The East Portico is the front entrance of the Callaway home. The Italian-style villa was designed by Hal Hentz and Neel Reid to complement the terraced gardens created by Sarah Ferrell. Six large wooden columns with Ionic caps support the semicircular terracotta roof that covers the portico. The diamond-shaped marble plaque above the doorway is inscribed “1916,” the year the home was completed.
The exterior of the house has four paint colors: The stucco body is white, the window trim is buff, the cornice is grey-brown to match the limestone and the window shutters are basket green. These colors are based on a historical paint analysis and reflect the colors on the house shortly after it was completed in 1916. It is interesting that the cornice paint was mixed with sand to give the effect of stone even though it was actually made of wood. For more information, check out the Portico article, “What’s In the Color?“
Fuller E. Callaway Sr. decided that his new classically-inspired home would sit on the site of the old Ferrell home, which he decided to remove since he wanted a larger home. The new home was built to line up with the axis of the garden. Fuller Sr. decided to self-contract the building of the house, along with his assistant Ab Perry, because he considered the bids he had received to be too high. Construction of the home began in March 1915 with W. J. Cleckler from the Atlanta contracting firm of Adair & Weinmeister serving as the superintendent. The 13,000-square-foot home with 30 rooms cost approximately $125,000 to build ( ̴ $10 per sq./ft.) and was completed in about 15 months. The classical exterior is made out of stucco, Indiana limestone, and terracotta roof tiles to accentuate the Italian villa style and complement the gardens. Above the door, the completion date of 1916 is set in bronze letters against a marble diamond-shaped wall plaque. In a letter dated December 3, 1913, to Messrs. Hentz and Reid, Mr. Callaway writes about the house:
“…it will probably be the only home that I will build within my lifetime, and I am exceedingly anxious that we attain a result pleasing and satisfactory to all concerned…We want it to express both inside and outside grace, naturalness and cheery friendliness.”
Fuller wanted an elegant but simple look to the house. For example, instead of choosing more elaborate Corinthian columns, he chose simpler Ionic ones. After the home was completed it was featured in well-known national magazines such as Country Life, House and Garden and House Beautiful.
The young architectural firm of Hentz & Reid from Atlanta was commissioned to design the new Callaway home with Neel Reid serving as the lead designer. Reid was one of Atlanta’s best-known architects, and both Hentz and Reid were schooled in classical architecture in Italy and France before starting their firm.
For the firm, the Callaway home was job number 233; however, since they assigned their first job the number 75 to create the illusion they were more experienced, it was really their 158th project. Under the Hentz & Reid firm, James Means, Philip Shutze, and Rudolph Adler also worked as architects for the house. Shutze took over as the firm’s lead designer after Reid passed away in 1926 at the age of 41. About a year earlier, Reid had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
What is now known as the tram plaza, where visitors can catch a tram ride back to the Visitor Center after their tour, was changed when the estate was opened to the public in 2004. During Alice Callaway’s time, the area contained a complete circle of boxwood with plants inside it, usually pampas grass and hardy hibiscus that bloomed in the summertime. The boxwood was removed and the hardscape was put in to accommodate the tram. The small circle in the middle also originally contained pampas grass, but that has also changed over time.