Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Its an odd activity

 this touring houses and gardens, looking at other people's views from their windows, listening to the repetitive patter of the docents as more tourists enter, judging art, chotzkes, and taste. It's an even odder activity allowing your house to be toured. We did it and, having overheard many an, usually generous, interpretation of our home, it took a while afterwards for the place to feel as if it were ours again, at least for me.

It was very agreeable to see one of the less grand Philip Shutze houses from within and understand the humane proportions of the spaces, especially when compared to the massive (10,000 square feet) ell attached to the side - to my critical eye, a disappointingly modern extension of 21st century proportions, atinkle with all the requirements of contemporary living: factory finishes, prettily muntined windows, stacked-stone external fireplaces, large swimming pool and a plethora of closet space. That's one of the surprises about older houses, the paucity of closets.

Nonetheless, however odd the activity, it is pleasant to be the tourist, to stand overlooking the garden below and chat with a preservationist about spring houses, ice houses, and a long-dead ice industry that suppled ice from the Great Lakes to cool the quinine-laden drinks of the 19th century Raj. Pleasant to talk to a man, a collector of art so varied I'm not going to try to catalogue it, about one simple, black-and-white photograph he took thirty years ago from the top of the building I live in, redolent of a time when this city that prides itself on its trees was even more bosky than today.

The house below, where in the past, President Franklin Roosevelt as a friend and classmate of the first owner came to visit, seen from the garden front and the motor court, is a Neel Reid house - Neel Reid being Atlanta's other famous Classicist, who died young, and depending on the author of the book gets credit for some of Shutze's work and vice-versa. In the hands of these men, not the only Classicists of this city, Classicism was returned to its pre-Beaux-Arts phase when proportions were human scale and not related to the grandeur of absolutism - architecturally correct but imaginatively drawn temples in the trees, temples to taste and the culture of the South to which the capitals of Europe in their time belonged.


  1. What a great day it was. My legs are still feeling the hikes up those driveways. I enjoyed being in those homes where I'd never be invited otherwise.

    The Shutze house - the original part - made me feel the best. I liked being in those rooms. I understood how the house worked without thinking. Grand yet humane.

    The room they couldn't get me out of was the yellow room in the Black house. My daughter couldn't take the overload, I thought that I couldn't see everything even if I'd stayed the whole afternoon.

  2. The Shutze house was quietly beautiful. The Black house was wonderfully decorated but only in part to my taste - I prefer a simpler environment. My favourite room was the one that had been a screen porch but now was a sunroom overlooking the garden.

  3. I'm with you on the sun room. Need that room and the garden to catch your breath.

    I'm still thinking about your own home on tour. We did it in 1989 and the experience is still with us. Having Holly and Clair over last month to see it in 'lived-in' condition was a "whole 'nother thing."