Talk of the Town - Chastain Park August 29 2001

More than a concert spot

Riding horses, feeding chickens and working in the garden around her farm was the way Virginia Nickerson grew up as a child. Her family built their Georgian cottage in 1938, having bought the land from a pioneer of the time, with 12 acres of workable land surrounding it.

No, she wasn't out on the wild frontier. She grew up, and continues to live, in Atlanta's affluent Chastain Park.

While most people only know of the area as they queue up for concerts at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre, many residents have been enjoying the old-growth trees and pleasant community for years.

"I remember when this area was unpaved gravel roads and we would slaughter and smoke our own meat," muses Nickerson. "We lived a life in the country and the area has continually developed around us."

And develop, it has. Chastain is quickly becoming more densely populated as people increasingly want to move near Buckhead and Midtown. Residents agree that it's a great area for raising a family and many children line the street, selling lemonade or playing ball on their front lawns.

Former civic association president Karen Ratcliffe raises her two children in Chastain Park and has noticed that more and more families with young kids have moved into the neighborhood.

"It's a great location. You forget you're this close to downtown as soon as you leave Roswell Road," Ratcliffe says. "The parks, paths and other facilities make this area so distinctive and such a great place to live."

As a focal point for the area, the Chastain Park Amphitheatre has been both a bane and a blessing for many of its neighbors. Some residents can actually feel their homes vibrate from the sound during concerts. Traffic lines many of the streets. But at the same time, many residents appreciate the cultural impact it brings to the neighborhood. Having the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performing in your back yard doesn't happen just anywhere.

The PATH walking trail circumnavigating the park and surrounding streets is a recent addition, receiving praise from nearly all residents. The privately funded path is used daily by hundreds of people who live the area or travel and park to jog and walk in the natural surroundings.

With the amount of development and interest in the area, some residents have voiced concern over too much change. Kathy McLean, real estate agent and long-time resident of Chastain, isn't worried.

"We're a good inch north of Buckhead and we still have the trees and yards," explains McLean.

But Virginia Nickerson has 10 acres and her barn. It now stores unused household items instead of livestock, but she can recall the wide-open spaces and smells of Atlanta before its present incarnation. And she knows that Chastain is still a great place to call home.??

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