Laurel Ridge Community History

By Bob Stubbs

At one time the Pangborn area was probably inhabited by Creek Indians. Typically, the Cherokees were found north of the Chattahoochee River, although, this area was probably a place of contact between the two tribes. Once the area was settled by more permanent residents, the Lawrenceville Highway became a focal point. It was even utilized by the Union Army during the Battle of Atlanta. It is along this road that the left wing of the Federal Army entered Decatur and occupied that city in the summer of 1864.

Until relatively recently, the area primarily served by Pangborn Swim Club was essentially farm land. Intensive residential development really began in the mid 1950’s and continues to this day. The Country Squire and Pine Glen areas were developed in the 1960’s. The Thibadeau Companies were involved in Pine Glen, and Callas Development Company was the primary force behind Country Squire. Also involved in the area, including development in Diamond Head and possibly Riderwood Estates was Walter Scott Reality. Laurel Ridge Elementary School was built in the late 1950’s and Shamrock High School graduated its first class in 1970. As best we can determine, the Pangborn Swim Club facilities were built in 1967 and now comprise approximately four acres. As stated above, the area way primarily rural until the 1950’s. DeKalb County contained a large number of dairy farms, one of which may have been the approximate area of North DeKalb Mall. This mall opened in the summer of 1965 as the first enclosed mall in Atlanta.

Lawrenceville Highway has been a major road in DeKalb County from the time of the earliest settlement of the county. Essentially, it was exactly what it name implies, a road leading from Decatur (the county seat of DeKalb County) to Lawrenceville (the county seat of Gwinnett County). It was along this road that original development began, and sometime in the dim past, the area generally located at the intersection of Frazier Road and Lawrenceville Highway became known as Pea Ridge. Obviously, the road is typical of many roads of the time, does follow a ridge line, so at least the derivation of part of the name of this area is obvious. A saw mill was located where Norgate Manor Condominiums are now. This mill eventually closed in the mid 1960’s.

Other smaller homes were found throughout the area, most of which were built from the late 1940’s to the early 1950’s. Many of these were homes of persons, who might work in Atlanta, and usually the lots were larger than those commonly seen today. Typically, one might see four or five acres and maybe more, as part of the property. Some of these lots are now being assembled for cluster homes, especially along Pangborn and Frazier Roads.

Perhaps the most prominent landmark of the area for many years was the “Hello World” gas station, which was located where the Batteries Plus Store is at the corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Montreal Road. This gas station served as the bus stop for either Greyhound or Trailways. In fact, Pea Ridge was a station and a destination point for which you could at one time buy a ticket for.

After the Civil War, the railroad line which presently exists along the northwest area of the neighborhood was constructed. This line essentially ran from Atlanta into North Carolina, and has been in continuous use since the 1880’s. The building of this railroad did spur some development into the area and lead to the establishment of such areas as Montreal Station and Tucker, which was formerly known as Browning.

Prominent families in the area included the Kitteredges, the Medlocks, the Fraziers, the Pangborns, and the Vandegriffs. In fact, the Vandegriff home until recently was still located on North Druid Hills Road between Laurel Hill Drive and North Druid Woods Court. Although Clairmont Road, formerly known as Shallowford Road (named for the shallow ford over the south fork of the Peachtree Creek located near the Veteran’s Hospital), and Lawrenceville Highway were main roads, North Druid Hills Road was not constructed until relatively recently. In fact, for years it was only a two lane road, which was often blocked by trains passing across the road near the site Hidden Valley Golf. The bridge over the railroad was constructed in the mid 1960’s after several fatalities at this intersection. Located in this same general area was the Camp Steel Works which operated until the last 15 to 20 years. They are believed to have produced such things as ship anchors and other still products especially during World War II. With the advent of more intensive land use planning and zoning, such nonconforming uses were gradually eliminated.

The land on which Pangborn Pool sits was owned for a long time by the Kittredge family for whom the Kittredge School is now named. The land was gradually sold as first North Druid Woods, Pine Glen, Fork Creek, and finally Country Squire were developed. Eventually the land was owned by Emma Kittredge Morgan, J. Harold Hudgins and Carl T. Hudgins, who were relatives of Mrs. Eliza Kittredge. A fairly large, and for its time, modern vacation home, stood on what is now known as Faraday Court. This overlooked a small farm pond, which was finally drained in 1966 to allow the development of Country Squire. The house had been abandoned years earlier, and to some degree vandalized by children living in the Pine Glen neighborhood. Prior to the development of Country Squire, there some orchards and cattle on the property until the mid 1960’s