A story published today in the AJC, “Herndon Home full of history, but its future is unclear,” documented the ups and downs of the historic home of African-American insurance magnate Alonzo Herndon and his family. Its opulence and prime plot of land near the Atlanta University Center are intact, but the foundation that runs it is struggling. Twice-per-week tours have been cut back to appointment-only visits.
From the story:
Recent storms have damaged the shutters and two-story columns. Budget restraints have forced the home’s administrators to trim the staff, and tours are now available by appointment only.
“We are reducing our non-essential costs,” said Belinda Stubblefield, a member of the Alonzo F. and Norris B. Herndon Foundation, which oversees the upkeep of the home.
“This is what we have to do in these lean times,” she said. “But it is important that we keep the Herndon message out there and remain visible and relevant.”
The challenge now is how to remain relevant as the home — one of only two African-American National Historic Landmarks in Atlanta, along with the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site — prepares to celebrate its centennial.
Historic homes are a fantastic resource to educate and entertain, but despite this, they seem to have chronic trouble staying open to the public. Even the success stories have histories of struggle.
The Margaret Mitchell House on Peachtree Street was abandoned for a time, damaged by fire in 1994, purchased and restored by Daimler-Benz, then damaged again by fire in 1996. The Wren’s Nest, the historic home of Joel Chandler Harris in the West End, has faced leadership changes and disrepair before changing its direction a bit in recent years.
Stubblefield said “wonderful things are happening at the home,” but in lean times, they’re focused on basics, like upkeep. More money, of course, is a solution to their troubles, but that’s hard to raise when the door isn’t open.
History buffs and Herndon Home visitors — what are your memories and ideas for the house? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Want to go? Herndon Home tours are by appointment only. Herndon Home, 587 University Place N.W. $5 for adults, $3 for students. 404-581-9813, www.herndonhome.org.