When the holiday season came to Atlanta seven years ago, but the Callanwolde mansion remained dark, many Atlantans felt the Grinch or some other malevolent creature had stolen Christmas.
This season, they can rejoice. Christmas at Callanwolde in all its magnificence, is back. A tradition for 27 years, Christmas at Callanwolde was a highlight of the season for many in the area. A tour of the lavishly decorated mansion, built in 1920 as the home of Charles Howard Candler, son of Coca-Cola Company founder Asa Candler, was all that was necessary to snap the grumpiest person into a holiday mood.
“It’s just gorgeous,” Susan Summers, Callanwolde’s publicity and arts events director, said of the mansion, which opened Dec. 1 for this season’s Christmas at Callanwolde. She explained that center officials decided to discontinue the annual holiday event because many parts of the building were in need of restoration.
“We did a lot of renovation, including putting in an elevator that makes the building wheelchair accessible,” she said, adding that they decided to bring back Christmas at Callandwolde because there were so many requests from people in the community. “It’s literally back by popular demand.”
Designed by architect Henry Hornbostel, who also designed Emory University, Callanwolde is perfect for showcasing holiday decorations. The design is an open plan in which most of the historic 27,000-square-foot Tudor-Gothic mansion’s rooms adjoin the great halls on each floor. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Callanwolde, now a fine arts center operated by DeKalb County, is considered an architectural landmark. Proceeds from Christmas at Callanwolde support the center’s arts programs.
As visitors move from room to room, there are sparkling lights, magnificent floral displays, garlands of greenery, trees decorated in themes to match the rooms, and elegant holiday art pieces to leave visitors wide-eyed with wonder. The 90-year-old mansion has been decorated by some of Atlanta’s top floral designers and by members of the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, the world’s largest organization of professional designers.
This year’s offering will be all that visitors remember and more, according to Summers. The theme, A Roaring ‘20s Christmas, recalls the early 20th century years when the Candler family actually lived in the mansion and holiday decorations reflected the prosperity and opulence of the 20th century’s third decade.
The mood is further enhanced by the scent of Christmas evergreens and the sounds of holiday music and entertainment, including the music of Callanwolde’s famed Aeolian Organ.
A Gingerbread Village made up of holiday gingerbread structures created by top Atlanta chefs will be on display in the Petite Hall. Those who find the little gumdrop- and frosting-covered buildings too charming to leave behind will be pleased to learn that they are available for purchase and may be picked up on the last day of the event. Also for sale in the Petite Hall, are one-of-a-kind handmade items created by instructors and students at the Callanwolde Artist Studio.
There will be two special events for children in conjunction with Christmas at Callanwolde—Breakfast With Santa at 9 a.m. on each of the first three Saturdays in December and Teddy Bear Tea at 3 p.m. on each of the first three Sundays in December.
New this year are Callan Café, an Irish coffee house that offers beverages, desserts and snacks, and Battle of the Ice. On Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2 p.m. in the outdoor amphitheatre, chefs from across the Southeast will participate in Battle of the Ice, a competition of ice carving skills with the winning team receiving the “Callanwolde Cup” and going to Alaska in 2011 to compete in the World Championship of Ice Carving.
Christmas at Callanwolde continues through Dec. 12. Callanwolde Fine Arts Center is located at 980 Briarcliff Road, NE, Atlanta. There is free parking and free shuttle bus service available one-half mile north at Emory University. For more information, call (404) 872-5338 or visit www.christmasatcallanwolde.org.