The steel and glass towers that make up downtown and midtown Atlanta are fairly close to one another with barely a gap separating them. But over to the right, looking from that vantage point is another crop of skyscrapers. This is Buckhead. A few other groupings are visible — the area around Perimeter Mall, the Cumberland Mall area near Interstates 75 and 285, but what really jumps out is “why?”
Why did Atlanta grow the way it did?
The answer in the case of Buckhead can be traced to the Collier family.
Twin brothers Meredith Collier and Merrell Collier came to the Atlanta area in the early 1800s. Merrell acquired land on the South River while his brother acquired a great deal of land along Peachtree Creek. The latter is important in and of itself from a real estate perspective, but the fact that Meredith Collier and his wife Elizabeth had 14 children is equally significant. Several would become Atlanta’s leading residents in adulthood and the deaths of two of these children would lead to the fall of the Northside “wall.”
Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett doesn’t say in his history of the city, “Atlanta and Environs,” whether the property held by the father is the same that came to his two sons, George Washington Collier and Wesley Gray Collier. For the purposes of this column I will infer that the three land holdings are the same, whether they inherited the land from their father’s estate or they expanded those holdings out of familiarity, having grown up in the area. George Washington Collier owned all of the land that is now Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest, while his younger brother owned 500 acres that would become much of early Buckhead.
George Washington Collier was one of the first postmasters of Atlanta, then Marthasville. In fact he was the postmaster when the name changed, a charter that was drawn by another brother, John Collier. He lived on 202 acres in the vicinity of what is Ansley Park today. As the postmaster he was also an early real estate developer, buying land and erecting a post office in the northeast corner of Peachtree and Decatur streets. After his death his estate was put up for auction in 1904. Ansley Park and Sherwood Forest were built on the former Collier estate.
A little further up Peachtree Road, the first house north of Peachtree Creek belonged the George Washington Collier’s younger brother, Wesley Gray Collier. The address was 2510 Peachtree Road. The younger Collier owned part of Land Lot 111 and all of Land Lots 112 and 113. Just six years after his brother’s estate sale broke the northern barrier, the sale of Wesley Gray Collier’s extensive estate would lead to the creation of Peachtree Heights and many of those early neighborhoods and homes that have come to define Buckhead.
These properties along Peachtree served as the main impediment to development, and therefore much of northern Midtown and Buckhead remained rural as the city prospered.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.