In December 1973, the Thompsons were wise enough to audio-record a walking tour of Meredith House with the architect, James C. Wise. The Thompsons were the fifth family to reside in Meredith House and moved in during Summer 1973. Through perseverance, the Thompsons inquired about the identity of the architect and ultimately located Jim Wise. After some initial contact, Mr. Wise and his wife spent over an hour with the Thompsons wandering around Meredith House. In a display of incredible foresight, someone in the Thompson family decided to audio-record the encounter.
The original recording’s whereabout remain a mystery to me.
After our purchase of Meredith House in December 2010, Phillip Fender stopped by a few days before December 25, 2010. He handed me a Compact Disc (CD) and said, “Merry Christmas!” At that juncture, I was baffled as to the contents on the CD.
What I heard on that CD was a treasure-trove of history about Meredith House. For about one hour and fifteen minutes, numerous individuals can be heard talking. Once identified, Mr. Wise’s baritone voice belts out details about the house, its construction, and the first owners.
The recording truly built the foundation for a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nomination of Meredith House through the Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Without it, the application would have been sparse and, quite possibly, incomplete.
For example, Meredith House was in Fulton County but not within the City of Atlanta when constructed. In 1952, City of Atlanta annexed Buckhead and other areas. Officials I spoke with at Fulton County stated all the old building permits within those annexed areas were turned over to the City of Atlanta. The City of Atlanta stated all those building permits were turned over to the Atlanta History Center. The Atlanta History Center library does not have a building permit for Meredith House on file.
Thus, nearly all the known information about the construction of Meredith House emerges from this audio-recording.
First, James C. Wise is confirmed as the architect. The audio-recording is the only documentation known to date that he was indeed the architect of Meredith House. His in-person confirmation is somewhat unusual source material. He walks room-by-room describing his impressions and remembrances of various details.
Second, Mr. Wise names the builder, “Satterwhite.” In addition to naming the builder, he cites how Sam Satterwhite won the contract to build Meredith House. Mr. Wise said without fanfare, “low bid.” Although seemingly having lowered the value of Satterwhite through his comment, he quickly raises Satterwhite’s stock-in-trade by reporting that Sam Satterwhite was known for building many of the houses in Tuxedo Park. These were (and some still are) the finest residences in Atlanta.
Third, Mr. Wise names the landscape architect, “Monroe Landscaping and Nursery Company did the landscaping – – Monroe of Monroe Drive” (Track 2, about 5 mins). This explains the rock barbecue pit and the rock gardens.
Fourth, Mr. Wise confirmed that many of the light fixtures still in the residence in 1973 were original. He also described drawing out sketches and having them custom fabricated at Haley-Stewart Electrical.
Fifth, Mr. Wise described the wood carvings, dentil moldings, and mantle details were completed by “Steinichen” of Koppe and Steinichen Ornamental Plasterers.
Sixth, Mr. Wise talks about the slate roof. He informed the Thompsons that the slate was from a quarry in Rockmart, Georgia. He said the was one of the most special aspects of the residence.
Seventh, Mr. Wise confirmed that the built-in wooden dressers in all the bedroom closets were an original feature.
Eight, Mr. Wise described utilizing concrete I-beam in constructing Meredith House as well as other residences he designed. One explanation for this style of construction was to improve the fire-rating on the house.
Ninth, Mr. Wise estimate the construction costs of Meredith House to be “about $40,000” to complete the residence not including the land acquisition costs.
The audio was broken into six tracks (each about 15 mins long). Thus, there are six files. These have been uploaded in mp3 format.
One thought on “1973 Interview with Architect”
I absolutely loved hearing the audio tapes. Magical! Thank you for sharing and thank you for caring so much about preserving history!