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Access Points 27: Staircase carving at SCAD’s Ivy Hall

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Maybe the ivy carving in this week's Access Point will look familiar when you see it on this staircase at Ivy Hall. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

If you’ve ever set foot inside Ivy Hall, reached out to grab the rail and stepped up the staircase, you’ve touched this week’s Access Point. The 1883 home of one of Atlanta’s founding families remains one of Atlanta’s best examples of Queen Anne Victorian architecture, and yet another place to find fun things to do in the city.

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SCAD's Ivy Hall. Photo by Chia Chong.

Several commenters recognized this week’s image — the first was Chris P. who said it was part of The Mansion on Peachtree. Indeed, this space was a restaurant for decades before it was restored. Commenter Sandy was the first to point out that it is now part of the staircase in Ivy Hall, an academic and cultural center for SCAD Atlanta.

The ivy on the main staircase of the Peters family home was one of many original details painstakingly restored, and documented in the Georgia Public Broadcasting series “The Art of Restoration.” Catherine Fox described the 18-month, $2.8 million project in a 2008 AJC story:

The house was, [SCAD preservation specialist Bob] Dickensheets says, “a body with a lot of evidence.”

With all the care of forensic detectives, they removed as many as 18 layers of paint, as well as generations of wallpaper, soot and debris, looking for clues to its original character. Standing in the entry hall, he recounts how he pulled up the curled corner of brown paper above the fireplace in the entry hall and saw a speck of gold. Hours of peeling the sticky paper from the transoms around the room finally revealed the gilded words of Charles Dickens’ 1836 poem “The Ivy Green.”

Ivy Hall Director Georgia Lee said the Peters family collected ivy while traveling, allowing it to grow all over the house, and making it a theme indoors, as well. Ivy on the staircase, ivy on the tooled leather on the walls.

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For all the historic details in Ivy Hall, there's a lot of contemporary artwork, too.

The staircase also holds what Lee calls the”most idiosyncratic” thing in the house — a bulbous wood pocket at the landing of the stairway. It’s easy to miss most days, but when Edward C. Peters built the home, that was a nod to his father, Richard, who wasn’t a preacher, but still liked to speak before an audience. Indeed, Lee says, it’ s a pulpit.

These days, Ivy Hall is the site of lectures and performances. SCAD’s Ivy Hall Writers Series has brought authors including Colson Whitehead, Augusten Burroughs, Margaret Atwood and later this month, Joel Cohen, a writer for “The Simpsons.” It will open up to the public for free tours of the historic building this month, too, as part of the Atlanta Preservation Center’s Phoenix Flies celebration.

Day-t0-day, it’s a building of classrooms for SCAD students and includes an apartment for visiting writers. The restoration went for the authentic, the furniture went for period, but the art on the walls leans toward contemporary works of many styles, once again, keeping with the mix-it-up methods of the Victorians.

Want to go? Ivy Hall, 179 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-253-3100, www.scad.edu/ivyhall.

  • Ivy Hall will offer tours as part of Phoenix Flies. Noon and 2 p.m. March 19. Free. Reservations required at 404-253-3324.
  • “Simpsons” writer Joel Cohen visits as part of the Ivy Hall Writers Series. 6:30 p.m. March 25. Free. SCAD Atlanta Events Space, fourth floor Building C, 1600 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta.
  • SCAD Professor of Art History Gabriela Jasin lectures on “Vestals, Virgins and Virtue: Two Paintings by Jean Raous and Their Prescription for the Women of 18th Century France” as part of the Ivy Hall Lecture Series. 3 p.m. April 18. Free. Ivy Hall, 179 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta.

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[...] pm March 3, 2010, by Jamie Gumbrecht UPDATE 3/4: Want to know the answer? Here it is! Does this look familiar? Share your guess at what it is in the [...]