This story originally appeared in the July/August issue of Living Intown Magazine.
Brookhaven resident Mary Ellen Layden didn’t consider herself very political until it came time to make a city of her community.
“I wasn’t much of an activist,” said Layden, who works in sales at the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. “Then I met this great group of people who had a fascinating idea to create the City of Brookhaven. I loved my neighborhood near Oglethorpe University, and a number of us worked back in 2009 to address speeding and traffic concerns, but I could sense a bit of disconnect with the rest of Brookhaven. When I learned about the campaign for us to become a city in 2012, I was all in.”
Known for its shady, Old Atlanta residential streets, Brookhaven officially became a city in 2012 and recently has seen an expansion of live-work-play developments with trendy restaurants and boutiques.
“We’re the 13th largest city in Georgia, and we’re continuing to grow,” said Mayor John Ernst, who grew up in Brookhaven and fondly recalls playing in Murphey Candler Park as a child. “We’re working hard to create an identity for Brookhaven as a whole and to fulfill the needs of all our residents.”
In the early 1800s, farming was king and the John L. Evins plantation was a popular stopping place in what is now Brookhaven. Before the Civil War, Evins’ land passed to Solomon Goodwin, whose log cabin still stands in Brookhaven and remains the oldest building in DeKalb County. By the late 1800s, Salson Stovall was the main property owner in what is now known as Historic Brookhaven.
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In the early 1900s, the area became a summer haven for Atlantans, so developers created Brookhaven Estates, a neighborhood of homes with Brookhaven Country Club as its focal point.
According to the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association, it was probably the first community in the Southeast built around a golf course.
Within a few years, Capital City Club purchased the Brookhaven club and expanded the golf course from nine to 18 holes. Many of the homes along Club Drive were built between the 1920s and early 1940s.
The cornerstone of Oglethorpe University’s Brookhaven campus was laid in 1915 after it was re-chartered and moved from its 1835 original location near Milledgeville (not counting a short stint in Atlanta).
The campus’ distinctive Gothic-style buildings were inspired by James Oglethorpe’s alma mater, Corpus Christi College at Oxford University in England. In 2015, the university celebrated 100 years in its current location.
By 1985, Historic Brookhaven was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the following year, the National Park Service officially named it the Brookhaven Historic District. In 1994, Oglethorpe University was listed on the National Register.
Located in North DeKalb County, Brookhaven is bounded on the north by I-285 and primarily by I-85 on the south. To the west, it goes as far as the DeKalb/Fulton County line and to the east, it abuts the city limits of Chamblee.
“Some homes in Historic Brookhaven are actually bisected by the county line,” said Bob Connelly, 17-year Brookhaven resident and president of the Historic Brookhaven Neighborhood Association.
“It can be a bit confusing. For instance, sometimes residents of Historic Brookhaven who live in Atlanta receive jury summons from DeKalb," he said.
The city’s 56,000-plus residents can now go to Brookhaven City Hall for issues related to government administration, parks, and planning and zoning, rather than making a trek to Decatur.
“That has been a huge help to us,” Layden said. “We really feel like we’re much more in touch with our own city officials, and we appreciate being responsible for our own services here.”
Nearly 60 percent of Brookhaven’s more than 8.5 square miles consists of single-family residences. Approximately 26 percent of residents are young professionals, and about 15 percent are between the ages of 55 and 64.
The median household income is just under $89,276.
While the majority of its single-family homes were built after the 1950s, Brookhaven is also seeing a resurgence of infill housing, particularly with Craftsman-style architecture and larger, brick multi-story homes. Mixed-use developments include Brookhaven Village on Dresden Drive and Town Brookhaven.
Brookhaven’s 14 parks and its planned greenway create a suburban environment convenient to MARTA and such major roads as Peachtree Street. The city plans to acquire more land for green space and to connect neighborhoods with bike paths.
Home to Blackburn Tennis Center and Nancy Creek trails, the second-largest park in Brookhaven features a Food Truck Round-Up each Wednesday from 5 to 9 p.m., and also hosts the April Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the city planting 140 cherry trees in the park.
3493 Ashford Dunwoody Drive. 404-637-0542. brookhavenga.gov/city-departments/parks-recreation
The cultural hub of Brookhaven, Oglethorpe is home to the Conant Performing Arts Center, which features music and theater events produced by the university as well as outside groups. The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art presents six major exhibits annually, while members of the community also attend Oglethorpe’s athletic events.
4484 Peachtree Road. 404-364-8307. oglethorpe.edu
The Crypt of Civilization, a time capsule at Oglethorpe University, was installed in a 10-by-10 foot room in 1940. Scheduled to be opened in 8113, it was designed to mark the midway point of civilization, (finding the starting point in 4241 B.C., the establishment of the Egyptian calendar).
In addition to its shops and eateries, Town Brookhaven provides plenty of activities, such as enjoying movies and a meal at CinéBistro. Its central green hosts Movies on the Town Thursdays in June and July, the Taste of Town Brookhaven each May, and Holiday on the Town in December.
4330 Peachtree Road. 404-847-1809. townbrookhaven.net
Located in Brookhaven Station across from the MARTA station, Terra Terroir is a hidden fine-dining gem with continental cuisine and an on-staff sommelier. With signature dishes including grilled sea bass and deconstructed lobster ravioli, Terra Terroir has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the past eight years.
3974 Peachtree Road. 404-841-1032. terraterroir.com
Back for its fifth year with 40 percent more vendors than in 2015, this Saturday morning market offers such items as fresh meats from West Wind Farms, Tom’s Awesome Seafood with fresh shrimp and fish, plus King of Pops’ newest offering: King of Crops produce grown on its own farm. Check out prepared foods, fresh-made pasta and organic offerings. The market is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Dec. 10.
1375 Fernwood Circle. brookhavenfarmersmarket.com
Founded by two interior designers, Cindy Lites and her daughter Caroline Lites Thompson, this high-end accessories, furniture and home-decor boutique offers monogrammed bedding, fine tableware and original art.
1430 Dresden Drive, Suite 200. 404-841-9171. margueritesondresden.com
Pamper your pet at this shop that, since opening in 2008, has specialized in supplies and all-natural pet foods for dogs and cats. Its self-serve wash stations allow you to clean your dog without messing up the house.
4244 Peachtree Road. 404-816-8050. citydogmarket.com