The William P. Nicolson House, 821 Piedmont Avenue, Midtown

The William P. Nicolson House, Midtown Atlanta

The William P. Nicolson House at 821 Piedmont Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia

The William P. Nicolson House at 821 Piedmont Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia

The House

Built in 1892, and remaining in the Nicolson family until 1982, the house was designed by Atlanta architect Walter T. Downing for Dr. Nicolson, a surgeon, Dean and teacher at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Atlanta, and President of the Georgia Medical Association.

As it is Now

As one can see, the house is now an inn, and seems to specialize in wedding packages. The Shellmont Inn website provides a glimpse of a lovely interior. Light from leaded glass windows softly illuminating a main staircase, one has an opportunity to visualize a little of what the house may have looked like inside in its earlier years.

Out front, on the ground next the fence, is a sign that reads, “Easter Hemlock…Beautiful native evergreen threatened by the woolly adelgid insect.” Found in the east, Atlanta seems to be at the very southern tip of its range, which stretches up into Canada.

The sidewalk was littered with miniature cones from the hemlock, and, on the cross street side, magnolia cones with their bright red, pomegranate like seeds. I picked up one of the miniature hemlock cones off the sidewalk and ported it home.

More information on the house’s design can be found at this Bluffton University page.

The Census

The following census information for the family shows that between 1920 and 1930 the buildings were renumbered on Piedmont.

Also, though the Nicolson family had four servants in 1900, by 1910 they had downsized to one, and then after that shifted between one and two. Perhaps “modern” conveniences added between 1900 and 1910 had to do with this downsizing of household staff–but the mind boggles at the initial four. I should have checked the rest of the census for the area to see if this was typical of the neighborhood. Through the years the servants were all black, showing the southern color line.

In 1900 the family is listed at 689 Piedmont: W. P. Nicholson, 42, physician; C. C., wife, 31; W. P. Jr., son 7; Caroline, daughter, 3; Robert L., son, 1; Sallie Crane, mother-in-law, 55 widowed; Sarah Harris, a black 60 year old servant, widowed; Adda Coylie, a black 25 year old servant; Will Amis, a black 25 year old servant, widowed; Cora May Walker, a black 21 year old servant.

Sarah Harris was of age that she would have been a slave during the Civil War. I made an effort to locate her in earlier censuses, hoping that I could find her in Atlanta in the 1880s and perhaps trace her back further, but was unable to do that.

In 1910, they are again listed a at 689 Piedmont: William P. Nicolson, wife Caroline, son William P., daughter Carolyn C., son Robert L., and mother-in-law Sarah Crane. In the rear lived Emma Benham, a 65 year old black widowed servant.

In 1920 they were sill listed as being at 689, the household showing William, Carolyn, William Jr. and his wife, Elizabeth, Carolyn, Robert L., and mother-in-law, Sarah. Emma Benham still worked with them, and also Edward Carter, a black widowed servant 70 years of age.

The 1930 census gave for the house, now listed as being 821 Piedmont, Carrie L. Nicolson, 60, widowed; daughter Caroline, 23; son Robert L., 31, son William P. 37, and his wife Elizabeth, 35; grandson William P. 7. A black servant was Emma Benham (looks like Benton here), age 85, who had been with them since at least 1910. All were born in Georgia and all their fathers were born in Georgia. All their mothers were born in Georgia except for Elizabeth, whose mother was born in Kentucky. Robert was an insurance agent and William was a medical physician.

Across The Street

In 1917, the Elliot building went up across from the William P. Nicolson House. It is a 12 unit complex of one and two bedroom apartments, floor plans ranging from 786 to 1039 feet. I’ve always thought it has lovely windows.

Elliot Building, Piedmont Ave., Midtown

Nearby is this old Victorion house with which time has played far less favorably. If I remember correctly, the tripod out front once carried a sign announcing renovation.

Piedmont Avenute, Midtown

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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