East Lake

Another area of distinction is the East Lake neighborhood.  Known for the East Lake Golf Course and Country Club and the Drew Charter School, East Lake is filled with old houses, many of which are restored.  
Atlanta had 25 years of resurgence after the Civil War, at the dawn of the 1890’s. Economic prosperity was high with the restructuring of the new south, and the newly wealthy were seeking the good life and a break from the hardships that had proceeded the present period. The central city was highly polluted with smog from the many coal furnaces of industry and business, as well as the daily use of wood-fired cooking in residences. At this time, Atlanta saw the start its first suburb, Inman Park, springing up just two miles east of downtown to allow those who could afford it escape the problems of the city. Many folks found the way and means for leisure time and a number of entertainment forms of the day appeared. The most notable of these was the number of artesian spring gardens and man-made lakes that were built outside of the city. They all boasted the clearest, cleanest water, its healing powers, and entertainment pavilions that would provide opportunities for dance, drink and song. Family entertainment was in its birth and romance had always been on the wing.

At this time Mr. Bruce, the owner of one of Atlanta’s many streetcar companies, saw the opportunity that the times provided and searched for the right piece of land that would fulfill this new entertainment need. He discovered a farm called Meadow Nook five miles to the east of downtown and its owner, the widow of Col. Robert Alston, who had fallen on hard times after the death of her husband. The land of rolling hills and a valley with two creeks and five-spring watershed had the potential of becoming a dammed lake. The East Lake Land Company was formed and the property purchased from the widow Alston. In 1891 the marsh was cleared and a dam built to retain the water. East Lake is acre for acre the same today as it was the day it was built. The company’s ideas were as grand as the day. Subdivide the property around the lake into very small lots on one side, medium and large lots on the other, with larger tracks set aside for hotels, school, and mercantile. All of this was to be overlooked by a large dance and entertainment pavlalion on the crest of the hill where the clubhouse sits today.

The East Lake Land Company wanted an environment that the average Atlantan to the wealthiest Atlantan could buy and build a cottage, and also wanted to cater to the tourist trade that had come south for the warm weather in locations like Litha Springs, GA and Tallulah Gorge, GA. The East Lake Land Company in its original subdivision laid out no less than 22 streets in the area that we know today from the streets of Glenwood to Memorial, Allendale to Second. Some street names were chosen with an entertainment theme as others were named as ego booster to the board of directors and investors. Many of those names are still in place today. Mr. Bruce’s streetcar line was completed from downtown, along the eastern railroad line through Kirkwood, GA and south down what is currently East Lake Drive to the pavilion at the lake.

The large pavilion was built, along with a beach, boathouses, several gazebos, lawn bowling and badminton courts. Lots started to sell as well as the model cottages built on the edge of the lake, as an example of the community’s future. During later years, as the golf course was built and redesigned three different times, a number of foundations of these homes have been found spread throughout the club property. No one is sure as to the number of cottages built, but the complete title search of the property in 1994, from the 1821 Georgia Land Lottery for DeKalb County till today, proved extensive due to the number of lots sold to individuals in the 1890’s. Today only one of these original cottages still exists. It is located on Daniel Avenue, across from the East Lake Park. It is owned and protected by Dorothy Blake, one of East Lake’s long time matrons. My best guess is it was built in 1894, but research is still needed.

East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta’s first country club, began as an extension of the Atlanta Athletic Club. In the early 1900’s, the Atlanta Athletic Club was located downtown on Auburn Avenue. Members wanted a place in the country where they could relax, enjoy fresh air, play tennis and practice the sport of golf, which was relatively new to the United States at that time. In 1904, the club’s president George Adair bought an amusement park located on 187 acres of land around East Lake and began plans for the country club.

The original golf course opened in 1905 with just seven holes, an interim boat and bath house, and a few tennis courts. Soon, the first clubhouse, designed by Harry Leslie Walker, was built, and the golf course was expanded to eighteen holes by noted golf course architect Tom Bendelow. This was the course where Bobby Jones learned to play. When Jones was a young boy, his family rented a house during golf season on club property. Prior to its renovation as a summer home, the property had originally housed the livestock used to pull the fairway mowers.

By 1913, the neighborhood of East Lake was growing rapidly, as was the popularity of the game of golf, and a new golf course was designed by Scottish golf course architect Donald Ross. During construction of the new course in 1914, the existing clubhouse burned to the ground. Architect Walter Danning designed a larger and more luxurious structure to accommodate the ever increasing number of members and guests of the club.

This building remained for more than ten years until it also burned in late 1925. The clubhouse was immediately redesigned by noted Atlanta architect Philip Shutze of the firm of Heintz, Reid and Adler, as a three story English Tudor style building of brick and cast stone. This new clubhouse, which constitutes the basic architecture of today's structure, featured more dining space and men's locker rooms on the second story. Due to the great number of golfers around the early 1930's, a second golf course, also designed by Donald Ross, was constructed across Second Avenue from the club's main property. In the years of prosperity following completion of the Shutze clubhouse and second golf course, several additions and renovations were undertaken, including enclosing the open-air dining terrace and adding a wing which housed new men's locker rooms, a golf shop, and grill room. Above this wing was a new concrete terrace overlooking the lake where visitors could dine and dance outdoors in pleasant weather.

By the 1950's, members who resided north of town began expressing a desire for a new country club closer to their homes. However, since a large number of members still lived in and around Decatur, this idea was not well received by all. After some debate, it was decided not to move the country club. As a compromise, the clubhouse was again renovated and the main golf course expanded by George W. Cobb. It was at this time that East Lake Country Club enjoyed its highest patronage.

As integration took place in the 1960's, racial tensions rose around Atlanta, and many white residents moved north out of the city and out of East Lake. With membership waning and vandalism on the rise as a result, the Atlanta Athletic Club sold the Number 2 golf course to fund construction of Riverbend, a country club in Duluth by the Chattahoochee River. The old course was rezoned for a housing development which eventually became East Lake Meadows. Although the Atlanta Athletic Club paid to have the existing clubhouse completely redecorated, and food and services improved, there simply were not enough paying members to sustain the country club as it had once been. The Athletic Club sold East Lake Golf Club to a group of 25 former members, including Paul Grisby, who miraculously held onto the club through difficult financial times and inhospitable social conditions until 1994, when Tom Cousins established Cousins Family Foundation to acquire the property.

East Lake Meadows, which had become poverty stricken, drug-infested and dangerous, was torn down by the Cousins Foundation to make way for the Villages at East Lake, a mixed income housing development including a nine hole public golf course on the site of the original Number 2 golf course. Cousins also saw to the complete restoration of the East Lake clubhouse using Philip Shutze's architectural drawings of 1926. In addition, the golf course was restored to Donald Ross' original layout from 1914, which has since been the site of several PGA tours as well as other nationally and internationally known golf tournaments. By 1998, East Lake Golf Club was again architecturally magnificent and became the foundation for an unparalleled project to revitalize an urban neighborhood using successful suburban models and corporate contributions. East Lake Golf Club now stands as an internationally recognized architectural landmark for East Lake and the southeastern U.S., and acts as an anchor for a neighborhood where businesses are opening and thriving, old homes are being renovated, and new homes are being built. Amenities Include :Kirkwood's Bessie Branham Park (with community cyber center); Wesley Coan Park; East Lake Park; Charlie Yates Public Golf Course; East Lake Family YMCA; Atlanta-Fulton Public Library (Kirkwood Branch); The Path; Shoal Creek Park; Mark Trail Park and Recreation Center; South DeKalb Mall; The Mall at Stonecrest

Some Information provided by http://www.eastlake.org/

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