My name is Cynthia and I love interior design, architecture, antiques, all things vintage, all things British (a tried and true Anglophile), a love of things that are time worn and hold secrets of days gone by. I love animals and try to respect their place in our world. I enjoying talking about the most beautiful places in the world, some exotic, some in our own neck of the woods. I love family and friends, music and movies. And most importantly, I love talking about these things with a daily dose of humor because I love to laugh and we all deserve to. So come on...let's go for a stroll.

AND PLEASE CLICK ON THE ENTRY AND LEAVE ME A COMMENT - I can't talk to you if I don't know you were here, dearest dahling...


Monday, December 20, 2010

The West End, Westview Cemetery and 5 Generations of Women

My grandmother, Mae McDaniel Griffith, 1898., at age 14. The photo is torn at the lower right corner

Although my blog is usually devoted to interior design, architecture, antiques and Anglophilia, at times I find myself wanting to write about something else, which in this case, is my family.  While in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta this past Friday, on my maternal grandmother's birthday, as my daughter Sarah and I rode through Westview Cemetery to place flowers on family graves, I once again started thinking about the family that lived in West End, and what the area means to me.

Mae McDaniel Griffith and Herman Griffith
 I lived in West End until the age of 7 and I have always heard stories about the life there before me.  My family's connection to West End began and ended at 571 East Ontario Avenue, in a 1921 brick bungalow purchased by my great-grandparents.  It had a large front porch, a storm cellar and lovely molding throughout.  Its only bathroom featured octagonal black and white tiles.  There were three fireplaces and a terraced backyard, with a beautiful apple orchard shading the last terrace.  This address would be home to my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and I -- four generations of women in my family.  My grandmother, Elizabeth Griffith Ford (1913-1999) and my grandfather Charlie (1914-1988) lived there with my great-grandparents.  My great-grandfather, Herman, worked for the railroad. While working on the tracks one day, a train switched tracks, the alarm failed to sound, and he was run over by the train, losing an arm and a leg, which confined him to a wheelchair.  My great-grandmother, May McDaniel Griffith (1884-1959), was known to the family as Little Mother, as she weighed 3 pounds when she was born.  Pre-cut diapers wouldn't fit her so a swatch of fabric was made to fit.  I have that little diaper, along with the tiny bonnet that she wore the day she was born (my mother passed it down to me and it's in a box with a handwritten note from my grandmother).  Little Mother was a nurse and worked for years at the Georgia Baptist Children's Home in Atlanta.  She was a spitfire of a woman, described by some as mean, but known to those who loved her as tough and fair minded.  Her size and background in nursing made her so (I also have her original nursing textbook and dictionary, which I hold dear).  

My grandmother walked to her job as a cashier at Food Town on Westview Drive.  She later retired from the Sears and Roebuck in West End, having worked there for 17 years.  As time passed, my mother, Elizabeth Anne Nunn Poliquin (1938-2009) and her brother Robert Frederick Nunn, also lived at the house on East Ontario.  And then along came me, and my mother and I lived there for a time because my mother and father were often separated (theirs was a tumultuous marriage).  Annie Sanders, nanny to my mother and uncle and Jacqueline of all trades to my grandmother (that's the female connotation of "Jack") , lived a few blocks away on Altoona Place.  She continued to work for our family until she was well into her 80s, although I use the term "worked for my family" loosely - she was family.

Little Mother is interred inside the mausoleum at the historic Westview Cemetery, which is less than a mile from our home on East Ontario.  She made my grandmother, her only child, promise that she would never put Little Mother "in the cold earth."  So instead, she is in the mausoleum behind a cold slab of marble, but who would dare argue with her?  We lost my grandmother in 1999 and she is buried at Westview, along with my grandfather who passed in 1988.  My great-grandfather Herman is buried near my grandmother and grandfather, having no intention of being buried with my grandmother in the mausoleum.  By the time she passed away, they had long been divorced and he had moved to a boarding house on Peachtree Street.  My Aunt Lois, her husband Jim, and my sister-in-law Tammy Banks, are also buried at Westview.  My beloved mother is buried closer to where we now reside.

Westview Cemetery, founded in 1884, is one of the most beautiful in all of America.  Its original gate is one of the oldest existing structures in Atlanta.  Back in the day, it was not unusual to go to Westview for family photo ops, especially on Easter and Mother's and Father's Day.  The mausoleum, the largest of its kind and considered the grandest in the US, dates to 1943 and features stunning stained glass windows, a cathedral-like chapel, hidden alcoves, and halls, all in a Gothic, Moorish architecture that is awe inspiring.  With several hundred acres of interment, Westview is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, and is the largest in the Southeast.  It consists of 582 acres, only half of which is developed.  It is a nonprofit cemetery, as the land was donated by a prominent Atlantan.  Before the civil rights movement, African Americans were prohibited from being buried or from even entering Westview.  There is also a large Jewish section.  In 1918, its receiving vault held the bodies of the victims of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic until they could be buried properly.  It also contains part of the site of the Civil War Battle of Ezra Church. 

This blog begins with the women who lived in West End, and ends with my daughter Sarah, who represents the fifth generation in this line of women in my family.  This line of women on my maternal side also includes my cousin Vicki, her daughter Amber, my Aunt Shirley and my Aunt Dora.  My sister-in-law, Stacy ranks up there with the West End women as well, even though she is in Vancouver Washington and has probably never been to West End- we still love her.

One final note:  I hesitated to include this last bit in my post, but decided that it is a part of the history of the house as much as my family, and must be mentioned in order to honor those who came after us.  571 East Ontario came to be remembered by many for a tragic event that horrified Atlanta for years.  When we moved from West End to College Park, GA, my grandmother sold the house to a Ms. Willie Mathis.  On March 5, 1980, Ms. Mathis' son, Jeffrey, age 10, walked up the street to the same Food Town where my grandmother once worked, to run an errand for his mother.  He would never been seen alive again.  His skeletal remains were found 11 months later, a victim of the alleged Atlanta serial murderer, Wayne Williams.  It is hard to imagine that this tragedy occurred on this same beautiful street. 
Rest in Peace little Jeffrey

There is a caption with each photo below with details - please read 

This is a photograph of the original homestead of my great-grandmother, Mae McDaniel Griffith - this land is now part of McDaniel Street in Atlanta.  My great-great grandfather traded it for a horse and buggy.  The bottom series of photos are of my great-grandmother and my grandmother, Elizabeth Griffith Ford

My grandmother, age one year

This photo, along with many of the photos featured in this post, are from a photograph album my grandmother kept as a young girl.  Her handwriting is under each photo.  This one is entitled "Some of My Family" - I wish I knew their names

My grandmother and her son, Robert Frederick (Fred) Nunn,  1933

My grandmother, pictured 3rd from right on top, with friends, unknown place or people -again, wish I knew

My grandmother and grandfather, Charlie Ford, US Army, pictured in front of a fountain at Westview Cemetery,  1949

My grandfather posing at Westview Abbey Mausoleum, 1949

My great-grandmother, Mae, in 1957 - she would die 2 years later of breast cancer - my mother would be diagnosed  in 1988, and would survive, only to succumb to lung cancer in 2009.  I would be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 -
I am now in remission - Praise God
My mother posing in the yard of the East Ontario house in West End - look closely at the flower border in the background - those same Bearded Iris bulbs bloom beautifully in my own garden each spring - my grandmother and I transplanted the bulbs together -- they originally came from my great-grandmother's plantings - I have at least 200 of them

My 5th birthday in the dining room at East Ontario, 1966 -- check out my beehive - my mother thought it was a good idea for me to have the same hairdo that she had - not! Try to stop staring at me long enough to appreciate the beautiful molding and the plate shelf in the background

My mother and grandmother, 1967, in front of the beautiful tulips at the Westview Abbey Mausoleum - here's my mom's  beehive - hers was frosted and was the inspiration for my own lovely hairdid in the photo above --
Mama is doing her standard "leg" pose

Ceiling, Westview Abbey Chapel

Stained glass, Westview Abbey

Westview Abbey
Another photograph of the chapel

The receiving vault at Westview -- this is where the victims of the 1918 Spanish Influenza were held until burial
Westview Cemetery

Stained Glass - Westview Abbey Mausoleum

This door is about 10 feet from my great-grandmother's resting place inside the wall of the Abbey Mausoleum

This is the window on the opposite end of the hall where my great-grandmother is interred

Another view of the chapel - I have sat here for quite some time - my daughter finds it beautiful
but very creepy - I find it peaceful and lovely

Chapel - again 

Exterior view of the Abbey

My daughter Sarah, age 8, 1999, the 5th generation...she never lived in West End but just like those before her, she had her picture made at Westview Cemetery.  This sweet photo was taken by my mother.  The tradition continues...
I have no idea who this is -- this photo was in the aforementioned photo album kept by my grandmother - no caption was included, no description - just a precious old photo that I felt I needed to include


Anonymous said...

I've lived here for years but had no idea of the history of West End or Westview Cemetery! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and photos.

Susan Newman said...

Amazing story and pictures. I loved every word of it because I have so many of the same memories of your grandmothers house and neighborhood. Westview was always so interesting to me,and I LOVE the mosoleum. What a great read.

Anonymous said...

So interesting Cynthia! Thanks for taking the time to write....loved learning more about Westview,West End and your mom's family. Amazing story about the Wayne Williams connection. Chilling...

Sharon said...

Beautiful writing, your very talented Cynthia, hope you keep writing! It's amazing how most of our families on the south of Atlanta originated from West End. I lived on Witchatall Drive not for from West View and my beloved Aunt Dorothy worked with your Grandmother at Sears back in the day.

Barbie said...

What an interesting post! I read every bit of it. Loved the pictures!

Gary said...

Beautifully done Cynthia. It's great how your family has retained its artifacts.. I mean, your greatgrandmother's diaper!Amazing.
You would enjoy the various West End sites.I dont have links but you can Google them.

Denise C said...

Westview is beautiful. I have lots of relatives buried there including gandparents and greatgrandparents. My grandfather worked for the railroad. My grandmother's brother ran King Hardware in West End. As I looked through your photos, I half expected to recognize one of my relatives.

Skip said...

Cynthia, we just gotta talk! Both my dad and mother grew up in West End, how much you want to bet that they knew each other. It's amazing your memories and history.

Essay Writing said...

That looks great! I really like the colors you used... Beautiful...

Unknown said...

I very much enjoyed this blog. Both of my father's parents are interned near the Abby. If anyone has any pictures about the old trophy room that used to be in Westview Cemetery, I would love to have copies. I remember as a child going there and being fascinated by the mounted heads and other stuff. It was like a museum at the cemetery. I think the trophies might have belonged to the Candler family. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Patrick said...

Hello, I stumbled on your blog and was surprised to see pictures of my home! My wife and I have our own blog that documents the restoration of the house. We'd love to connect with you to hear more stories and see more photos of our home (your grandmother's former home). Patrick

Anonymous said...

Some of your information on Westview Cemetery is inaccurate. The land wasn't donated by anyone. The association bought it all before the cemetery opened. There also was an African-American section as well as a huge pauper field.

Please see "Atlanta's Historic Westview Cemetery" by Jeff Clemmons (History Press, 2018)

Anonymous said...

And there is no Jewish section in the cemetery. The Temple had bought 10 acres to create one, but Oakland reopened land, so the Temple sold the land they bought at Westview.

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