John Cowart has developed residential and commercial properties across Atlanta, including Dunwoody neighborhoods Redfield and Brooke Farm. He also owned and developed land along Ashford Dunwoody Road north of Valley View Road. Forty years ago, he purchased 80 acres along Spalding Drive and developed the River Oaks subdivision. A portion of the land bordered the Chattahoochee River. A friend told him about the availability of the acreage, which had been given to a charity by the Nunnally family.
Nunnally may not be a familiar name, but between 1884 and the mid-20th century, the Nunnally name was synonymous with candy. James Nunnally began Nunnally Candy Company, manufacturing and selling boxed chocolates in Atlanta. The Nunnally Candy Company produced five million pounds of candy a year and was known by the slogan “the candy of the south.” The business expanded nationally, with 10 retail stores between Washington, D. C. and Dallas, Texas.
James Nunnally married Cora Winship, a cousin of the Coca-Cola Woodruff family. Combining his candy business with his Coca-Cola connections, he built Nunnally’s, a soda fountain on Peachtree Street facing Luckie Street. The soda fountain featured their own brand of root beer, other sodas, and frozen treats. Young people met there for dates or after a movie. Movie houses along Peachtree in the 1930s included the Metropolitan, Paramount, Georgia, Capitol, Grand and Howard.
In 1920, James and Cora’s son Winship took over the family business. Winship Nunnally graduated from the University of Georgia and attended Yale University as well. He served on the boards of several Atlanta businesses, including Delta airlines, Coca Cola Company, Trust Company of Georgia, Lowry National Bank and First National Bank.
Like several other Atlanta families, Winship Nunnally’s primary residence was in the city and he purchased land and built a summer home on Spalding Drive along the Chattahoochee River. There were summer homes in Dunwoody and especially along the river in what is now Sandy Springs.
John Cowart recalls the home and amenities that made up the Nunnally summer estate, which the Nunnally family called Lazy River Farm. Along the drive leading to the house, there was a gas pump, followed by fruit orchards, a clay tennis court, and then the log cabin. This wasn’t your typical small log cabin, but large enough to accommodate many family members or several business associates.
In front of the home was a lighted badminton court and to the right of the home was a metal swimming pool. On the embankment by the river was a skeet shooting range. A barn sat to one side of the home, a bar, well and barbeque pit on another side. The barbeque pit and well are still on the property. The log home was torn down to make way for the new neighborhood; however, the beautiful stone patio, walls and stairs leading to the river were incorporated into the Cowart home and are reminders of the old Nunnally place.
Events that took place at Lazy River Farm sometimes appeared in the Atlanta newspapers. The Delta Airlines’ quarterly Board meeting was held at the summer home on July 3, 1951. Nunnally also hosted a Boys High School fifty-year reunion at Lazy River Farm. Nineteen of his classmates who graduated in 1901 attended the reunion.
During World War II, Winship Nunnally served as commander of the Georgia Civil Air Patrol and eventually obtained the title of Colonel. The Georgia Civil Air Patrol was established to build a reserve air corps to serve in the case of an emergency at home.
Winship Nunnally was generous to his alma mater, the University of Georgia, throughout his life. Before he died in 1975 at the age of ninety, he set up a trust for his current wife (he was married four times) which would pass to the university on her death. This eventually resulted in a $3 million donation to UGA.
Nunnally Candy became a division of Fine Products Company in Augusta, Georgia in 1932 and continued to operate until 1978.
Other sources cited include: The Sweets Center of the South, Leona Westbrook, The City Builder, July 1923, courtesy of The Atlanta History Center; Atlanta and Environs: Volume II, Franklin Garrett; Yolanda’s Atlanta, Yolande Gwin, Atlanta, GA, 1983; Board Meeting at Lazy River, The Atlanta Constitution, June 20, 1950.