Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Govenors Mansion, Atlanta Georgia.

Staircase Rotunda at the Governor's Mansion, built in 1967. 
Architect Thomas A Bradbury, AIA.
A wonderful job was done recreating a period home
in the modern age. 
Scale, proportion, and details are all pitch perfect.
A long time ago, I remember watching an episode of Designing Women in which Julia Sugarbaker (the late Dixie Carter), in a brief moment of enforced fun, put her head between the railings on a staircase and gets her head stuck.  The staircase was at the Governors Mansion in Atlanta and the crew of Sugarbaker's Interior Design was decorating it for the annual Govenor's Ball.  The plot revolved around getting Julia's head out of the railing without having to cut through the wood handrail which was made of one continuous piece of timber (known is the episode as the 'Abbott Banister', a fictitious piece of historic memorabilia).

Silly little things like the plot of a defunct sitcom episode from 1989 have a funny way of sticking with you.  So when I found a spread in a 1970 issue of Architectural Digest that was all about the Atlanta Mansion immortalized (for me, at least) by one of my favorite television shows, I had to share it.  In addition to nostalgia, it's also a beautiful example of a Greek Revival style home that pays accurate tribute to its antebellum roots, but was built in the 20th century.  If architectural interest isn't enough, it's also home to a fine collection of American Federal antiques.

Surrounded on all sides by fluted Doric columns, the rose-toned brick structure is a perfect example of the Greek Revival style popular throughout the South during the first half of the 19th century.  Assembling the furnishings was a two year process that involved acquiring important pieces attributed to noteworthy cabinetmakers from Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia, plus antique chandeliers and period marble mantels imported from England.

I'm sure that in the past 40 years the interior of the mansion has changed slightly with new upholstery and window treatments, but with a grand collection of American Federal furnishings, significant American art and the drama of the architecture, the core strength of the home has surely stayed the same.  and I'm sure countless tour groups have attempted to get their heads between the rail, just like Julia.

- Ian

In the Reception Hall, American Federal chairs, c. 1880, surround an English podium table in the Greek Revival style.
The niche in the background holds a bronze bust of George Washington by Houdon, c 1778.  The marble topped pier table in the background, c. 1815, is one of four pieces in the home attributed to Charles-Honore Lannuier.
The State Dining Room room with reproduction 19th century chairs and a
New England accordion Federal style table attributed to John Seymour.

The State Drawing room features and Aubusson rug and a marvelous mantle with a
gold Greek Key motif.  The red upholstery, by Scalamandre, is a document silk woven originally for the Red Room at the White House.  The sofa,one of a pair, is Duncan Phyfe.

The Cherry paneled library with a Tabriz rug and a collection of books relating to Georgia.
I love the simplicity and elegance of the window coverings and that Greek Revival
chandelier with it's spare use of crystal and gold.  So understated.

The Ground Floor Guest Bedroom houses an alcove bed (with gilded Egypian busts and animal paw feet)
attributed to Charles-Honore Lannuier, c. 1815.  The rug is English needlepoint, the artwork
is a wallpaper panel illustrating Psyche showing her jewels to her sisters. 
The arm chair is Sheraton in style.

Julia gets her head stuck in a fence.

1 comment:

  1. When comparing the photo with the set of the Designing Women episode, you can see they did a nice job on mimicking the staircase rotunda. Only difference is that the set of the Governor's Mansion is a mirror image of the real staircase.