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Emory’s Briarcliff Mansion hotel conversion moves forward, attracts global interest

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With initial approvals, the project could begin by year’s end

Briarcliff Mansion in Druid Hills has moved one step closer to becoming a hotel, with plans gaining approval from the DeKalb County Historic Preservation Commission. Meanwhile, this unique property (and its wild backstory) has attracted a global audience.

A press release by the organization Save Briarcliff states that plans submitted last week to transform the mansion and surrounding grounds into a boutique hotel campus are a go, pending a few minor changes.

The plight of the mansion has attracted interest for years, and it really isn’t all that surprising; the narrative is one of Atlanta’s most compelling stories of glamour, mystery, and destruction, from the golden age of the city’s growth. In a nutshell:

The eccentric, wealthy Coca-Cola heir Asa Candler, Jr. builds a lavish mansion, complete with a music hall, zoo, and public swimming pool, attempting to outdo his father and brother.

Plagued by alcoholism, financial troubles, and depression, he would sell the mansion following World War II, with the gorgeous manse being converted into a alcohol treatment center and then a mental health institute.

The years of institutional use stripped the mansion of its grandeur, and decades of further neglect at the hands of Emory University — itself a major recipient of Coca-Cola’s benevolence — rendered the once grandiose facility all but uninhabitable.

Now, thankfully, interest in the building isn’t relegated to just Atlanta, or even the United States.

Yesterday, the UK newspaper the Daily Mail published a story and series of photos showing the decay in the mansion. While the writing is factually pretty inaccurate, the images are mesmerizing, if not heart-wrenching for lovers of history.

Fortunately, restoration work could get underway soon, meaning the mansion’s days of dereliction should be but a distant memory.