Today it may be hard to envision ranch architecture as cutting-edge, but in the 1960s it was the height of chic. Inspired partly by America’s love affair with California and partly by Frank Lloyd Wright, houses turned away from the street—focusing on the separation of private and public spaces, kitchens designed for stay-at-home mothers instead of servants, patios surrounded by wide backyards, and the indispensable automobile.
“When World War II ended, people were looking for something new,” explains Richard Cloues, who heads the historic resources section of Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division, which submitted the Collier Heights nomination for national approval. “They were looking for something that supported a more casual, family-oriented lifestyle.”
“People don’t understand ranch houses’ significance,” says Stephanie Cherry-Farmer, one of the Georgia State University students who helped research the community. “This is a phase that was incredibly influential in how we live today.” But now that the genre is past fifty years old—the generally accepted criteria for historic status—ranch neighborhoods such as Collier Heights are gaining newfound respect.
It was authentic modern architecture that drew Jane Davis and Jim Gantner to Collier Heights from Sherwood Forest. “We were looking at midcentury houses, but the north side is expensive,” Davis explains. “We kept looking here because we kept finding more houses reasonably priced in the right time period that people hadn’t touched, that hadn’t been renovated to death.”
Their home, built by Lorimer D. Milton, president of Citizens Trust Bank and one of Collier Heights’ founders, overlooks a creek and cost a staggering $37,000 or more when it was constructed in 1957. Davis was smitten by eccentric features such as twin doors hidden in the sleek mahogany paneling flanking a shallow marble faux fireplace (one door leads to the kitchen, and the other hides a storage closet) or the square Cinderella tub in the gray and pink master bathroom. She especially loves the vintage St. Charles metal kitchen, which she has restored using cabinetry from three different houses. Davis has painted her kitchen red and yellow, but the original had peach walls, turquoise cabinets, and multicolored, speckled laminate floors. “I’m as house-proud as I can be,” she confides.