Even with the state of halted home construction in metro Atlanta, certain pockets here and there seem unhindered by the slowdown in building activity. One of these lucky areas seems to be the Oakhurst section of Decatur. The tear down phenomenon is still going strong in this neighborhood, as evidenced by the lamentations found on local historian David Rotenstein's blog. Looking at the fundamentals of Oakhurst, it's not hard to understand why so many people are seeking to set roots in this tight knit district within the city limits of Decatur.
Like most of intown's most cherished neighborhoods, Oakhurst came about as the result of a streetcar line that allowed commuters easy, dependable treks to and from downtown Atlanta. There's a tried and true development pattern at the core of Oakhurst's appeal: a small commercial village surrounded by streets of early 20th century residential architecture. In fact, many of the homes in Oakhurst are notable as examples of work by Leila Ross Wilburn, a graduate of Agnes Scott University. Oakhurst became a city in 1910, but it was shortly swallowed up by Decatur in 1916. The Scottish Rite Hospital, designed by famed Atlanta architect Neel Reid, was an early growth machine for Oakhurst. Many of the businesses in the village catered to those employed at the hospital with a drug store, grocery store, ice cream parlor, and hardware shop, among other small businesses. Its closure and relocation to the northern suburbs in 1976 put a damper on the area, and it began a period of decline. It's safe to say that downward trend has reversed.
Today, the Old Scottish Rite Hospital is buzzing with activity due to its repurposing as a community center, events space, art galleries, and a bar. The village has similarly rebounded as a revamped collection of neighborhood shops, eateries, and services. Oakhurst is bookended between two great recreation areas: Oakhurst Park (two baseball dimaonds, a basketball court, a playground, tennis courts and picnic shelters) and McKoy Park (a new-ish community pool, playground, skate park, and baseball diamond), as well as a dog park and community garden. For such a modest neighborhood, Oakhurst boasts an impressive lineup of yearly festivals; residents have easy access to the Wine Tasting Festival, Jazz Nights, the Oakhurst Arts Festival, and the Decatur BBQ, Blues, and Bluegrass Fest. Also within close proximity is the red hot Decatur Square with its great dining and entertainment scene. Oakhurst is served by the City of Decatur school system, which is regarded as one of the best in the state. The nearby East Lake MARTA station provides a convenient commute alternative.
Homes in Oakhurst fall into three major categories. There's the highly coveted Craftsman originals, which are the oldest homes in the area. They typically sport generous porches, chunky moldings, and beautiful antique wood floors. The next group is the World War II-era cottage or ranch, which usually sport spare detailing and low profiles. These are coming down in droves to make way for the latest addition to the Oakhurst scene, the contextual tear down. Even though these newbies make an aesthetic nod to their predecessors, there's no mistaking their size and modern amenities for something out of the past. Somewhat ironically, a female architect (Alrene Dean) has been the designer of many of Oakhurst's new homes. Oakhurst has come full circle in more ways than one.
Oakhurst homes are typically priced from the low $200s to $700,000. You can search them here.