Druid Hills is nationally recognized for its Olmstead plan and for its lovely architecture. The firm of Hentz, Reid, and Adler is the architectural firm that is primarily given credit for the area’s architectural quality. However, in 1908, when Druid Hills began to develop, there were numerous worthy competitors. Foremost among them was Edward Emmett Dougherty.
Dougherty was born in 1876 in Atlanta. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1895 and then studied architecture at Cornell University and at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. The Ecole was the leading architecture school in the world, and Dougherty’s architectural education was superior to all of the well-known Atlanta architects of the time.
After travelling extensively throughout Europe, he returned to Atlanta in 1905 and developed a thriving practice. Within several years he obtained some of the most important commissions in the city including the Hugh Inman residence, the Imperial Hotel (1911), and the First Church of Christ, Scientist (1913 with Arthur Neal Robinson).
While not as prolific in Druid Hills as Hentz and Reid, Dougherty’s commissions were as grand as any, and his two public Druid Hills commissions, the Druid Hills Golf Club (1912-14) and Druid Hills Baptist Church (1925-28), were essential to the development of the community of Druid Hills and were matched in importance only by Hornbostel’s Emory Campus and Shutze’s Glenn Memorial Church.
Dougherty married Blanch Carson on June 5, 1907. The bride was socially prominent in both Atlanta and Nashville, and the groom was described as “one of the most popular and prominent young men in the business and club worlds of Atlanta.” The couple became active in the Atlanta social scene. In 1910 the Doughertys entertained the Players’s Club at their new home on Peachtree Road, and a glowing newspaper report claimed that “no more artistic entertainment has marked the brilliant social season than that given…by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Dougherty.” Dougherty belonged to both the Capital City Club and Druid Hills Golf Club.
The Druid Hills Golf Club was formed in 1912. Founding member George Adair had worked with Dougherty on projects at East Lake Golf Club, and Adair hired Dougherty to design the club that was completed in 1914. Dougherty became one of the first members of the club when he joined in 1913, and it was likely through his connection to the golf club that he met Veazey Rainwater and Sam Venable, prominent businessmen who would hire him to design their Druid Hills homes.
Boxwoods – 794 Springdale Road
Charles Veazey Rainwater was a prominent executive with the Coca-Cola company and is credited with the standardization of the Coca-Cola bottle and the bottling process. Rainwater was a key figure in the company’s success and would have been an impressive client for Dougherty. Dougherty designed the house that became known as “Boxwoods” in 1914, and the home and its three acres of manicured gardens were later featured in Garden History of Georgia 1733-1933.
Stonehenge – 1410 Ponce de Leon
Stonehenge was the dream home of Samuel H. Venable, one of the largest operators of the stone quarries of Stone Mountain. This home was estimated to cost $75,000 and was finished in the late fall of 1913. The Atlanta Constitution described Dougherty’s design as “an old castle transplanted from the middle ages into modern times and one is tempted in gazing upon it to conjure up fancies of romances and adventures of old feudal days.” The long list of amenities and level of detail included in Stonehenge rival any of Atlanta’s grandest homes of the day.
Dougherty left for Nashville in 1916 when he received numerous commissions from the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad. While there he was engaged to design the Belle Meade Country Club, and after the completion of those commissions, Dougherty decided to remain in Nashville where he continued to have a thriving practice. In 1922 Dougherty completed his most famous design, the Tennessee War Memorial on Nashville’s Memorial Square. Dougherty won both Tennessee and national design competitions for the building, and his success was considered “one of the greatest triumphs in his highly successful career as an architect.” Three years later the American Institute of Architects awarded him the Gold Medal Award, the highest award that the AIA can bestow.
While Dougherty has been largely forgotten in his native city, Dougherty was Atlanta’s true beaux arts architect. Unfortunately, Atlanta let this native son get away.