MENU

History Lives Here

Callanwolde History

Callanwolde was the home of the family of Charles Howard Candler (1878-1957) from 1920 until 1959.
Howard Candler was the oldest son of Asa Griggs Candler (1851-1929), the Atlanta pharmacist who, in 1891 purchased the rights to the formula for Coca-Cola, which had been developed by another Atlanta pharmacist, John S. Pemberton, in 1886 as a tonic for most common ailments.
Howard Candler attended public elementary schools in Atlanta and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory College (a Methodist Episcopal institution that was at that time located in Oxford, Georgia). While in Oxford in 1895, Howard Candler received a keg of Coca-Cola syrup from his father that he shared with his classmates — the first Coca-Cola ever seen there.
After graduating from Emory in 1898, Howard Candler attended Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons for two years and the University of Bellvue Hospital Medical College for one year. Much later in life, in 1942, he received the Doctor of Laws degree from Emory University, which was by then located in Atlanta.
In 1903, Howard Candler married Flora Harper Glenn. The couple had three children, Charles Howard, Jr. (born 1904), Catherine Harper (Mrs. William Warren) (born 1906), and Mary Louisa (Mrs. Alfred Eldredge) (born 1912).

Emory University has been, and still is today, frequently called “Coca-Cola U” because of the long and generous history of patronage by both the Candler family and the Coca-Cola Company that they founded.
In 1914, the decision was made to move Emory College from Oxford, Georgia. Howard’s uncle, Bishop Warren Akin Candler, was President of Emory College and the Chairman of the Methodist Episcopal Education Commission. Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce pledged $500,000 if the new Emory University would locate in the city, and in 1915 Asa Griggs Candler donated a $1,000,000 endowment to the institution.
In 1915, Henry Hornbostel was engaged to design the new Emory campus in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta. The following year, Howard Candler, who had been a vice president of Coca-Cola since 1906, became the company’s president, a position he held until his retirement from the company in 1923 (following its acquisition by the Woodruffs). His new position as head of the company meant that Howard Candler would now be the principal benefactor of Emory University. Work on his new home, Callanwolde, was begun the following year near the Emory campus and designed by Hornbostel.
In 1929, Howard Candler became chairman of the board of trustees of Emory University, a position he held until his death in 1957. He continued the family’s history of generous financial support of the institution as well. In 1947, for example, he gave the University assets valued in excess of $15,000,000.
And, two years following Howard Candler’s death, his widow donated the Callanwolde estate, along with many of the original furnishings, to Emory University. Emory subsequently sold the property to the First Christian Church, which retained ownership until the citizens of DeKalb County rallied to acquire Callanwolde in 1971.

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.

Architectural History

The mansion was built between 1917 and 1921 and is considered a severe and modern approach to the late Gothic Revival style of architecture.
The front facade of the two and one-half story building has medieval half-timbered rhythmical design across the upper stories, crenellated bays and Tudor arches, as well as strapwork ornament, yet all of these elements of Tudor-Gothic design have been subjected to a simplicity or severity of design that is a uniquely 20th century approach to the use of these traditional design motifs.
The construction is of poured concrete and steel and a rubble base of tile covered by stucco, and the house is built on a two-foot concrete foundation.
All wooden floors are anchored to timbers laid in concrete over masonry units supported by reinforced concrete beams. This quality of construction explains the fact that no settlement is discernable in the building. Downstairs floors are of walnut with walnut pegs, with the exception of the living room which has white oak flooring. Upstairs floors are of white oak. The house also features large rafters and panelling of walnut.
The house has a central heating system featuring recessed units behind decorative metal screens. It was originally steam-heated, but was converted from coal to gas heat in the 1930s. A vacuum system was built into the house, but it is no longer operable. There was also a buzzer system with a control panel in the kitchen, however it no longer exists. The pipes of the Aeolian organ are accommodated in the infrastructure of the house in four separate chambers.

Callanwolde was designed by noted architect Henry Hornbostel of Pittsburgh. Hornbostel, born in Brooklyn, New York, was classically trained at Columbia University in New York City and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He began work in Pittsburgh in 1904 after winning the Carnegie Technical Schools Competition for the design of the campus that is now Carnegie Mellon University. He founded the Department of Architecture at Carnegie Tech, and, in addition to a private practice in Pittsburgh, he taught at Columbia University and was at various times a partner in the New York firms of Howell, Stokes & Hornbostel; Wood, Palmer & Hornbostel; Palmer & Hornbostel; and Palmer, Hornbostel & Jones. Although the bulk of his practice centered in and around Pittsburgh, Hornbostel executed projects throughout the country, including the campus plans of Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh, Emory University in Atlanta, and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; several bridges in New York City; and government buildings in Albany, NY and Oakland, CA.
One of the many enduring structures Henry Hornbstel designed was The Williamsburg Bridge (1903) in New York City. Connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, and designed by Hornbostel and Leffert L. Buck, the 1,600 foot bridge took over seven years to complete. When the bridge opened in 1903, it was the first all-steel, large-scale suspension bridge built in the country –and the longest of its kind in the world. It remained the world’s longest suspension bridge until the 1920’s.
Hornbostel apparently met Howard Candler through a project for The Coca-Cola Company. In 1915, he designed the master plan for Emory University when it was relocated to Atlanta from Oxford, Georgia.
Hornbostel’s work, while drawing heavily on historic precedents of Gothic, Tudor, and Renaissance styles, foreshadows the beginnings of a modernist sensibility in its stripped-down use of forms and relative absence of ornamentation. In this, it represents a transitionary period between the academic classicism and gothic revival of the 19th century and the modernist movement of the 20th century.
The Henry Hornbostel Collection is housed in the Architecture Archives of Carnegie Mellon University’s Libraries. Drawings, Plans and other information about the original design of the Emory University Campus are maintained by the University Library’s Special Collections.

Aeolian Organ

Callanwolde’s Great Hall features an Aeolian organ console. The organ, which was specially designed for the house and installed during its construction, was purchased from the Aeolian Pipe Organ Company of New York for approximately $48,200. It’s seven divisions of pipes are contained in four separately constructed chambers strategically located throughout the house. Controlled from the console, the chambers can be utilized simultaneously or separately, permitting selective projection of sound to all major rooms in the mansion. Decorative ornamentation in the ceiling and walls of the mansion conceals these chambers. The most spectacular of these ornamentations, a system of rib vaults elaborated with an intricately designed pierced tracery constructed of pre-cast masonry grillwork, is located in the ceiling above the grand staircase.
Although the instrument is basically an electrically-powered wind pipe organ, it can simulate several different instruments. The organ’s three-manual console is also equipped with a built-in roll player, which uses Aeolian Pipe Organ Rolls, and a Duo-Art cabinet player, which allows several rolls to be played automatically in succession. Like a player piano, these rolls allow the organ to be operated by a person with little or no knowledge of music. A wide variety of music was available in Organ Roll format at the time, from classical works by renowned composers to popular show tunes. However, the organ is a magnificent instrument that was meant to be played by an accomplished organist. In the years during which the Candler’s lived at Callanwolde, recitals were given by some of the world’s finest organists, including Marcel Dupre (the organist for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris) and Charles Cobourne.
The complete restoration of Callanwolde’s Aeolian organ was the result of the dedication and perseverance of the members of the Callanwolde Guild. The project extended over two decades and involved the efforts of many individuals. An extensive history of this project was compiled by Guild Member, Norma J. Bishop.

The only part of Callanwolde’s Aeolian organ that is visible to visitors is the console located in the Great Hall. However, the console doesn’t actually produce the sounds of the organ. That is done by the 3,742 pipes that were built into the walls of the mansion when it was first constructed.
As shown in the photos below, these pipes are accessed through chambers in the walls and attic of the mansion. Notice the floor below the chimes in the photo on the far right — it is the pierced tracery ornament in the ceiling above the grand staircase.

The following history details the efforts of key individuals involved in the restoration of Callanwolde’s Aeolian Organ by the Callanwolde Guild beginning prior to the property’s purchase from The First Christian Church in 1972. The information was researched and compiled by Norma J. Bishop, Newsletter Editor of the Callanwolde Guild from 1989-1990.

Pre-1972 – The Influence of Charles Walker

Charles Walker has been constructing, maintaining and repairing pipe organs since he was a grammar school student in Griffin, Georgia. He even has a 9 rank pipe organ in his Atlanta office. He is a founding member of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS), the oldest organized preservation society in the country. When two Druid Hills ATOS members asked the Chapter to investigate the abandoned Aeolian Pipe Organ at Callanwolde, Charles made the necessary arrangements.
Callanwolde’s organ had been sitting, unattended, 12 years or more when Charles and his associates began their rescue. Its fine walnut console was covered with hardened candle wax left by vagrant hippies. The organ’s original console bench was gone and Charles surmised that the console would probably have been carried away as well had it not been bolted to the floor.
The organ’s Swell Division had extensive damage. There were innumerable pipes broken and missing in the organ’s third floor loft. Nevertheless, after they replaced a few fuses and made some minor electrical repairs, the organ produced musical sounds. Charles stated that, “although the organ was terribly out of tune, it had a mystical quality, and its mellow, romantic tone was captivating.”
The organ’s built-in roll player did not operate at first. However, once it was releathered, Charles said it sounded, “absolutely wonderful.”
A collection of 185 Aeolian Pipe Organ Rolls were found locked in a breakfast room closet. They included a wide variety of opera, show tunes, and classical music. At a later date, Charles made a cassette tape of some of these original Pipe Organ rolls for the Guild. They were sold in the Art Shop to help in restoration of the organ.
Charles helped promote public interest for the purchase of Callanwolde. Every Sunday afternoon, from 1-5pm, for a year and a half, he entertained Callanwolde’s open house guests with an enchanting array of Aeolian roll-player music. On those occasions, when the melodic sounds of the organ seemed to envelope the house, Charles said he could almost envision the Candlers sitting in the library, before a fire, listening to the beautiful music. In his mind, the “organ represented the heart and soul of the house and direct relationship to the past.”
A delightful incident occurred one weekday afternoon while Charles was at the organ. A group of visitors began singing the opera he was playing. It was Metropolitan Opera star Blanche Thebom and some of her opera star friends, who had dropped by to see Callanwolde.
In time, the ATOS members moved on to other projects, but Charles remained with Callanwolde. There is no way we can document all the volunteer hours Charles contributed to the preservation of Callanwolde’s Aeolian Organ. He has been an organ tuner, technician, counselor and advisor. In addition, the console bench that now replaces the original was an outright gift from Charles Walker.

1970s – Elizabeth Elder, Callanwolde’s First In-House Organist

Elizabeth Elder was introduced to Callanwolde through her long time friend Charles Walker. She remembers the morning he phoned and asked if she would like to play the Callanwolde organ. Elizabeth knew such an organ existed, as she had previously served across the street as temporary organist for the First Christian Church of Atlanta. At that time, Callanwolde was owned by the First Christian Church of Atlanta. Elizabeth accepted the offer, and, under a grant made available to her by DeKalb County, Elizabeth Elder becae Callanwolde’s first in-house organist. In those early days Elizabeth played for such Callanwolde events as gallery openings, receptions, and weddings.
Callanwolde had been without care or upkeep for many years when the Callanwolde Foundation purchased the property in 1972. “Its Aeolian Organ,” according to Ms. Elder, “had been abused, neglected and finally abandoned.” It was sad for her to see the once magnificent instrument in such a terrible state of disrepair.
Needless to say, playing the Callanwolde Organ around that time was quite a challenge for any musician. The electrical connections from the console to the pipes were unreliable and apt to fail at any time. Some of the pipes were out of tune and some would not close properly, causing a cipher or whistle.
Most professional organists would refuse to play such an instrument, but this was not Elizabeth’s nature. The condition of the organ did not provoke her. If a stop did not work, she would use another. If a key would not play, she would improvise. There was only one occasion when Elizabeth couldn’t continue a performance. In the middle of a Sunday afternoon concert, the organ simply stopped. There was nothing she could do but explain to the audience the condition of the organ and its need for repair.
Because there were no funds available for the organ’s upkeep, Elizabeth often called upon her friend Charles Walker and his young student friend, John Tanner from Emory University for maintenance assistance. Their volunteer services, their “band-aid repair” and “touch-up tuning” not only kept the instrument alive, but helped prevent further deterioration.
When Elizabeth’s grant ran out, she volunteered her services to Callanwolde as a Guild volunteer organist.

Early 1980s – Bonnie Youngerman, the Guild’s first Organ Restoration Chair

Bonnie Youngerman was the Callanwolde Guild’s first Organ Restoration Chairman. She served the Guild in this capacity from 1980 to 1984. By the end of her four-year tenture, the Callanwolde Aeolian Organ was well on its way to being fully restored.
When Bonnie was asked how she happened to join the Guild, she answered, “I came from Chicago where they tear down everything that is old. My friend Pat Ott asked me to join a group interested in preserving Callanwolde, the old Candler estate, and I said ‘yes’ without hesitation. In May 1975, when the Guild incorporated, I became a charter member.
Bonnie said she could not recall when the Guild consciously decided to restore the Aeolian Organ. However, it was apparent to everyone concerned that the organ was an integral part of the house and the house was designed for its accommodation. You could not preserve the house unless you restored the Aeolian House Organ. From the beginning, the Guild valued this one-of-a-kind instrument and welcomed the opportunity to be part of its restoration.
Although minor repairs had been made to keep the organ somewhat operational, nothing significant had been considered until 1980 when Guild President Shirley Healy asked Bonnie Youngerman to serve on her Board of Directors as Organ Restoration Chairman.
At this point, Elizabeth Elder introduced Bonnie to Charles Walker, the Callanwolde Guild’s knowledgeable Aeolian Organ Volunteer friend. Charles, in turn, suggested that Arthur Schleuter, of Pipe Organ Sales and Services in Lithonia, be consulted.
As soon as it became apparent that the restoration project was going to be quite costly, everyone began looking for ways to raise the necessary funds. Bonnie sent out over sixty letters to foundations and philanthropic organizations known to support this kind of culturally oriented preservation project. Unfortunately, these requests were never acknowledged.
Therefore, the Gift/Art Shop, staffed by Guild volunteers, became the major source of funds for the restoration. In addition, more funds were raised through the sale of the Guild’s Chem Lawn stock. Also, Guild-sponsored tours, luncheons, and special fundraisers contributed to the project.
Under Bonnie’s four-year supervision, the organ restoration project moved along at a steady pace. The starter mechanisms for both blowers were replaced. A new rectifier was placed on the organ. The static regulator above the main blower was releathered. The harp and chimes were restored and the Great Swell motor rebuilt. By the end of her four years, plans were underway to rebuild the Swell Division.
Bonnie was quick to give credit to Guild Presidents Shirley Healy, Martha Elizabeth Cornell, Carol Hale, and Jeanne Pearson for their enthusiastic support; to the women of the Guild for their untiring labors; and to the Art Shop for its many financial contributions.

Mid-Late 1980s – Mary Lynn Weatherly, the Guild’s second Organ Restoration Chair

Mary Lynn Weatherly served the Callanwolde Guild as Organ Restoration Chairman following Bonnie Youngerman’s resignation in 1984. She holds two music degrees and is a full-time music teacher, as well as a professional organist.
The mother of one of her former students introduced her to Callanwolde’s Aeolian Organ. When she saw the instrument and heard it played, she offered to become a Callanwolde Guild volunteer member and help with its restoration.
I asked Mary Lynn to explain how orchestral pipe organs, such as Callanwolde’s, developed. She answered, “In the early 1900s, symphony orchestras were virtually nonexistent in most cities and those that did exist were not the caliber of today’s orchestras. The orchestral organ was crafted by organ builders of the period to give audiences the opportunity to hear and enjoy the fullness of symphonic orchestral sounds. Wealthy families of the era, who enjoyed music in their homes, often installed such residential pipe organs. Most of these orchestral residential pipe organs were manufactured by the Aeolian Pipe Organ Company of New York.”
Callanwolde’s Aeolian Organ is a remarkable example of the design, engineering and craftsmanship that developed during the era of the Romantic Orchestral Organ. The instrument is controlled by a three-manual console with built-in roll player. It has seven divisions: Great Organ, Swell Organ, Choir Organ, Solo Organ, Echo Great Organ, Echo Swell Organ, and Pedal Organ. It is contained in four specially-built chambers in the house. Four parts are in two chambers over the front entrance, which play through the grill in the stone archway. The third chamber is on the third floor over the south end of the main hall and can play over the stairway or over the entry archway. The fourth chamber is on the third floor over the entrance to the billiard room and can play into the main staircase or the winter living room.
The organ contains 55 ranks (sets of pipes) for a total of 3,742 pipes. Pressurized wind for all the organ, with the exception of the Solo Organ, is provided by a five horsepower electric blower in the basement of the house. Wind for the Solo Organ is provided by a two horsepower electric blower located in the attic. The console, located in the Great Hall, is controlled by 147 tilting-tablet stop keys and couplers and various push button controls. The entire mechanism weighs over 20,000 pounds. Yet, the instrument fits so perfectly into its environment and blends so well into the style of the house, that you hardly know it is there until you hear its melodious sounds.
Organs have always been expensive instruments. It takes a fairly settled and prosperous individual or community to purchase and maintain one. As the Callanwolde Guild has duly noted, organ restoration is an expensive matter too.
Mary Lynn related that on June 10, 1985, the Callanwolde Guild authorized a $23,000 contract for restoration of the Organ’s Swell Division. On December 15, 1986, the Guild signed a $42,000 contract for rebuilding, rewiring, and restoring the organ’s console. A state-of-the-art digital recorder was also added at that time. Afterwards, on October 23, 1988, the Callanwolde Guild authorized a $26,000 contract for repairs, pipe replacement, etc. on the organ’s Solo Division. In the Fall of 1989, the Guild signed a $20,000 contract for restoration of the Organ’s Echo Division.

CLOSE
Donate