COVER STORY | Buckhead’s Most Intriguing Mansions: 281 Blackland Road

Picture Perfect: 281 Blackland Road

By Kate Abney

Designed and built in 1936 by Frazier and Bodin at the height of the firm’s heyday, the white-brick Adam-style residence at 281 Blackland Road may be one of Buckhead’s most treasured. Built in 1937 for Hugh P. Nunnally, this breathtaking Tuxedo Park mansion’s Corinthian-columned facade is like a postcard in the memory of most Sunday drivers.

“It’s set so beautifully on its lot, and has one of those huge sweeping green lawns that Tom Wolfe wrote about at length when describing grand Buckhead properties,” notes Holly Street, the Buckhead blogger behind Things That Inspire. Indeed, its lush green grass tumbles 500 feet to the street, creating an imposing presence high upon the hill. Not surprisingly, its reign over the neighbors has been long and illustrious.

Most notably, actor Clark Gable and actress Carole Lombard were photographed on site during the premiere of Gone With the Wind, cementing the Nunnally mansion as a modern icon for the city. When a fire devastated the property in 2000, undoing a year of exacting renovation efforts, the owners dared not throw in the towel. Instead they seized the opportunity to restore the residence to its original glory, doing away with the lackluster renovations that had chipped away at its character throughout the decades.

But first, the fire and water damage had to be sorted—the experts at Spitzmiller & Norris took the structure down to a roofless shell. Thanks to detailed documentation efforts, they were able to restore an exact replica of the roof, cornice, portico, windows and trim.  Though you cannot see it from the street, the interior restoration was just as immaculate. Precise molds were made from the remnants of plaster details, then the plaster ornaments were recast for the home’s formal rooms. A family room and solarium were established in place of the home’s tragically destroyed north wing. The new living room boasts a two-story portico with Savannah-inspired wrought-iron balconies. Interior doors were reoriented, and the house was bedecked with intricate panels and trims.  Additional aesthetic accents were achieved thanks to the expertise of designer Carole Weaks, while bonus features include a new wine cellar, an attic playroom/media room, a pool and pool guesthouse.

Still more evidence of this project’s profundity? Spitzmiller & Norris’ renovation earned a Preservation Award from the Georgia Trust in 2003 and an Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Shutze Award in 2008, proving that, with dedication and precision, classicism can prevail even in a contemporary age.

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  • As a Real Estate Appraiser, I appraised this home back in the mid 90’s (just after Immerman bought it, and it still had the Prince Faisal furnishings), and this was before the fire. Then I was able to see the home about 5 years later post-fire, for some type of tour of homes thing they had. I’m sure Spitzmiller and Norris did their best, but the house was not as grand as it once was originally. I wish I could have helped – I had extensive amounts of interior photos, pre-fire.

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