Candler Ancestry and the Callanwolde Name
Candler family lore holds that William Candler of Newcastle-upon-Tyne served as an officer in Cromwell’s Army during the Irish Rebellion of the mid-17th century. Candler served in Sir Hardress Waller’s Regiment and after the end of the campaign was elevated to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel for “meritorious conduct in the field” by a grateful Cromwell and Parliament and granted lands in the Barony of Callan, County Kilkenny. He brought his wife, Anne Villiers, widow of Capt. John Villiers, and family over to Ireland and made their Irish home at Callan Castle. The name “Callanwolde” is based on this family connection to the Irish town of Callan and the Old English word for “woods” (“wolde”).
Recent genealogical research suggests that parts of this legend are, in fact, true, although as happens with all things, some details have been lost, changed, and exaggerated over the years.
The estate is located in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta, which was planned by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park in New York City and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Of the estate’s original 27 acres, approximately 12 remain intact. The grounds, which consist of sculptured lawns, formal gardens, nature trails and a rock garden, have been partially restored by the DeKalb County Federation of Garden Clubs and The Callanwolde Foundation, and are maintained by DeKalb County.
Designed by Henry Hornbostel, who also designed Emory University, Callanwolde’s plan is one of openness. Most rooms adjoin the great halls located on each floor, and the entire 27,000 square foot mansion is centered around a large, courtyard that has recently been enclosed. The attention to fine detail is evident in the excellent craftsmanship of the walnut panelling, stained glass, bronze balustrades, the artistry of the delicate ceiling and fireplace reliefs, and the pierced tracery concealing the Aeolian organ chambers.
Callanwolde remained the Candlers’ home for 39 years. In 1959, two years after Mr. Candler’s death, and nine years prior to her own death, Mrs. Candler donated the estate (including many of the original furnishings) to Emory University.
The house (minus the furnishings) was later acquired by the First Christian Church, which subsequently sold two parcels of the property totalling approximately four acres on one side and approximately 12 acres on the other. The mansion was temporarily leased to an artist who planned to establish an art gallery there. During this period, the condition of the mansion deteriorated. Considerable damage was done to the organ pipes; careless use of fire resulted in damage to the flooring in one bedroom; and lighting fixtures, door and window latches, and other hardware were stolen. Eventually, the church placed the remaining 12 acres, which included the mansion, the carriage house, a gardener’s cottage, two greenhouses, and various out-buildings, up for sale.
To save Callanwolde from possible destruction, a fund-raising drive was led, first by an ad hoc committee of the Druid Hills Civic Association, and later by The Callanwolde Foundation that formed from it. The property was purchased for $360,000 in 1972, with a matching funds grant from the open spaces program of the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department. DeKalb County contributed $40,000, accepted ownership of the property and agreed to maintain it. Callanwolde was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center was opened under the supervision of the DeKalb County Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs Department. In 1983, however, the non-profit Callanwolde Foundation accepted responsibility for the operation of the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, although DeKalb County continues to maintain the house and grounds.
During the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta in 1996, the house was transformed into “Casa Italia,” the official hospitality headquarters of the Italian Olympic Committee. Guests attending lavish parties hosted by the Italian delegation included such luminaries as Prince Albert of Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrew Young, Alberto Tomba, and a host of famous Italian fashion designers, chefs, Olympic athletes, artists and entertainers.
Callanwolde has also served as a filming location for several Hollywood films, including “Sharkey’s Machine,” starring Burt Reynolds, and “Bear,” a feature film about the life of legendary football coach Bear Bryant. In 2003, Callanwolde served as the backdrop for several scenes used in the feature film “Stroke of Genius, the Bobby Jones Story,” starring Jim Caviezel.
Support to Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is provided through a grant appropriated by the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, in part by DeKalb County Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, and in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. Georgia Council for the Arts is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.