Old mansion built with Coke money, now Emory-owned, may get new life

For nearly two decades, a mansion owned by Asa Candler Jr., the son of a Coca-Cola co-founder, has sat empty and quietly rotting away in Druid Hills.

But it appears there just may be some hope for the famed Briarcliff Mansion, also known as Candler Mansion, yet.

A community meeting to see “exciting plans” for restoring the mansion will be held Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Emory, according to the Save Briarcliff / Candler Mansion Facebook page.

Jennifer Richardson, a retired psychotherapist, professional musician and author who serves on the Druid  Hills Landmark District Preservation Committee, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email that Emory has not been a good steward of the "remarkable and wonderful mansion," saying it deserves to be rehabilitated or repurposed into something useful and desirable, such as a hotel.

"Despite the fact that the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, I have heard from a reliable source that  Emory wants to demolish it in favor of new construction," Richardson said. "How sad!  What a loss!" 

The mansion was built in 1920 and was once home to both a private and public pool and an exotic collection of animals including “a Bengal tiger, four lions, a black leopard, a gorilla, baboons, and six elephants” that were donated to what would become the Grant Park Zoo, according to the Save Briarcliff website. The property was bought by Emory University in 1998.

The Candlers sold Briarcliff Farm in 1948. In the early 50s, the state’s first alcohol treatment facility opened on the property; in 1965, a psychiatric hospital opened there.

More than 400 out of 500 requested have signed a petition to save the mansion.

Check back with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for updates.

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