Over the past few months, I have shared the history of each family that lived at Donaldson-Bannister Farm except for the final owners, David and Linda Chesnut.
This year marks the sesquicentennial of the farm, which is a city of Dunwoody park managed by Dunwoody Preservation Trust.
Developer and builder Jim Cowart bought the land and home from Frank Smith in 1975, with plans to develop a neighborhood behind the old home place. In a 2014 interview with Cowart, he told me he was hopeful someone would come along to restore the old home.
David and Linda Chesnut heard about the property from an uncle who reminded David, “You always wanted to live in that place.” Chesnut and Cowart talked on the phone and shook hands to seal the deal. There was no contract.
Linda and David Chesnut moved into the home with their daughter Caroline in 1976. They made some changes to the old house and the outbuildings. They added a new section to the back of the barn to give them room to store their tractor, hay and horse feed. They added on to the blacksmith shop.
They added fretwork to the side porch by replicating the original fretwork visible in photos from Lois Pattillo Bannister’s ownership. They put an antique wood-burning range behind the kitchen where they believed a similar stove had once sat. The stove is still in the home.
Bookshelves were added to the pine-paneled room adjacent to the kitchen, originally built by Lois Pattillo Bannister. Two inside doors were replaced with doors from Linda’s grandmother’s 1915 home, one in the first-floor right bedroom and the other for the first-floor half bath.
The Chesnuts installed a pool in the area that was once a boxwood garden installed by Lois Pattillo Bannister. They replaced the original gazebo in this area after a large oak destroyed it in 1975.
Linda worked as an interior designer and used the caretaker’s cottage for her office. David was an attorney who became Chairman of MARTA. When the Olympic games came to Atlanta in 1996, he was chairman of the equine advisory board.
The 1998 tornado that struck Dunwoody caused extensive damage to Donaldson-Bannister Farm. A huge pin oak fell across the front of the house, and the upstairs bedroom of Caroline was destroyed. Fortunately, she was not home when it happened. Linda and David Chesnut had to walk across broken glass to get out of their home following the tornado. They did not have any cuts on their feet, a phenomenon which cannot be explained. This is just one of several unusual events that occurred while they lived at Donaldson-Bannister Farm.
The Chesnuts restored Donaldson-Bannister Farm to its former glory following the 1998 tornado and continued to live there. In 2005, they were ready to sell the farm. Danny and Queenie Ross, co-presidents for Dunwoody Preservation Trust at the time, helped arrange for DeKalb County to buy the home. Greenspace funds were used to make the deal possible.
Many people remember the horses and donkeys that the Chesnuts kept at the farm. Children would ask to see and sometimes feed the animals. According to Linda Chesnut, when school was out for the summer and there were fewer visitors, the donkeys would be on the lookout for the children. Animals returned to the farm this summer as Dunwoody Preservation Trust held Camp Flashback for the third year.