The next step, in an ongoing effort that has taken almost six years, is to send the nomination to Washington, D.C., for consideration and placement on the National Trust of Historic Places’ National Register. This final recognition, due to take place by mid-2013, will give the iconic mid-century neighborhood equal historic status with other Atlanta-area communities such as Avondale Estates and Inman Park.
One of only three surviving mid-century planned communities in Georgia, Northwoods was the vision of noted builder Walter L. Tally who began construction in 1952 on 500 acres of farmland east of Buford Highway, inside the perimeter, and within a stone’s throw today of Spaghetti Junction.
To transform the gently sloping farmland into a model neighborhood, Tally had the foresight to hire two new Georgia Tech architectural grads to design and build the planned development — Ernest Mastin and John Summer, Frank Lloyd Wright disciples inspired by the emerging mid-century style.
Through their efforts, the neighborhood grew to more than 700 homes and merged with adjoining communities of Gordon Hills, Gordon Heights, Fleetwood Hills and Sequoyah Woods to create the 1,000-home Northwoods district.
Planned unit developments, a new concept that gained popularity in post-World War II America, followed a specific blueprint: residential homes, churches, schools, parks, tennis courts, an adjoining shopping center and a professional building, a veritable “city within a city.” John Portman, a Georgia Tech classmate of Mastin and Summer, was tapped to design the two schools in Northwoods, one of his earliest projects before moving on to acclaim as a world-class architect.
The historic recognition project began as a joint effort between Georgia State University historic preservation students, under the guidance of Richard Laub, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as part of the DeKalb History Center’s DeKalb Single Family Residential Post War Development project.
Working in tandem with members of the Northwoods Area Neighborhood Association, the university students diligently surveyed the Northwoods district’s homes, buildings, schools, churches and parks, gathering historic blueprints and old photos via site visits, community meetings, and resident interviews.
“We are extremely proud of the efforts of Northwoods residents and GSU students in making this recognition a reality,” said Doraville Mayor Donna Pittman. “Northwoods has played an integral role in our city’s history and has helped the city retain its reputation as a good place to live.