Thursday, July 28, 2011

Atlanta Fun - Swan House & Swan Coach House

After ICRS was over, my friend Kim from Window to my World and I stayed in Atlanta a couple of days for some fun. One of the things we did was go to the Atlanta History Center. We strolled through the Civil War museum, but our main interest was Swan House, a historic home built in the 1920's on which author Elizabeth Musser based her novel by the same name. I have not read it - yet! - and I really regretted that when I met Elizabeth and interviewed her regarding her incredible book The Sweetest Thing. (What's more, I remember standing in the book store on several occasions a few years ago with it in my hand and almost buying it!) I'll be sharing my interview with Elizabeth when real life slows down I can get it transcribed. We had already planned to visit Swan House, but didn't know about Swan Coach House until Elizabeth told me, so that was our first stop.

What a charming little restaurant it was - the epitome of a Southern tea room! Take a peek for yourself:

Swan Coach House

Kim at our table

Looking across the tea room.  (Notice the Red Hat Society!)

My delicious lunch

Kim's meringue dessert -shaped like a swan, of course!

Then we drove around the corner to the History Center, got our tickets and took a tour of Swan House itself.

This is the front of the house. Notice the sweeping stairs, but the relatively unimpressive door.

Picture Credit :  Atlanta History Center/Swan House

This is the back of the house and where everyone, including guests and partygoers, enter. The cars would drive down the street, see the front view of the house with the stairs and landscaping, and then drive around back to the porte cochere, where the guests would alight and enter through the back door.

Inside the back door, you stood in a round foyer with a beautiful chandelier, and this was your view of the open room ahead. Note the front door is actually on the underside of the grand staircase. Everything is oriented toward the back door! I found that so fascinating! We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so this picture is from the Atlanta History Center's website.

Picture Credit: Atlanta History Center/Swan House

Now to explain a couple of bizarre things about the lady of the house (whose name was Mrs. Ingram; it's called the Swan House because swans are a prominent theme in the decor and furniture).

To your left in the picture above are two rooms; one is the library, the room where the men would congregate. The decor was dark and heavy. The room next to it is called the morning room but it is essentially a parlor, and it was where the ladies gathered. It is much lighter than the library. On the opposite side of the grand hall is the formal dining room, with its large table and other pieces of furniture.

Notice the floor in the above picture. That is hand-cut Italian marble. The photographer would be standing in the smaller round foyer, and in the middle of that floor was a focal point, a round medallion type of design with a star of something like that. So the large squares gradually got smaller and began curving so that they merged with the circular design of that room.

About Mrs. Ingram: She allowed no one to go up or down that magnificent staircase except during parties. Now this was somewhat of a "retirement" home, and the children were grown, but after her husband died, her daughter and son-in-law and their two boys and the nanny came to live with her. Everyone had to go up and down the rather steep servant stairs in the back of the house.

Furthermore - and this is the weirdest part - with the exception of parties, anyone who walked on that black and white marble floor could only walk on the white squares. Her rationale was that scuff marks would be more visible on the black squares than on the white and harder to clean.

Now. If I had been a servant, busy with all my chores, I do not think I could have remembered what i was doing if I had had to concentrate on how I stepped! And in the entry foyer where the squares got smaller?! That just boggles my mind!

So for those of you who haven't been to Atlanta, that's a peek at this historical home that is the setting for The Swan House. Elizabeth Musser said she's been told that the book has been placed on some schools' AP/college-bound reading lists. How cool is that?!


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Joyce said...

I love historical homes and have been to Atlanta many times but never here. Will add it to my list : )

Beckie B. said...

Glad you enjoyed your day at the Swan House. Years ago my book club read The Swan House and took a field trip to Atlanta to tour the house and eat lunch at the Swan Coach House. Lots of fun. You really need to read Elizabeth's book and the sequel, The Dwelling Place. We also read Searching for Eternity -- also a great read and a great book for a field trip!

Diana Ferguson said...

How fun!!!!

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Really interesting, Linda, and I think the lady of the house took her cues from my mom.

skoots1mom said...

they host a lot of weddings's one of our treasures, for sure!

Cheryl said...

When I was 12, my aunt got married and had her Bridal luncheon at The Swan House. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I felt so grown up & elegant being there!

btw, I'm pretty sure we ate exactly what you did! And we had that dessert too!

Kim said...

Take me back to Atlanta, Linda!!

LOVED this post!!