Frank and Hortense Smith and their children Frank and Bonnie moved to the farmhouse at the corner of Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Vermack Road in 1956. The property was still known by the name Boxwood Farms at that time, but today is Donaldson-Bannister Farm. This year marks 150 years for the old home and farm.
Frank Smith owned and operated a nursery business located on Roswell Road, where Pike Nursery-Buckhead is today. The family kept the growing operation at the home on Chamblee Dunwoody Road, including six 150-foot greenhouses and one outdoor greenhouse.
Bonnie Smith Nichols has returned to the home and property to share her memories of living there with Dunwoody Preservation Trust, which manages the property and preserves the history. She shared photographs from the time her family lived there, as well as photographs of the home during an earlier time given to the Smiths by relatives of Lois Pattillo Bannister.
The Smith home and property included 28 acres and extended past where Vermack Swim and Tennis Club is located today. Bonnie and her family swam in the pool built into the creek by Lois Pattillo Bannister. Vermack Road was a narrow, dirt road when the Smith family moved to the farm. There was a rock quarry down near the creek, and Bonnie believes some of the original stone walls and steps on the farm came from the quarry.
Lois Pattillo Bannister’s boxwood garden, which included brick paths, peonies and a decorative brick wall was still part of the property when the Smiths lived there. Bonnie Smith remembers muscadine vines and a large pear tree which were next to the garden.
The Smiths kept many animals on the farm. They had chickens, pigs, horses, cows, turkeys, guineas and rheas. In the barn was a milking room, stalls for the horses and a work room where her dad used his table saw. Around the barn were pastures, a turkey yard and a riding ring.
One of Bonnie’s memories is the day her mother decided to take a sledgehammer to the kitchen wall. There was a fireplace upstairs directly above the spot and the wall felt warm. Hortense Smith started pounding away at the wall and uncovered a kitchen fireplace.
Bonnie also recalls the time her Girl Scout troop camped on the property. Rain forced them to move indoors, so they slept in the loft above the barn.
Bonnie and Frank Smith attended the Dunwoody School that was located where the Dunwoody Library and Spruill Center for the Arts are today. There were 108 children enrolled at the school at that time. The school was an old brick building that had been built in the 1930s. There was a bus, but their house was considered too close to the school for the bus to stop there.
Hortense and Frank Smith moved from their Dunwoody farm just before Christmas 1974. Bonnie and Frank Jr. had left home, and Frank Smith had sold the nursery business. Frank and Hortense Smith felt Dunwoody had become too crowded and moved to a larger property in Woodstock.
The Smiths were the fifth family to live at Donaldson-Bannister Farm. To read about the previous four families, go to thecrier.net and search William J. Donaldson, Lois Pattillo Bannister, Charles R. Roberts, and Henry Ogden. The next Past Tense will feature the last family to live on the property, Linda and David Chesnut.