Swan House - Stair Hall and Library

Explore Swan House, a symbol of culture, commerce, and architecture - as well as affluence and segregation. Not a typical Southern mansion, the house was built in 1928 for Jazz Age entertaining and designed by one of America's greatest classical architects.

By Atlanta History Center

The Entrance Hall

Welcome inside Swan House – Built in 1928, the house was designed by architect Philip Trammell Shutze as the home for Edward and Emily Inman.
 
The Atlanta History Center acquired the house in the late 1960s. It is now an interpretive house museum and one of Atlanta’s most recognized landmarks.
 
Turn around - the fanlight above the door provides a guest’s first encounter with the house’s theme – the swan.

The Breakfast Room

A small, octagonal Breakfast Room opens to the right of the Entrance Hall. 

Decorated with a plaster ceiling of seashells in relief, the Inman family used this as their main dining room. 

Emily Inman used the large, formal Dining Room for dinner parties with guests. 

The Children of the House

The children who lived in the house in the 1930s did not eat with their parents until they were 6 years old. 

Prior to that, Emily Inman considered them “uncivilized” and they ate in the Butler’s Pantry next to the kitchen with their governess, whose job it was to teach them manners.

Jazz Age Convenience

Shutze included the mens washroom hidden within the doorway to the Breakfast Room. 

The ladies washroom was through the door on the other side of the Entrance Hall. 

That also included the ladies parlor, which now holds a public lift making the house’s second floor accessible to all visitors. 

The Entrance Hall

 
The columns focus and lead the eye to the main hall, while the concentric checkerboard floor pattern accentuates the round shape of the rotunda hall. 

The pattern of the black & white marble tiles obscures the heat registers in the floors – Shutze cleverly blended Classical architecture with 20th-century convenience.

Designing the House

Swan House is regarded as Shutze’s finest work, though he was not the first architect on the project. 

The Inman family had hired the architectural firm Hentz, Reid & Adler, but the initial design from Neel Reid was considered too large – much larger than the current house – and too expensive. 

Reid was in failing health, so Shutze was asked to join the firm. 

He re-designed the Inman house and construction began in 1926. Edward and Emily Inman moved into their new house in December 1928.  

The Stair Hall

The Main Stair Hall is the most spectacular space in the house, opening up to the second floor over a curved, floating staircase. 

Shutze intended to create the illusion of a great courtyard open to the sky – all of the major rooms of the house open onto this hall.

The Staircase

The sweeping staircase features walnut treads and a bronze balustrade. 

W.A. McCormack of Rome, Georgia, constructed the open stairs using 2 tons of concrete and steel – amazing to think of that looking so light and airy. 

Mrs. Inman didn’t allow her grandchildren to use the main stairs – she didn’t want them to scuff the wood steps.

Emily Inman's House

 
In many ways, Emily Inman was the decision maker in building the house. 

The hallway furnishings include a pair of tables designed by architect William Kent and made about 1730. 

Emily told Shutze to reflect the taste of Kent, who worked in the English Palladian style beginning with the reign of Queen Anne in 1702. 

Shutze, upholding his own talent, nevertheless maintained “… there is no prototype existing in England that served as a model for the present house. …” 

The Furnishings

The portraits in the house are not family members. 

Those and other paintings and much of the furniture were intended to establish the look and feel of an 18th-century English aristocratic residence. 

The furnishings on the first floor are original – though there are additional pieces no longer in the house. 

Atlanta History Center continues to acquire original furniture and other pieces that belonged to the Inmans.

The Phone Closet

In the small vestibule between the Stair Hall and Library, Shutze tucked a telephone closet painted a brilliant yellow. 

Atlanta History Center restored Swan House at the beginning of the 21st century, including original paint colors following scientific analysis. 

Mr. Inman's Library

The Library was the home office of Edward Inman. 

Born in 1881, he was heir to a fortune accumulated by his father, Hugh T. Inman, and grandfather, Shadrach W. Inman. 

At the time of his death in 1910, Hugh Inman was believed to have been the wealthiest man in Georgia. 

In addition to cotton brokerage and futures, the family had interests in manufacturing, wholesale dry goods, insurance, real estate, railroads and streetcars, and banking – strategically, nearly all were related to the cotton industry.

A House of Commerce

In 1921, Edward Inman retired from the family firm to pursue other business interests. 

Inman was involved in community service as a member of the Atlanta City Council and Fulton County Board of Commissioners. 

He served the administration of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I and after the war was a presidential advisor on the international cotton trade.

Grant Garter and Auto Racing

The Library displays Edward Inman’s automobile racing trophies, won with his African American chauffeur, Grant Carter.
 
Inman and Grant Carter competed in auto racing as a two-man team, requiring Inman to drive the car while Carter pumped oil to the engine.
 
When Edward and Emily Inman moved into the house in 1928, the full-time staff included a chauffeur in addition to the butler, maid, cook, gardener, and in later years, various nursemaids and governesses for the grandchildren.
 
As a reflection of Mr. Inman’s interest in automobiles, he obtained the first driver’s license in Atlanta and the Swan House property included a 6-car garage. 

Mr. and Mrs. Inman

Emily and Edward Inman married on June 19, 1901, in her grandparent’s house in Atlanta. 

In April 1931, a little over two years after moving into Swan House, Edward Inman died of a heart attack at the age of 49. 

His funeral was held at Swan House with a graveside service at Oakland Cemetery. 

Mrs. Inman later used the Library for tea and playing bridge with her friends. 

Family members remember “Aunt Emily” as charming, intelligent, and 
witty, and friends referred to her as the “champagne of the family.”

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