November 12, 2011
In Spring of 2012, a class from Georgia State University’s Heritage Preservation Program will be coming to Doraville: they will be embarking on a project to get the Northwoods neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This past Thursday (Nov 10, 2011), there was a meeting at the Doraville Civic Center to discuss the project and also answer questions about what being on the National Register means, and what it doesn’t mean. The answer to the most frequently asked question was that being listed will not restrict what homeowners do with their houses. Here is what a flyer on the subject from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has to say on the subject:
Properties listed in the National Register may qualify for specific preservation benefits and incentives, including:
- state and federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation
- federal investment tax credits
- preservation easements to nonprofit organizations
- local property tax abatements
- fire and life safety code compliance alternatives
- reviewing permits for surface mining
National Register listing does not place obligations on private property owners, nor does it place restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property. National Register listing does not lead to public acquisition of property nor does it require public access to property.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we come to the even more interesting question: Why Northwoods? While those of us who live here realize it is special, the historic importance of the place may not be immediately apparent. The “Ranch House Evaluation” document (also available on the Georgia DNR website) has a pretty good explanation for why Northwoods is unique and historic:
Walter Talley’s Northwoods subdivision, located near the General Motors Assembly Plant in north DeKalb County, is the only currently identified California- style planned tract community located in the state. Construction began on the 250-acre site in 1950 and continued over a few years. When completed, the community contained approximately 700 Contemporary-style Ranches and Split Level houses and two parks. Northwoods greatly resembles a typical Ranch subdivision with its curvilinear street pattern, rolling topography, and wooded lots. A school, Methodist church, and shopping center were also built as part of the development and located on the southern and western peripheries of the site.
You can probably tell that I’m excited about this project. I’d also like to thank Rebecca Crawford, who has really taken the lead in recognizing Northwoods’ “specialness” for the last several years. Rebecca has actually written a great piece called The Ranch House in DeKalb County in which Northwoods plays a fairly large role. The article is worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the Northwoods neighborhood.
If you’d like to help the effort to get Northwoods listed as a historic place, you may contact Richard Laub (Director of the GSU program that will be doing the research). I know that he is very interested to hear from people who lived in the neighborhood during the 50s, and also in seeing pictures, house plans, and other items from the area’s early-years. There will probably be more updates once they get started with the actual work in February. I can’t wait!