Friday, June 03, 2011

Evans-Cucich House, Peachtree Battle Avenue





There is one house in Atlanta that I have coveted ever since I was a child. Located on Peachtree Battle Avenue, the Evans-Cucich house is one of the very few Art Deco houses in Atlanta. Before I even knew what Art Deco was, I could tell that this house was unique. It certainly didn't look like the other the 1920s and 30s-era homes in my neighborhood. Built in 1935 and designed by Atlanta architect A.F.N. Everett, the limestone house has a rather dark past. The original owner of the home, Hiram Evans, was an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Many of us who are native Atlantans grew up hearing rumors that a tunnel was built underneath Peachtree Battle connecting the Evans house to a fellow Klansman's house across the street. Then, sometime in the 1980s, I believe, the house was purchased by a man by the name of Cucich. I remember driving by the house in the 1980s and 90s and thinking "Someday, that house will be mine."

Fast forward to a few months ago. My friend Clary Bosbyshell (she and her mother Margaret are the talented design duo behind Margaux Interiors) emailed me late one night to ask me about a house with which she was fascinated. She wrote that she walked by it often, that it was the most interesting looking house, and that it looked like it had been foreclosed on. Before I even opened the attachment with a photo of the house, I knew that it was my house! A flurry of emails went back and forth. Clary, who also grew up in Atlanta, had long been intrigued by the house as well. We both did a little research on it and discussed the rumor of the underground tunnel. When Clary found out that the house was about to go on the market, she orchestrated a tour of the house with an agent. One dreary afternoon in March, Clary, Margaret, and I showed up with cameras in hand to see and document the interiors of the house.

What is sad is that the house is really in a state of disrepair. The limestone exterior still looks decent, but the inside...well...let's just say that it needs a lot of work. There are rotten floorboards, holes in ceilings, and a general foul odor. I even wonder about the condition of the flat roof. I'm not sure what happened to the previous homeowners nor if and how long the house has been vacant, so I suppose that I shouldn't belabor the condition of the interiors. But, I did take a lot of photos of the house for my own records. I wanted to share a few of them with you today. There are some interesting Art Deco architectural details both in the interior and the exterior of the house. You can tell that once it had been a most dazzling house. Fortunately for the house and for those of us who love it, the Evans-Cucich house is on the National Register of Historic Places. This is a godsend because it can't be torn down to make way for some horror of a new home. It's shocking how few Atlantans seem to have any respect for old homes anymore. I just hope that the new homeowners, whoever they might be, will restore and gently modernize it in a way that is suitable for both the home and the neighborhood. And no bad Art Deco flourishes, please!

And about that tunnel? We went down in the basement and found a padlocked door that we couldn't open. We wondered if it led to the tunnel, but I just don't know. Others who have inspected the house say that they found no tunnel. I guess that the rumor and mystery will remain for the next generation of Atlantans.


Apologies for the dark photos. It was dark both inside the house and outside as well, so taking decent photos was a bit of challenge!









Architectural detail shots of the limestone exterior





The entryway with Deco-style molding and detail.



The guest room had an interesting ceiling with those stepped insets. (Wish that I knew what the proper architectural term for this ceiling is!)




The home's original stair railing and newel post.



A Deco shaped doorway.




The kitchen's original refrigerator.




I'm assuming that the blue lavatory and toilet are original? What a great shade of blue.





There was an upstairs balcony that had been painted with a tropical mural by the most recent homeowner.




A Deco style telephone niche.




The Butler's Pantry.




The rear of the house.




The National Register plaque in front of the house.




All photographs copyright of The Peak of Chic/ Jennifer Boles

51 comments:

  1. The details are just wonderful. If you don't want to take it on, I hope someone with deep pockets and very good taste gets it. It made me think of the Hollywood producer, Joel Silver who has rescued and restored numerous Wright houses. Maybe we could get him into Deco!

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  2. A good friend of mine has been through the house several times and thought about buying it. It has been bought by the Heery brothers and will be renovated and sold. Thanks for photos. It is a very interesting house.

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  3. What a crying shame! I've loved looking at this house ever since I first saw it nearly twenty years ago and I drive past it most days. I had no idea!

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  4. What a fabulous house! But sadly, being on the National Register offers absolutely no protection from alteration or demolition. Sometimes local regulations require a review before issuing permits for demolition or construction for National Register properties or other landmarks, but the designation does not automatically offer protection.

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  5. Being from the south, now loving & living in LA, CA., I have seen and wondered about this home when visiting Atlanta. What a treat to know about it's background. I too heard tales about the tunnel.hmmm so the tales continue. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  6. truly it is shocking that the house is so shabby inside. It would seem as you say-someone with good taste and deep pockets would snatch it up in a heartbeat-and never let it go. It's a pity too-that there is such careless disregard for old houses. thanks for a glimpse. pgt

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  7. How fun for you to finally have the chance to wander the hallways of your house! I love all of the details, thank you for sharing these photos.

    I hope a loving owner steps in soon!

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  8. Anonymous2:25 PM

    I can just imagine it in its heyday- a painting by Tamara de Lempicka over the mantel, women in Balenciaga gowns, Veuve Cliquot and cigarettes for everyone, tout de suite. Do let us know what transpires and thanks for the eye candy.

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  9. Anonymous2:36 PM

    The gueat room ceiling is a "tray ceiling," very popular in the 20s & 30s, & labor intensive today if you use real lath & plaster, but you could use a bit of sheet rock & a talented carpenter with a good eye.

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  10. This house is a living museuem it is just wonderful--

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  11. A little history, which comes from long ago and wherein details may be fuzzy. First, the Cucich's if I remember correctly retailed high end flooring for Atlanta which put them in the Buckhead strata. Steve Cucich, who lived in the Peachtree Battle house, was a very elegant gent who at one time was house manager for the Woodruff Arts Center. When I was in high school I used to usher for the symphony and Steve would always gather us together and give us instructions before we began. Back then he was dressed in Black Tie as were many of the patrons. He was very elegant and we thought him super sophisticated. Later he was in PR for showbiz types. Coincidentally, he passed away on April 11, 2011.

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    1. Steve was a great friend of mine . We threw many fun dinner parties there and the fridge never worked. We would bring food over and store it in the fridge. It was so cool. Marc Chatov painted the more recent deco murals in the home. Steve always wore an ascot and was so kind and generous . He was eccentric . The place reminded me of the Adams Family with its dark underground KKK history .
      Mimi Lefont Bean

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  12. Also, the Stephen Cucich Agency listed this house as its business address, 306 Peachtree Battle Ave. It sold in January 2011 for 1.2 million bucks.

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  13. Anon- Thank you for letting me know what the proper ceiling term is!

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  14. HGB- Thank you for shedding light on Mr. Cucich, although it is sad to hear that he recently passed away. It sounds like he was a very kind and sophisticated man. Interesting that it sold in January and was then foreclosed on a few months later.

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  15. What a beautiful home! No wonder you have loved it since childhood. I hope that someone with the same appreciation will restore it back to its old glory.

    Cheers,

    Claudia

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  16. What a great post PoC. Not only is this a fascinating house, but my favorite posts are always private snaps - even when the quality is less than perfect. xColette

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  17. Thank you so much for this blog entry! It's so interesting to see how many people have been fascinated by this house. If I won the lottery, it would be mine!

    I moved to Peachtree Hills and made Peachtree Battle part of my walking route, partially because I wanted to stroll by this house and take in the details. I always hoped that one day I would meet the owner and be able to ask him about the architect. One day my timing was perfect and Stephen Cucich, looking very dapper, was puling out of his driveway. I approached his car, and he probably thought I was crazy at first, but humored me even though he was on his way to a lunch date, and told me a little about the history of the house. He was the nicest man; gave me his card and it turned out we had a lot of friends in common. We agreed to get together at a later date and my husband and I were invited to come by for a glass of wine. We didn't get to see much of the house, but we talked for several hours. He had many fascinating stories and when I told him I was working on a documentary about Johnny Mercer, he pulled out a picture of Johnny's wife, Ginger, from an event he had been involved in.

    When I saw that the house was for sale, I was afraid that something happened to Stephen, so I did a google search and found that he had passed away. It's sad that they couldn't keep up the house, but that often happens when people get older. At least they didn't "modernize" it and get rid of the deco details. Looks like there is lots of potential for the right owner. When I told Stephen that I called his house "The Bank", he told me that other neighbors called it "the post office". LOL! R.I.P., Mr. Cucich!

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    1. Ron Brooks3:43 PM

      As a child, I remember the house vividly and was always fascinated by it,
      we called it the "radio station"...

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  18. Amy- What a great story! Mr. Cucich must have been such a nice- and interesting- man!

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  19. Anonymous4:52 PM

    I live in Columbia, SC and was visiting family this past weekend in Atlanta. I went for a run, got lost and found myself in front of this amazing house. There is something compelling about this home that pulls you in. Thanks so much for the interior photos. Please save this house Atlanta and restore it to it's proper splendor.

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  20. Anon- Nice to hear that you too find the house amazing! The new owners are currently renovating it. I'm anxious to see what it looks like after it's complete.

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  21. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I went to grammar school and high school with Steve Cucich! He was a very quiet kid who was somewhat ignored in school. His family, at that time, lived on P'tree-Dunwoody Rd., not far from me on Loridans Dr. He had an older brother named 'Fortune', which I was always fascinated by that name. I am glad to know what he accomplished in his life and wish I had known him better in school. By the way, he would be the same age as I am, had he lived, and I am 67. So he actually died relatively young for all he accomplished. RIP Steve.

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    1. Anon, thank you for this information. His house really was beautiful.

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  22. Anonymous12:48 PM

    i too love this house-i grew up in atlanta and traveled the area from '53 to '78 before moving to New York. everytime i come home i go see this house. my mother used to refer to it as the prison, or the 'box'. it reminds me of the great Ennis Brown house in Los Angeles designed by FLWright. i cherish all of my fave Atlanta homes and hope this one is preserved in the future

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  23. Tug Helmer10:40 AM

    Very nice blog - thank you. I've admired this house since childhood and wanted to share this - the tunnels (plural, as there are several) do exist! Also, its the only house on Peachtree Battle with a fence around it. The fence was erected for the klansman back in the 50's, however, today its yet another unique feature among the many houses along P'tree Battle, as still no other has one like it, (in keeping with zoning req's for state roads).

    Now John Willis and a partner have acquired it. Willis chose Harrison for architectural work. Both men are responsible stewards. I suspect the house will be redeveloped once a buyer is secured. Its facade restored, and modern (tastefully executed, lets hope!) art deco amenities throughout...

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  24. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Wonderful blog! This home is simply beautiful and a joy for the true classicist. It is ashame that homes are not built with the same care to detail. It always concerns me that folks are interested in building monstrosities of so called homes that are devoid of a true soul instead of finding a beautiful classic and renovating or restoring a beauty such as this. Anyhoo...love your blog!

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  25. Thank you for this post! However, it is not true that the National Register provides protection to the property (except in cases of federally-funded threats - say, if a highway were proposed through the yard).

    If it is an Atlanta historical landmark (a designation given by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission) or within a local Historic Area designation, then it certainly does have some protections.

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  26. Thank you so much for this post! I run by this house every day. I'm completely enthralled by it and always have been. There's something mysterious and alluring about it. I've always thought Miss Havisham would be somewhere inside in her old wedding dress. Clearly, my runners 'high' ignites the imagination.

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  27. FLETCH2:57 PM

    I almost rented the basement appartment from Mr.Cucich in the mid 1980's. He dated a good friend of mine. He was Italian Opera promoter. The house had terazzo floors similar to the Empire State building. The original foyer chandelier was about 5 feet tall and was tiffany per Mr. Cuchich. Hopefully its still hanging. The house was pretty incredible even though it was in bad shape then.

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  28. I hear they may have a buyer who wants to tear it down and build on the lot.

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    1. You have got to be kidding! But, it sounds like you are not. If this is true, it's bad news. And unfortunately, it's very typical of Atlanta.

      Please keep me posted!

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  29. I went to grammar school with Steve Cucich

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  30. Not kidding at all. I heard this from a close neighbor. I'll let you know what I find out. I know that Wright Mitchell and Buckhead Heritage know about it. How ironic coming on the heals of the good news about the Randolph Lucas House.

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    1. Anonymous1:42 PM

      Wright Mitchell and BHS did an amazing job keeping Lady Lucas from demolition and will do the same thing for this one I'm sure - they are my new heroes !!!!!!!

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  31. Please do. This is distressing, especially considering that this has always been one of my favorite houses.

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  32. I have also been in love with this house since childhood and am so glad I came across your blog so I could finally see the interior! I pass this house almost everyday and still marvel at it. I had high hopes that someone who loved the house would buy it and do a sensitive renovation (I have my masters in historic preservation, so I am definitely biased about what I think should happen to the house!)so I hope the rumors aren't true. A search of the Fulton Co Tax Accessor website shows that Taylor Custom Homes LLC out of Duluth bought the house. Http://qpublic9.qpublic.net/ga_display_dw.php?county=ga_fulton&KEY=17+011100010256

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  33. Just a quick update-I contacted Buckhead Heritage this morning, who then contacted the realtor who sold the house, and the new owner is taking advantage of available tax credits and renovating the house to live in themself. This was also verified by one person I know, who is close with the company who listed the house. This is definitely the best case scenario. Yay!

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    1. Katie, Wow! You're a fountain of information. This is great. Let's hope the new owners are sensitive to the style and age of the house and the neighborhood.

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  34. Anonymous7:43 PM

    A young couple bought the house. They plan to restore the home in a "period correct" fashion and will be adding a modest renovation to the rear. They have both lived in the immediate neighborhood for years and understand what a landmark this home is.

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  35. Jennifer, thanks for all this great information. I read this post long before I ever thought I would be hired by the new owner to renovate this house! Since you have such loyal followers, I thought you would like to know that I will be continually posting progress pictures on my blog. You can find several posts already set on my website at www.jryanduffey.com and soon I plan to post the drawings! Selective demolition is happening, permits are submitted and we are well underway to breathing new life back into the house. And yes, the latest rumors are true, the new owners intend to fully rehab the interiors and exteriors while conducting a modest and tastefull addition on the rear. When finished, the house will look its finest. Stay tuned. - Ryan Duffey

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    1. Linda Cuthbertson1:48 PM

      Good to know Ryan !! Now, about those tunnels.................?

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  36. Anonymous5:56 PM

    For those interested, the original exterior of the home is not limestone, but a concrete block product painted and made to look like limestone. This is evident now that construction is underway and some of the veneer has been removed. Many of the window and door surrounds may be actual limestone, but that is still unclear from my sidewalk vantage point, without a close inspection.

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  37. Anonymous12:00 PM

    What a pleasure it was to read all these posts! Had no idea about Mr. Cucich (sounds like quite a leap from the cray Mr. Evans) and was so great to hear he had the persona and style to match the home. I'm a New Yorker, and have loved this house since discovering it. Here's hoping the new addition fits in perfectly, and only compliments the architectural geometry of the original. Also, does anyone else enjoy the semi-over grown feeling of the plants and trees? I hope these are not all removed. Thanks for this!!

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  38. OMG I am so glad I found this post. I grew up around the corner on Dellwood Dr in the 50's and 60's. This house always fasinated me. So the KKK connection is true. I always heard rumors about that and also the tunnels. I noticed that the house is being repaired. Any possibility it will ever be opened to the public?

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  39. Anonymous11:06 PM

    great post

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  40. Anonymous6:21 PM

    The back renovation can now be seen from Google map satellite. Sure hope they are incorporating the addition well! The house was so perfectly architecturally geometric, and an addition could truly make or break! Sending positive vibes - I love this house so much and have been following the blog, wish I had jumped on it when listed for 995k! Love from Denver

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  41. Anonymous10:42 PM

    My family lived here from summer 1960 to spring 1969. Great home for a family five children. We searched diligently for the supposed tunnels, but never found them. On more than one occasion, passersby stopped to visit the "local library". Other than the residence's unfortunate connection with a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, we were unaware of the home's architectural significance. Shortly after moving in, my father removed the grand steps leading to the house. Even as a ten-year old, I lamented that modification. I believe some remarks were made above about the terrazo floors in the living room, dining room, and main entrance and hallway on the first floor. That was my father's work as well, but this modification was prompted by termites which were discovered in the original flooring. Unfortunately, the old man contracted the terrazo installer based on price, not quality. The result was that the terrazo surface was not attractive. I spent endless hours cleaning and trying all manner of waxes to bring a lustre to the floors. All to no avail. Years later, I deduced that the contractor had skipped numerous steps necessary for truly handsome terrazo flooring. The kitchen pantry included the odd feature of a built-in safe. Each bedroom on the second floor featured doorway access to four roofs areas. A stairway lead to a small area on the third floor which also opened up to an accessible roof which spanned the main structure of the house. We were never able to stop the leaks from these flat roofs. Finally, at this late age, I can now confess that my older brother and I caused much mischief as we used the roofs to throw eggs at passing automobiles. The drivers always figured that the eggs were thrown from the park across the street. The house, I guess, was far too imposing to be the source of such juvenile antics. I believe that whoever planted those damn trees in the front yard ruined the august appearance of that unique stone structure which stood out so sublimely in the midst of a neighborhood full of stately brick homes. Finally, my mother and I visited Mr. Cucich in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Mr. Cucich, an interesting gentleman indeed, was kind enough to let us wander throughout most of the old homestead. The experience flooded me with warm memories. A grand old house.

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  42. Anonymous7:54 AM

    The restoration of this house is almost done and it is incredibly beautiful. I live down the street and have had the opportunity to see it before and after. I know, at one point, a potential contractor recommended tearing this house down but he was quickly dismissed in favor of a renovation. It has been brought back to life and is just stunning.

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  43. Tamara De Lempicka4:37 PM

    OK y'all, I just looked up the house on Google street view for the first time in about 6 months, and I am wowed! I was blinded by the white form that first appeared on my screen, and it took me a minute to recognize it at this home after having long seen it shrouded in a jungle of a front yard, a la Indiana Jones in Atlanta (which I too, preferred). Streetview even caught construction workers working on the front drive way, which is sorta cool.. Just wish I could see photos of the back reno.! Please post or let me know where to find them if anyone else has seen any! Am ready to take a trip to ATL just to try and get a look (and possibly even a tour one could dream) of this place. Is it going back on the market? Love love love this house..

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