They were participating in the summer ritual that served as the precursor to the Vinings we know today. In another photo in Susan Kendall’s new book, “Vinings; Images of America,” two men dressed in suits paddle a canoe on the Chattahoochee River. Before Cashiers and Highlands, N.C., the summer destination of choice for well-to-do Atlantans was Vinings.
As hard as it is to imagine anyone living in the South before the advent of air conditioning, more than 30,000 people called Fulton County home, according to U.S. Census data from 1870. Most lived in and around downtown Atlanta. My great-great-great grandfather Alfred Austell’s home was on Marietta Street a hundred or so yards from Five Points, for example. With Reconstruction in full swing following the War Between the States, the city was under constant construction, literally rising from the ashes of the fires set by the Union Army and Gen. William T. Sherman following the Battle of Atlanta.
Adding to the misery of basically living inside a 100-degree damp rag during the summer months, the city was covered in dirt, dust and grime resulting from the constant rebuilding, the railroads and the traffic, which in this case meant horses and horse-drawn carriages.
Atlanta was a miserable place during the dog days of summer. It’s no wonder most Atlantans set up on their porches, sipping lemonade, unable to move except to raise the glass to their lips lest they spontaneously combust.
About 10 miles up the Western & Atlantic Railroad Line was a paradise in the woods along the banks of the Chattahoochee River with natural springs and large pavilions for dances. On Sundays, groups made up of the city’s upper class would cool off in the shade of the many trees, drink ice-cold water from the natural springs and make a day out of picnicking in Vinings. The invitations were formal and one of the groups, calling itself the Every Tuesday Club, was chaperoned by the governor’s wife.
In 1904, a one-lane bridge was constructed across the Chattahoochee on Paces Ferry Road, allowing people with automobiles access to the community. Soon after, Atlantans began building their summer homes in Vinings, as it was an easy drive from the city to the country.
Over time antique stores and eclectic shops popped up along the main thoroughfare and the well-heeled travelers spent less time picnicking and more time hunting for antiques among the small unique shops.
Vinings is still an escape maintaining its small-town ambiance while sandwiched between Buckhead and Marietta. While the springs have been covered as a result of development, it continues to be one of the great places to spend a lazy afternoon.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.