When Ellen and George Nemhauser first happened upon the historic Druid Hills neighborhood 15 years ago, they knew they were home. “We moved to Atlanta from New York as a one year trial,” explains Ellen, “and until we saw Druid Hills we were somewhat dubious about living in the South.” Druid Hills, designed by America’s most famous landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead, is a tree-shaded neighborhood of winding streets and small parks. Beginning in 1900, many of Atlanta’s wealthiest citizens chose to live in Druid Hills. They hired some of Atlanta’s most noted architects to design their homes. The result is an eclectic mix of architectural styles all nestled into the curving topography of the neighborhood.
The Nemhausers knew they wanted to live in Druid Hills, but were discouraged by the few houses they saw on the market. According to Nemhauser, houses in Druid Hills rarely turn over, and when they do, they are often snapped up before a for-sale sign is ever put in the front yard. To find a home in the neighborhood George and Ellen asked their agent to “put the word out” that they were looking for a house. When their agent uncovered a pink stucco Mediterranean villa that was about to go on the market, they fell in love. The house and yard were in terrible condition; in fact Ellen says the yard looked like “Vietnam at its worst,” but they put in an offer because “you do crazy things when you are in love with a house.”
Like many Druid Hills residents, the Nemhausers are active in the Druid Hills Civic Association. Ellen believes commitment to the Civic Association is a natural for most of the folks in the neighborhood. “The kind of people who choose to live here are socially and civilly committed. They make the time to give to the neighborhood.”
Civic Association President Philip Lee says the neighborhood is lucky to have so many dedicated homeowners because it creates a strong Civic Association. “People really care about this neighborhood and that represents itself by people getting involved and speaking up.” Because the Druid Hills Civic Association is so powerful, it has been successful in protecting the historic character of the neighborhood from unwanted development. The Civic Association recently pushed to enact a historic preservation ordinance that protects the neighborhood’s historic structures by limiting changes that can be made to them.