House Envy: Heards Ferry tales stretch back centuries

This Sandy Springs mansion was built on an historic site
1295 Heards Ferry
Courtesy of Jared Sapp

If land could tell stories, the earth beneath 1295 Heards Ferry Road would spin a tale for the ages. Today, the eight-acre Sandy Springs plot hosts a charming six-bedroom, nine-bath mansion featuring an airy chef’s kitchen, stone fireplaces and floors, and even an art gallery; but a little digging (literally) uncovers a fascinating past.

The estate sits on a ridge near the Chattahoochee River where Union Major General Jacob D. Cox crossed on July 8, 1864 en route to launch the Battle of Atlanta. According to a historical marker, Cox described it as “one of the most picturesque [crossings] of the campaign.” Throughout the years, countless Civil War artifacts have been found on the property. That might also explain why a previous owner’s wife once asked the current occupants, “Have you seen the ghost?” (For the record, they have not.)

But the story doesn’t end there. In 1929, Dr. Dan Griffith—who founded the first pharmacy, post office, and clinic in Sandy Springs—purchased the 170-acre parcel from his nurse, Anna Heard. (Heard’s father then owned 1,000 acres and ran the ferry that crossed the river, hence the name of the road.) When the construction workers broke ground, they uncovered a Native American grinding stone dating from the Woodland Period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE).

The home was built from stone quarried on the site, and Dr. Griffith’s family lived there until the 1970s. Later in that decade, it sat vacant long enough for a commune to move in and build some small structures in the woods. But by the late 1970s, Bob Shipman bought the dilapidated property, which was then down to 12 acres, for $100,000 and began the long process of restoration.

The current owners took over in 1997 and continued renovations, both inside and out, for seven years. They restructured rooms, added a sunroom, and in 2003, began an expansion that included a new kitchen and enlarged the home to 7,085 square feet.

Outside, they cleared the overgrown land. “It was a jungle. There was not a flower and not a place by the driveway where you could place a foot,” says resident Bernadine Richard. “The brush was covering the trees in the island and up against the house.” The resulting gardens—including terraces, waterfalls, a tropical water garden, meditation garden, chapel garden, “Hobbit’s stream,” and labyrinth—were so spectacular, they earned a place on the Atlanta Botanical Garden tour.

The grounds and estate, complete with tennis court, chapel, pool, and gardener’s house, are currently on the market for $4,395,000. Contact Jared Sapp at jared@jaredsapp.com or 404-668-7233 for more information.

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