Swan House - Dining Room and Kitchen

A grand room for entertaining only a doorway from the service staff. This is Upstairs/Downstairs on only one floor.

By Atlanta History Center

The Dining Room

The formal Dining Room is the largest room in the house, designed to accommodate Edward and Emily Inman’s dinner parties for Atlanta’s business and social elite.
 
Mrs. Inman received her guests in the Library and at the announcement of dinner they moved to this Dining Room across the hall.
 
After dinner, coffee was served in the Morning Room. Mrs. Inman always used a catering service to prepare and serve guests dinners.

The House in Good Taste

The Dining Room’s decoration shows the sophisticated and expensive taste of Mrs. Inman and her decorator, Ruby Ross Wood: the rare English wallpaper is hand-painted in a Chinese chinoiserie style; the French Aubusson rug is reminiscent of William Kent’s designs; and the contemporary draperies are Portuguese “Rainbow” plaid taffeta. 

Wood, a Georgia native, was known for blending furniture of various period, using bold colors and prints, and believed that “decorating is the art of arranging beautiful things comfortably.”

The Architect's Role Inside

“Chosen with impeccable taste,” is how Shutze described the Inman’s furnishing of his architectural masterpiece. 

Perhaps the most important are the pair of 18th-century swan console tables attributed to the English architect Thomas Johnson. 

Purchased by the Inmans in Bath, England, in 1924, they may have inspired the swan motif that provides the house’s name. 

Shutze repeated the cattails found in the base of the tables in his design for the carved cornices above each window. 

Shutze designed the curtains and valances as well as door surrounds throughout Swan House.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire from 2013 was the first in the film series to use the Swan House as a location. 

The house served as the Presidential Palace of Coriolanus Snow, portrayed by Donald Sutherland. 

The Dining Room – complete with its bird-covered wallpaper reminiscent of mockingjays – appears in scenes with Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Swan House appeared in three of the four films.
 

The Kitchen

Throughout the 19th century, Atlanta’s African American working-class population lived between freedom and Jim Crow. 

Thousands of formerly enslaved people and sharecroppers came to the city looking for work. 

Most were employed in white-owned businesses or in homes. 

Women were frequently employed as household workers – cooks, washerwomen, maids, and nurses. Some owned businesses that served the domestic trade such as catering.

In addition to factory and railroad jobs, many men worked as drivers or chauffeurs, yardmen, and butlers.
 

Kitchen Work

The Kitchen is where the cook spent most of her time. 

It also contained the Servants Dining Alcove for the domestic staff, which fluctuated, but usually included a maid, butler/chauffeur, and gardener. 

Mrs. Inman updated the household appliances in the 1950s, but the restaurant-size 1936 Magic Chef stove is the original model; a 1929 GE refrigerator has been added. 

On the wall to the left of the stove is the flue to the Kernerator basement incinerator for garbage.

Domestic Servitude

For the Southern housewife, the ideal servant had long been African American. 

The history of enslavement in the South and the prevalence of Black servants following the Civil War, even during and after the Great Migration, meant that families were comfortable managing and being served by Black domestic staff. 

Most servants worked every day, but had Sunday afternoon and evening off, and in the 1930s were paid approximately $10-$15 a week.
 

Elizabeth McDuffie and Her Small Crusade for Workers

In 1933, after 32 years of service with the Inman family, Elizabeth “Lizzie” McDuffie and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. 

There, she worked for President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a maid in the White House. 

She used her relationship with the President and First Lady to advocate for racial equality in the South.
 
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While Ms. McDuffie was in Washington, she became active in politics. 

She called her role “a small crusade” and saw herself as “unofficial liaison between my race and the President.” 

McDuffie organized the workers union, United Government Employees, served with the YWCA and Urban League, and campaigned for President Roosevelt’s reelection.

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