Briarcliff Mansion & Estate

December 03, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Some places harbor memories and emotion long after they have been vacated.  People can be kept out, but they never truly leave.

This is one of those mystical spaces that buzzes and hums with the energy left behind. It's palpable. 

Briarcliff Mansion was the home of Asa Candler, Jr – the “eccentric” son of Asa Candler - the co-founder of Coca-Cola.

The Briarcliff estate comprised of 42 acres was built in 1920 on Williams Mill Road now Briarcliff Road in Atlanta. Asa Jr. collected exotic birds and animals in a menagerie – a Bengal tiger, four lions, a black leopard, a gorilla, baboons, and four elephants named “Coca, Cola, Refreshing & Delicious.” A neighbor sued as “a baboon jumped over the wall of the zoo and devoured $60 in currency out of her purse.” She won $10,000 and Asa ultimately gave his entire menagerie to the Grant Park Zoo which became Zoo Atlanta.

The interior of the mansion was spacious and extravagant – including the 1700 square foot music room with three-story-tall vaulted Tudor interior and limestone fireplace with large elaborate chandeliers. This room looks essentially unchanged – even in the dark with the windows boarded and lit only by the seepage of natural light through cracks and crevices. This room was added in 1925 and a balcony from a sitting room overlooks it.

A solarium on the main level with high lovely ceilings and a former tiled fish pond which now bears the painted phrase “it ran with blood.” Since this location has been used as sets for films and television it is unclear to me at what point this was added and for what purpose – of course since this building was a part of a psychiatric hospital at one point there are rumors that it was written by a patient. More on that...

The grounds included: the main house, servant’s quarters, tennis courts, stables, greenhouses, laundry, zoo buildings, golf course, and two swimming pools with bath houses. One pool was open to the public for 25 cents per person – this pool had a neon-lighted fountain and a stand to buy Coca Cola products, of course. 

There are a few greenhouses that remain on the property – they are hauntingly beautiful and super eerie.  They were used in an educational capacity for botanical arts in the past, students would line up on the seats and work. Now the shattered falling panes of glass make this incredibly treacherous but oh so lovely.

I was able to view the interior of the mansion with a television production crew scouting the location.

And then I met Andrew - who knows the property better than anyone on the planet as he has managed it for the last 15 years. He showed me the communal pool that has been filled in but the fountain in the center remains. We hiked down to the bowels of the bath houses now covered with graffiti being overtaken by nature. Old pipes from the pool and fountain still line the wall.

Andrew is a wealth of knowledge and history and I owe him nothing short of a kidney for his time and teaching that day.

From 1965-1997, the property housed the Georgia Mental Health Institute (GMHI) in a multi-story tower surrounded by multiple cottages connected by underground tunnels. This facility was home to adults, children, and the criminally insane.

I’ll give you one guess as to what my next post will feature…

For full gallery of the Briarcliff Mansion, please visit: http://www.amysimonephotography.com/p627930463#h10e7e9d


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