judy Yates made a motion to remand the two parcels to the Historic Preservation Commission for further study and a new recommendation. The commission voted 5-2 in favor of Yates' motion. Commissioners Elaine Boyer and Bill Brown voted against it.

"I would like the Historic Preservation Commission to comment further on the historic significance of the [Haygood triangle] and of individual buildings within the area," Yates said. "[Atlanta historian] Franklin Garrett has written about the Tufts House (an Emory-owned structure on Ridgewood Drive that houses Campus Planning and Construction) and the Hardeman-Howell cabin, which appears to be the oldest building in Druid Hills." Yates, a former DHCA member, said she would like the Historic Preservation Commission to offer a recommendation on whether the Haygood triangle should be preserved as a historic area.

Applying such standards of historic preservation to the Haygood triangle would be inappropriate, according to Jim Stokes, an attorney with Alston & Byrd who represented Emory during the public hearing portion of the county commission meeting. Stokes told the board that North Decatur Road acts as a natural boundary between the office and institutional properties on the east side of campus and the nearby residential area. He said that neither the Burlington Road Building/Performing Arts Studio nor the Haygood triangle are included on the National Register of Historic Places and that including them in the Druid Hills district would be contrary to the principles of historic preservation.

In addition to Stokes, a resident of the Haygood triangle also expressed opposition to the neighborhood being included in the historic district because the area is not historic in character.

The process for reconsideration of the two Emory-related parcels by both the Historic Preservation Commission and the DeKalb County Commission should take no more than 60 days.

--Dan Treadaway

Return to the July 15, 1996 contents page