Oakdale Road stretches from Emory University down to Memorial Drive, but this week we focus our attention on its funky route through Candler Park. Although sometimes overshadowed by its sister on the other side of Moreland Avenue, Inman Park, Candler Park holds its own as an offbeat mecca for intown Atlanta's bohemian/hippy/yuppy/huppy set. Where else in town can you find "Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party," a Hare Krishna temple, Big Lou the Emu, and the original Flying Biscuit Café all in one neighborhood?
To be perfectly honest, I was drawn to Oakdale Road because of one special piece of architecture: the 1885 Smith-Benning House. It's solidly linked with the history of the area, which was an honest to goodness town known as Edgewood from 1890 until 1908. One of Edgewood's founders, Judge Charles Smith, was the home's original inhabitant. Edgewood was swallowed up by the city of Atlanta, and these days that moniker refers to the neighborhood directly south of Candler Park.
The Smith-Benning house is probably the closest approximation Atlanta has of a classic haunted mansion, owing to its rare Second Empire tower. The Eastlake Victorian detailing and cast iron fence encircling the property also lend to the Addams Family vibe. In fact, some people in Candler Park still refer to it as the "ghost house." The home's actual inhabitants are of the living and breathing variety, and they've been working on its restoration for the past thirty years. You can't rush these kinds of things, especially when there's literally a mile of trim to refinish! All that hard work paid off, as the house was the recipient of a Rehabilitation Award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 2010. That's quite an honor when you consider that the fire department once eyed the house for a controlled burn training exercise.
The rest of Oakdale Road is mostly lined with Victorian and Craftsman cottages, although a strikingly modern design adds an unexpected contrast across from the Smith-Benning House. The Edgewood/Candler Park MARTA rail station sits at Oakdale's intersection with Dekalb Avenue, adding to the neighborhood's walkability. At McLendon Avenue (Candler Park's main drag) is a tiny commercial district housing a flower shop, art gallery, and a belly dancing studio. And where Oakdale meets North Avenue, you'll come across the laid back greenery of Freedom Park. Would you be surprised to learn it serves as the site of festivities for International Pillow Fight Day? Of course not; this is Candler Park, after all.