The Rufus Rose House may not look like much from the outside, nestled amidst the commercial SoNo district of Peachtree Street just across from Emory Hospital, but appearances can be deceiving. The building, just steps away from Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a Landmark Building. Built in 1901 by Dr. Rufus Mathewson Rose, the Victorian era building was home to the Rose family until 1921.
Rose was a former druggist and Civil War doctor who relocated to Atlanta in 1867 and founded the R. M. Rose Co. Distillery, also known as Mountain Spring Distillery. The distillery, originally located in Vinings, was eventually relocated to Tennessee. The business was hit hard by Prohibition which began in 1919 and lasted through 1933.
“It is a stroke of luck and a blessing that this house is still standing today,” said Liliana Bakhtiari, who has taken over management since her father, Gholam Bakhtiari, purchased the property at auction in 2011. Liliana fell in love with the building and the story. Ambitious and energetic, she has definite ideas for the best use of the space. “I’ve decided that the 5,200 square foot home should be redesigned into an arts space and entrepreneurial startup,” she said.
In the years between Rose’s ownership of the property and the more recent purchase by the Bakhtiaris, the house fell into the hands of a variety of owners, including James H. Elliot who in 1945 turned the house into an antiques shop and museum that was open to the public, an action that is deemed by many as the building’s saving grace. For a short time, the Atlanta Preservation Center utilized the building as their headquarters prior to relocating to Grant Park. Since that time the building has fallen into a state of disrepair, sitting vacant and lonely as the last remaining Victorian building from Peachtree’s residential period.
Liliana plans to completely renovate the property, repairing decades of structural damage while highlighting the architectural and historic elements that make the building so unique. “The idea is to make it as fluid as possible, and a space that is accessible for all different ideas,” Liliana said. Each floor is set to hold something different, from a venue space for performance arts in the attic, startup space for local art businesses on the second floor, a food or beverage concept on the first floor, to reinvigorating the overgrown yard to provide much-needed greenspace for the neighborhood.
Recently, Dist. 2 City Councilman Kwanza Hall visited the property to discuss the necessary steps of the renovation, address logistical concerns, and connect the dots to get this project fully underway. Hall provided invaluable information about the regulations of working with this historic property and expressed his hopes for the plans that are now being set in motion.
“This opens a new chapter in the preservation and adaptive reuse of such a dynamic asset in the center of town,” Kwanza explained. In addition to cleaning up the physical aspects of the property, Liliana will also need to pursue zoning changes and will have to meet the standards set by the National Register of Historic Places, details of which are yet to be determined.
With big plans like these, there is without doubt a long list of challenges to overcome before the house can be opened to the public. “The years have taken their toll, and this home has been neglected for quite some time,” said Liliana. “The potential and possibilities are endless.”