Athens is a beautiful city. One of its shining jewels is the Cheney House. Known for its classic Victorian architecture, the house also has a deep and rich history. It has stood for nearly one-and-a-half centuries and is just as beautiful today as it was when it was first built.
The Construction of the Cheney House
In 1893, Frances Mary Shaw Cheney decided to build the Cheney House after the death of her husband, Franklin Washington Cheney II. She wanted a place to relocate with her five children, one of whom was a newborn. Six years later, Mrs. Cheney held her own wedding within the home, this time marrying Henry Carlton Tuck.
Mr. Tuck was a graduate of the University of Georgia. He was a well-known lawyer, a member of the Georgia legislature, and even worked for a time as mayor of Athens. Just over 10 years after they were married, the couple divorced. Sadly, Mrs. Cheney died five years later.
Carrying on the Cheney House Tradition
After the death of Mrs. Cheney, two of her daughters, Frances and Maude, continued living in the Cheney House. Frances helped tend to the home and maintain it for 51 years, while Maude remained in the home and also contributed to the upkeep of the home for 53 years. In total, one or all of the Cheney family members lived in the home for more than eight decades.
During 1946 and 1947, Maude in particular became a vocal activist for landlords throughout the country. She regularly sent letters to United States senators, the Federal Office of Price Administration, and President Truman regarding the issue of increasing the rate of rent. She did this because two women rented a room in the upstairs portion of the Cheney House.
On January 9, 1947, Ivan Carson, who was working as the Federal Deputy Commissioner for Rent, wrote a letter back to address Maude’s concerns. Within the letter, he drew her attention to the fact that in order for a landlord to increase a tenant’s rent, they must have at least one of the 14 grounds outlined by the Rent Regulation. Carson went on to say that those grounds were an effective basis for rent increases. He also stated that when acting within those guidelines, landlords had already been granted rental increases on 1 million rental units. He also stated that the Federal Rent Control had approved 30,000 within that month alone.
The response was not enough for Maude. She continued to write letters, asking the government agency to change the laws. In 1948, Congress followed Maude’s recommendation and relaxed the restrictions surrounding rent control for landlords.
The Finest Example of Architecture
William Mitchell, former Director of Historic Site Surveys for the Georgia Historical Commission, is known for calling the Cheney House the city’s “finest example of Victorian architecture.” He certainly was not wrong.
The rooms in the Cheney House are very spacious, with almost every single one equipped with its own fireplace. Detailed carvings are found throughout the entire home, and the complex structure and lines on the roof truly give the home a Victorian feel. Perhaps the most noticeable wood carvings are the patterns etched into every baluster of the grand staircase, which is a total of 12 feet high. Natural light pours over all of these elements, with more than 30 large windows that allow the light in.
Although the home is the definition of the Queen Anne Victorian style, the influences of Charles Eastlake can largely be seen throughout the home. These include the balcony, which has an opening in a nontraditional round shape, and the unique oriel window on the second floor that can be seen from the front of the house.
In total there are eight rooms and eight fireplaces within the home, and all of the rooms but one has a fireplace. In addition, the home features carved balusters along the stairway, and over 30 windows that allow ample light in. The eighth fireplace is located in the main foyer. Each fireplace is adorned with a mantel, all of which were hand carved. The home is quite large and spans nearly 4,000 square feet. Coupled with fine exterior features, such as the round opening in the balcony, the complex lines along the roof, and the oriel window, it is a place that truly reflects all of Georgia’s Southern charm.
The architect of the Cheney House was from New York and had already seen water and sewer lines being installed, so he installed the same lines within the home. As such, it was the first structure in Athens to have indoor plumbing. Many of the features within the home are original, such as the bronze door hinges, which can no longer be made today. Certain details of the home, such as the charged woodwork, are now available for purchase and are ready-made. However, when the home was first built in 1893, every detail of the home was entirely handmade. All of these fine features make the Cheney House a beautiful historic part of Athens and Adamson & Cleveland, LLC is proud to call this wonderful piece of Athens’ history home