Washington Avenue Historic District
The Washington Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © December 2016, The Gombach Group.
The Washington Avenue Historic District (also known as "Lawyer's Row") is a residential area just east of the downtown square in Marietta, the county seat of Cobb County, in the Atlanta metropolitan area. General character of the district is mid—19th and early 20th century frame structures originally built for residential purposes. Washington Avenue architecture reflects the diversity of architecture in Marietta from the unpretentious structures built by artisans and tradesmen to the manors of the landed gentry, successful politicians and merchants. The residential character of Washington Avenue has undergone a transformation to "Lawyer's Row" over the last twenty years as local barristers outgrew their offices above stores surrounding Marietta square and moved to Washington Ave.
The Washington Avenue Historic District consists of an intact collection of 19th and early 20th century residential structures, many of which have been rehabilitated for use as office space. Washington Avenue and Lawrence Street, the two major streets in the district, were laid out in 1833 as part of Marietta's original town plan and lead east from the downtown square. A small number of antebellum structures of Greek Revival influence still exist within the district. The majority of buildings are late 19th century Victorian with turned posts, sawn brackets, gable ornamentation, and wrap—around porches applied to a variety of vernacular house types. A large and finely detailed Queen Anne style is also present. Early 20th century structures have Classical Revival and Craftsman details.
Washington Avenue and Lawrence Street are two of the ten original streets in Marietta. The city was laid out in a grid pattern starting from the town square. Streets run in a six north-south and seven east-west pattern. The Marietta streets were laid out following the "Savannah" type plan with three streets emanating from all four sides of the court house square. This plan varies slightly from the usual "Savannah" plan in that the corner streets (Lawrence and Washington running east/west) were more important than the center street. Although houses on both streets were generally built within the same time period, the late 19th century, the streets reflect different socio-economic levels of the residents. Washington Avenue houses reflect the lifestyles of many of Marietta's middle to upper classes. These were home to some of the city's early businessmen, lawyers, and local officials. The majority of architectural features found along this street reflect the Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and simple Victorian styles. Lawrence Street consists of more modest sized, one-story dwellings of the middle and working classes. Architectural types commonly found are vernacular in nature, featuring adaptations of the Victorian and Craftsman styles.
The 1860 building located at 241 Washington Avenue embodies elements of the Greek Revival style and is considered the oldest intact building within the district. This building is constructed of heavy timber with a rectangular, symmetrical shape, gable roof, sidelights and transom. The lower level windows are symmetrically arranged 6/6, the upper level windows are arranged 9/9. The building also features interior chimneys and a central hall. Around 1910, the two-story Greek Revival portico was replaced by a one-story, Neo-Classical portico.
The one-story Flournoy house is typical of small southern residences built just prior to and after the Civil War. Its Greek Revival detailing features a symmetrical facade, a full front porch with square columns, a transom over the main door with sidelights, and double hung sash windows. This particular house is unusual in that it is an early example of brick construction. An excellent example of the Queen Anne style is seen in the Schilling-Prosser house built in 1887 at 216 Washington Avenue. The building features highly decorative shingles, a stylized turret, asymmetrical massing, a multi-gabled roof, and a wrap around porch.
The Classical Revival style is evident by the detailing in the former Cole Manor at 331 Washington Avenue. Although the building is the outcome of several late 19th and early 20th century alterations, the resulting Neo-Classical features include a symmetrical pedimented facade, Doric columns, a central balcony, transom and sidelights around the main entrance and window sidelights. A notable example of the Craftsman style is located at 214 Lawrence Street. This one-story building features a low-pitched gabled roof with wide eaves, brackets, and a full-length front porch with decorative supports and railings.
The district also includes examples of a particular type of architecture—vernacular Victorian—which is illustrated by simple one or one-and-a-half story buildings, of frame construction, with hipped or gabled roofs, decorative gables, and modest porch spindlework. Other structural features common to many of the buildings include brick chimneys and enclosed pier foundations. The natural terrain of the district is hilly. Large oak trees align either side of Washington Avenue and residences are set back in a uniform distance from the street. The Washington Avenue area is also located in a transitional area from the very densely developed retail and office core surrounding the square to the relatively low density of the residential neighborhoods outside the square. Overall, Washington Avenue is a good example of the variety of architectural styles found in small southern towns during the mid-19th to early 20th century. The architectural styles illustrate local adaptations of various building designs popular during this time period.
The Washington Avenue Historic District is the intact portion of a historic residential area near downtown Marietta that developed from the 1830s through the 1930s.
In the area of architecture, the district is significant for its collection of buildings which reflect a range of architectural influences. Stylistic influences include Greek Revival, Victorian, particularly Queen Anne, Classical Revival, and Craftsman/Bungalow. A variety of vernacular house forms is also represented. The Greek Revival style is illustrated by the two-story frame house at 241 Washington Avenue built in 1860. The building features a symmetrical floor plan, transoms and side lights, a side gabled roof with pedimented gable ends, and a one-story entry porch with columns. An excellent example of the Queen Anne style is seen in the Schilling Prosser house with its asymmetrical multi-gabled massing, tower, decorative gables and porch spindlework. The building at 331 Washington Avenue represents the Classical Revival style with its refined symmetrical layout, pedimented porch with Doric columns, fanlight, transoms and sidelights. The Craftsman style is featured at 214 Lawrence Street and is identified by a low-pitched roof, brackets and a wide front porch. The district also includes many examples of a particular type of architecture—vernacular Victorian—which is illustrated by one or one-and-a-half story, frame buildings with hipped or gable roofs, decorative gables and spindlework. These styles and types are all characteristic of historic residential districts in small Georgia cities and provide an excellent example of the evolution of residential architecture from the mid-19th to the early 20th century.
Community Planning and Development
In the area of community planning and development, the district is significant as a historic residential section of Marietta's original town plan. The district's two major streets, Washington Avenue and Lawrence Street, were laid out in 1835 by surveyor James Anderson, and lead directly east from the square. Anderson opted for the "Savannah" type plan with its three streets emanating from all four sides of the courthouse square. The Marietta plan varies slightly from the "Savannah" plan in that the corner streets, such as Washington Avenue and Lawrence Street, were considered more important routes than the center streets. The residential development along Washington Avenue represents the housing typically used by the middle and upper classes, while Lawrence Street developed with more middle and working class housing stock.
This district reflects a great deal of the panorama of American life which contributes to the broad patterns of American history. The district represents the lifestyles of a range of socio-economic levels from working class residents to the upper classes. These patterns are representative of the way of life found in small Georgia cities from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. The district was home to many of Marietta's early leaders and prominent families including business owners, lawyers, and local officials.
The district provides excellent examples of building characteristics and types of workmanship found in residential neighborhoods from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Because some of the buildings, particularly along Washington Avenue, were spared during the Civil War, they provide a wide range of popular architectural styles such as Greek Revival, Victorian, Classical Revival and Craftsman/Bungalow which are evident throughout the district.
Cobb County was first settled following the Cherokee Indian cession of 1832, when land was distributed by a land lottery. Between October, 1832, and August, 1833, over 5,000 land lots were drawn in Cobb County. The U.S. government hired James Anderson in 1833 to survey the Cherokee lands. The area quickly became popular for settlement due to its rich agriculture, available water power necessary for industry, and its climate. Within a span of only ten months, Cobb's population went from less than 100 to almost 2,000.
By 1834, Marietta was set up as a town; by December 19th of that same year, Georgia's state legislature made Marietta the permanent county seat of Cobb county. Consequently, Marietta's first public building was its courthouse, erected on the southeast side of the square in 1834. What are now known as Washington Avenue and Lawrence Street were two of the ten original streets in Marietta laid out by Mr. Anderson in 1835.
Because of the advantages Marietta offered to agriculture and industry, the town attracted an unusually high percentage of talented, affluent pioneers. Their abilities quickly transformed Marietta into a booming center of commerce and transportation by the early 1840s. Among these key persons associated with the development of Marietta was Edward Denmead. Mr. Denmead moved to Marietta in 1838 where he established his lumber company. His company was the major contractor for the Western and Atlantic Railroad, and established Marietta as the railroad's construction headquarters between 1838 and 1842. He supplied all the lumber for the railroad that would connect today's Atlanta area with Chattanooga Tennessee. Mr. Denmead also played a vital role in developing key segments of the community. He was instrumental in establishing Marietta's first bank in 1855 (a branch of City Bank of Augusta), and in establishing St. James Episcopal Church. He was mayor from 1876-1883, and from 1886-1887.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the railroad and other large industries, including grist mills, tanneries, paper mills, and furniture factories provided employment for a large segment of the population. By the end of the 1840s, Cobb County had 21 grist mills, 5 shoe factories, and a large distillery. The booming economy hastened the development of residential neighborhoods. The invention of the water powered saw mill in the 1830s enabled the construction of frame buildings including simple frame cottage styles. The earliest example of frame construction on Washington Street were the twin houses believed to have been built by Dr. Randolph in 1842 at 288 and 331 Washington Avenue. Legend claims that the owner designed the twin cottages with aligned central halls so that he could watch his grandchildren play across the street from his house. By the mid-1840s, Marietta's population had reached 1500. According to an 1845 state census, Cobb's overall population at this time was 10,518 of which 1,474 were slaves.
The benefits of an efficient railway system with a stopping point in Marietta peaked between 1848 and 1861. Marietta experienced tremendous growth during this period due for the most part to abundant cotton harvests and lumber products, and a high demand for their goods by Atlanta and Chattanooga markets. In 1852, Marietta was incorporated as a city; city limits were established at three-quarters of a mile from the courthouse, now located at the center of the square. John Heyward Glover became Marietta's first mayor. By 1850, Cobb's total free population had reached 11,571 which excluded 2,272 slaves.
By 1860, Marietta had earned its reputation for being a fine resort, due largely to its healthy climate. However, with the coming of the Civil War (1861-1865), Marietta's economic prosperity collapsed. In June, 1864, Sherman entered Cobb County. The following month he burned several of Marietta's most significant enterprises, including two large cotton and woolen manufacturing operations. This brought an abrupt end to Marietta's antebellum industry, and left only a few grist mills in all Cobb County.
The downtown area was almost entirely destroyed by fire as well. Ironically, a few pre-Civil War structures exist on Washington Avenue. It is believed that this is largely due to Mr. Henry Greene Cole. Henry Cole came to Marietta in the year 1839 and lived at the Marietta Hotel, which he bought and renovated. He was a civil engineer and contractor who built bridges for Western and Atlantic Railroad. Mr. Cole had purchased the twin cottages in 1859, along with the adjoining plantation of approximately 1,700 acres. Mr. Cole was a New York citizen, so strongly in favor of the Union that he was imprisoned during the Civil War. His family continued to live in the two houses for the duration of the war. Cole's Yankee sentiments most likely saved the twin cottages from Sherman's destruction. At that time, the present Washington Avenue was an unpaved alley and known as Cole Street.
At the end of the war, Cole donated twenty acres of his land to the federal government for use as a national cemetery. Cole first offered the land for both Union and Confederate soldiers; however, when this offer was not accepted, he gave it to the Union through General George H. Thomas. The National Cemetery, located where Washington Avenue intersects Cole Street, is home to the burial plots of over 10,000 Union soldiers from the battles of New Hope Church, Picketts Mill, Pine Mountain, Lost Mountain, and Kennesaw Mountain. Following the establishment of the National Cemetery in 1866, the present Washington Avenue became known as Cemetery Street. By 1920, growth in the building industry would enable this square to be paved and every street running from the square, including Washington Avenue. It was at this point that Washington Avenue was given its present name.
Throughout the 1870s, Marietta began to rebuild its local industry. Among the industries to successfully return to the commercial arena were paper mills, flour mills, lumber operations, and a chair factory. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s Marietta also regained its fame as "the gem city of the South" with hotels such as the Whitlock House and the Kennesaw Hotel famous throughout the South.
Because Sherman burned virtually every structure surrounding the square (with the exception of a Masonic hall and the Kennesaw Hotel), the square portrays an architectural homogeneity of two story brick buildings primarily constructed from 1870-1910. The Flournoy house at 236 Washington Avenue, is typical of small southern residences built just prior to and after the War Between the States. At the time of its construction it was the only brick house on the street. An early resident of the house, Reverend W. L. Mansfield (1826-1873) was a popular pastor for Marietta's First Baptist Church in the late 1860s and early 1870s. He sold the house to Frank Graves in 1867. The subsequent owners of the home, the Gober family, were prominent members of the community. George Gober was a prominent judge and Ms. Sarah Blackwell Gober Temple wrote the single most important resource of Cobb History, The First Hundred Years. The Gober family lived here for almost fifty years, until 1967.
Other residences on Washington Avenue reflect Marietta's architectural diversity in post-Civil War structures, from the unpretentious structures built by laborers, artisans, and craftsmen to the manors of landed gentry, politicians, and successful merchants. The Daniell-Mayes-Sellars-Bentley house at 272 Washington Avenue was built in 1866 by Daniell, the cabinetmaker hired by the United States to furnish all the coffins for the cemetery.
By 1875, the business successes of Mr. Cole enabled him to enlarge the cottage north of the cemetery, at 331 Washington Avenue, into a larger home for his growing family of five children. Mr. Cole died in April of 1875, leaving his wife to complete the expansion work. It was at this time, according to a Marietta newspaper, that Mrs. Cole "enlarged the cottage into the four-story edifice." Improvements were also made to the landscape with lawns, terraces, hedges and flower gardens. Mrs. Cole later married Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, a descendent of General Robert E. Lee. In 1923, they remodeled the house, adding the present classical Doric columns and a balcony. In 1974, Cole Manor was purchased by D. Robert Autrey, Jr. who has converted it into his law offices.
Another example of Washington Avenue's architectural diversity is the Schilling-Prosser house at 216 Washington Avenue. The home's original resident Frederick E. A. Schilling was a German immigrant from Hamburg who came to Marietta following the Civil War. He established the Schilling Hardware Company at the corner of Church Street and the Marietta square. A 1910 directory advertises the goods his company carried including hardware, stoves, house furnishings, sheet metal work, plumbing, tinning, and fire brick. His successes as a merchant enabled him to build a grand Victorian residence in 1887. The turret, the woodwork and the asymmetrical features of the house make it an excellent example of Queen Ann style Victorian architecture. As a residence, the home had chestnut, pecan, apple, and peach orchards, as well as red and black raspberry bushes.
Furthermore, the Schilling house is representative of the building boom which took place in Marietta during the 1890s. Mr. Schilling sold the house in the mid-1930s to Mrs. Minnie Cogburn, who operated a boarding house at this location for 35 years. The house was then sold to attorney Jordan Prosser, who restored the house, maintaining the original woodwork, wainscoting, mantels, banisters and windows. In 1908, Mr. E. L. Robertson built the residence at 261 Washington Avenue, for $4,000. The cost reflects the excellent materials used in the house's construction including parquet floors, beautiful mantles and extensive cabinetwork. Rock for the walls was obtained from the National Cemetery across the street. Mr. Robertson was a hospitable man, extending the use of his basement to the Marietta Orchestra for its rehearsals. During World War II, Mr. Robertson remodeled his basement into two apartments due to the critical housing shortage.
While Marietta experienced a modest economic comeback following the Civil War from its local industry, rural parts of Cobb County suffered through years of low cotton prices, due to the lack of alternative sources of employment. As a result, local population failed to grow in the first part of the 1900s. By as late as 1940, the total population of Cobb County was 38,000.
The advent of World War II dramatically changed Cobb's economic trend. Attracted by the proximity to Atlanta and the new Marietta airstrip, Bell aircraft built a bomber plant in Cobb. Marietta's population alone went from 18,000 to 25,000 within a few years. Although Bell aircraft closed its doors in 1946, the Korean war brought the Lockheed-Georgia Company to Cobb five years later. Lockheed was the largest employer in the state of Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s. Cobb's population in 1985 was 350,000.
In the 1970s the character of the Washington Avenue historic district was conserved by adaptive reuse from residences to law offices. The area was endangered by the rapid expansion of commercial and office growth around the court square. The overall character of the historic district has been maintained, and is now referred to as Lawyer's Row.
† Lisa Raflo, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Washington Avenue Historic District, Cobb County, GA, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.