Rhodes Memorial Hall: Atlanta's Grand Castle on Peachtree

Rhodes Hall is one of the last remaining mansions left on Atlanta's famous Peachtree Street, a thoroughfare that was once lined with the great homes of the city's wealthiest residents. The home, located in the northern part of Atlanta's Midtown area, is easily reached from Interstates 75 and 85. Nearby attractions include Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the High Museum of Art Atlantic Station and the Center for Puppetry Arts. The nearest public transit train station is about one-half mile away, but a bus line also serves the area.

Rhodes Hall was the home of A.G. Rhodes and his wife, Amanda. Rhodes, born in Kentucky in 1850, came to Atlanta in 1875. In 1879, he started a small furniture store that would turn into an empire that stretched across the southeast. When Rhodes started his business, the Southern economy had not yet recovered from the Civil War. He figured the only way "ordinary folk'' could afford his furniture would be if they made weekly payments. For several years, Rhodes made his collection rounds personally, and when the final payment had been made, the customer brought home the new furniture. This is perhaps the first known instance of installment plan purchasing in the United States. Rhodes Furniture operated throughout the region until 2005, when it was bought by another company.

By the turn of the 20th century, A.G. Rhodes was one of the richest men in Atlanta. He wanted a house that reflected his wealth and status. He and his wife had traveled in Germany and were inspired by the castles along the Rhine River. He chose architect Willis F. Denny to design the house starting in 1902. Denny was, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, "an important transitional figure in ... Georgia architecture. ...His work reflects the major shifts in design that took place ... when the picturesque, eclectic forms of the Victorian era gave way to neoclassicism and more historically accurate period revival styles.''

Rhodes Hall's architecture is typically referred to as Romanesque Revival. It is built of massive blocks of granite quarried from nearby Stone Mountain, with round arches, a turret and a massive crenellated tower. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission describes the house: "Rhodes Hall is virtually unparalleled in Georgia. Very few residential structures were ever built in Romanesque architecture and Rhodes Hall is this state's best example. ... Denny and Rhodes created a special example of the Victorian Romanesque Revival, taken from medieval Romanesque sources and adapted for use as an early 20th century house.'' Frommer's describes the interior as "grandiose, with maple- and mahogany-bordered oak parquet floors, mosaics surrounding the fireplaces, and a gracefully winding hand-carved Honduran mahogany staircase with nine stained-glass stairwell panels depicting `The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy.'''

When the Rhodes died, their children left the house to the State of Georgia, with a requirement that it be used only for historical purposes. Since 1983, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has leased the house as its headquarters, as well as a place to carry out their goal of preserving the state's past for use in the future. They are meticulously restoring the house to its original grandeur with the help of the International Fine Arts Conservation Studios. The house is open for tours, and it is also a very popular event space. Several parts of the house are available for rental, including the entire first floor, which accommodates up to 175 guests reception-style; the Reception Hall, which holds up to 50 people at dinner, and the Library, Den and Front Porch, which can hold smaller gatherings.

Reviewers of Rhodes Hall love the place as a piece of history - "The stained glass windows are a unique memorial to the Confederacy.'' - but also as an event space. One woman said of her wedding day, "[The staff] was the best to work with. The site looked fantastic. ...Rhodes Hall is a must-see!'' Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes would no doubt be pleased that their lovely old house is now a part of Atlanta's social and historic fabric.

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