Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The Hammonds House Museum is a museum for African American fine art, located at 503 Peeples Street SW in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. It is located in the 1872 Victorian house, former residence of Dr. Otis Thrash Hammonds, a prominent Atlanta physician and patron of the arts.
Hammonds House Museum, 1998.
The Victorian house is believed to have been built in 1872, and to be one of the three oldest houses in West End.
The Hammonds House, 1979-1987
The new owner of the dilapidated house at 503 Peeples Street, which had been condemned by the City, was Dr. Otis Thrash Hammonds. He was born to Avery and Elmora Hammongs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on 5 March 1929, but the family soon moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he spent his youth. A veteran of the Korean conflict, he attended Morehouse College, but graduated from Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvannia. In 1963, he graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.
The old Bigham house around the time it was acquired by Dr. Hammonds.
Hammonds worked for two years at the Veterans Administration's hospital in Dekalb County before entering private practice. He was affiliated with several hospitals, including Southwest Community Hospital on Fairburn Road in southwest Atlanta where he was, chief anesthesiologist and chief of staff.
Hammonds was also a major patron of the arts and supported several struggling young black artists over the years. He was on the boards of the High Museum, the Atlanta Public Library, the Atlanta Preservation Center, and other arts organizations.
A bachelor, Hammonds was part of a new generation of Atlantans who began a movement to preserve what remained of the city’s Victorian heritage. The movement had begun in 1970 in Inman Park, another decaying Victorian neighborhood that had recently been torn apart by demolition for proposed freeway construction. By the time Dr. Hammonds bought his house in 1979, a renaissance was underway in West End, too, with Peeples Street a particular focus of attention. Because of the age and architectural distinction of the house, Hammonds’ restoration of the old Johnston-Bigham home to a single-family dwelling was particularly important. There is, unfortunately, very little documentation for Hammonds’ actual treatment of the house, although many of his changes were made with display of his large collection of African American art. Except for physical evidence in the building itself, a set of black-and-white photographs that were taken as the work was nearing completion in 1984 is the only documentation that has been located.
Dr. Hammonds moved into his newly-restored house, along with his extensive art collection, early in 1985. Unfortunately, he was already ill with leukemia and enjoyed the house for only a few months before his death on 14 June 1985. The following year, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission made a posthumous award to Dr. Hammonds for his restoration of the house.
In 1987, Fulton County bought the house and Hammonds’ art collection from his heirs and opened the house that year as an art gallery and a resource center for African American Art, the State’s only African-American museum of fine art. It is now operated by a non-profit organization, Hammonds House Museum, Inc.
Hammonds House Museum