As World War II veterans returned to the United States following the end of the war, there was a shortage of housing across the country. Temporary solutions included military tents on rented land and mobile home parks. There was also a push to build housing for these veterans. Oglethorpe Apartments on Ashford Dunwoody Road where it meets Johnson Ferry Road were built for this purpose.
The red brick apartments covered a large expanse of land which includes where Blackburn Park is today. To see an overhead view, go to historicaerials.com and search Blackburn Park. Select aerial view and a year to see how the area looked at the time. Oglethorpe Apartments are easy to spot because there are many buildings.
In the Atlanta Constitution, a September 1948 advertisement announced 82 units at Oglethorpe Apartments ready for occupancy on October 1, with additional apartments available November 1. Those who were interested were asked to call CH 7938. CH stood for Cherokee, the telephone exchange for the area. The address given was Ashford-Dunwoody Road, beyond Oglethorpe University. The apartments were not associated with Oglethorpe University, just located nearby.
Crier readers have shared stories of their parents living at Oglethorpe Apartments while attending Georgia Tech following service in the Navy during WWII. Jane and W. Guthrie McCullough were among the early residents of Oglethorpe Apartments. She was from Heaton Moor, Cheshire, England, and he was an attorney who earned his law degree at the University of Georgia. Guthrie served during World War II in the Aleutian Islands as part of the U.S. Naval Reserve. Their wedding was held in October of 1949 in downtown Atlanta, followed by a small reception at their Oglethorpe Apartment home. (Atlanta Constitution, October 23, 1949, “English Belle, Mr. McCullough First to Wed at New Chapel”)
Dunwoody resident and co-founder of Dunwoody Preservation Trust Lynne Byrd recalls living at Oglethorpe Apartments in 1958 and 1959, when the rent was $52.50 per month. She worked at Georgia Baptist Hospital and took the Oglethorpe 23 bus downtown each day. Her husband worked at the Frito-Lay plant that sat where Lowe’s is today on Peachtree Boulevard.
The apartments became run down as the years went by. In 1968, the owner of the apartment buildings defaulted on the mortgage held by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD then filed a lawsuit and the apartments continued to decline. Various plans for the apartments through the years, such as low-income housing and housing for older citizens, always met with opposition.
Five hundred apartments were sold to DeKalb County in 1972 and demolished to make way for a new park. Blackburn Park was dedicated on April 27, named for U. S. Rep. Ben Blackburn, who helped acquire $627,250 in federal funds for DeKalb County to purchase the land.
The remaining Oglethorpe Apartments eventually were demolished, but for a time following World War II, they served their purpose by providing much-needed housing for veterans and their families.
Blackburn Park is located on some of the land that was once Oglethorpe Apartments.