Why I Enjoyed the Swan House More Than…

Emily Inman's Parlor in the Swan House in Atlanta's tony Biuckhead.

Emily Inman’s Parlor in the Swan House in Atlanta’s tony Biuckhead.

…the Civil War exhibit at the Atlanta Historical Society Center.  I didn’t enjoy the Swan House more because of any shortcomings of “The Turning Point: the American Civil War,”  because it is a very impressive exhibit of  some 1400 Civil War artifacts, but because it really brings home just  how horrific that war was. 670,000 people died in that war, many of them from dysentery.  And to think that if a man owned 20 or more slaves in the Georgia, South he was exempted from being drafted.  Yes, it was a “rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight,”  as a a lot of the poor farm boys who were doing most of the fighting said.  This idea is very effectively explored in David William’s Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley. I read it about ten years ago. It really came to mind again as I walked through that exhibit at the Atlanta History Museum.  

  The Swan House, built in 1928 ,  gives us a good idea of what it was to be really rich in Atlanta in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Located in very tony Buckhead,  it was built for Edward and Emily Inman whose fortune was made from investments in cotton brokerage, real estate, and banking.  He didn’t get to enjoy the house but three years because he died in 1931. But, Emily lived there until 1966 when she sold it to the Atlanta Historical Society for $500 thousand. It  took $5.4 million to restore it. 

I saw it with a fine group of folks who are members of the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.  One of them,  my friend Julie Bray, asked me if I would like to live in the Swan House. With no hesitation, I said “No. It would be like living in a museum.” Of course it would, because it now IS a museum.   


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