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Doraville’s Northwoods remains a midcentury modern treasure trove. Just ask the neighbors

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Marketed in the 1950s as “homes of smart design and superior construction,” these residences have stood the test of time

Gray house with red door.
Since 1952, midcentury moderns have reigned in this section of Doraville.
Joseph Geierman

Since the very early 1950s, the midcentury modern homes of Northwoods in Doraville have attracted the attention of architecture aficionados.

Northwoods, the state’s first Planned Unit Development, began with 15 homes “built in either ranch or contemporary style,” as stated in the May 1954 issue of American Builder, by local contractor Walter L. Tally.

The modest, 1,100-square-foot residences were based on plans by Atlanta architects Ernest Mastin and John Summer.

Originally built as affordable housing for workers at the nearby Doraville General Motors plant, the homes were so popular, the neighborhood exploded to more than 700 residences by 1962.

Through the years, Northwoods retained popularity among enthusiasts of the MCM genre, even as appreciation for the style waned.

More recently, many neighbors have collaborated to celebrate the community’s history. After much lobbying by local residents, Northwoods was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

They also installed midcentury-inspired entrance signs leading into the neighborhood, and obtained street-sign toppers that note Northwoods’s history.

A 1950s advertisement for Northwoods.

Since moving into the neighborhood in 2001, Northwoods resident and Doraville City Council Member Joseph Geierman has seen too many changes to count.

“When I moved to Doraville, I don’t think midcentury style or ranch homes were thought of as anything special at all,” he says. “We were lucky that, unlike other neighborhoods in metro Atlanta, we did not see the spate of teardowns that could have destroyed a lot of what makes Northwoods special.

“I’m thrilled that young families are moving in and renovating these historic homes.”

When the neighborhood first took shape, the three-bedroom homes—some with one and a half baths and family rooms, according to a 1950s advertisement—were priced between $13,350 and $15,300.

Today, those same homes are listing between $100,000 and $500,000, such as Jennifer Sibley’s home, which is currently listed at $315,000.

Her 1954 house at 2601 McClave Drive is slightly larger, with 1,264 square feet.

Sibley purchased the home two years ago and conducted a full renovation, with an updated kitchen, remodeled bathroom, and a new deck behind the house.

“When this neighborhood came on my radar a few years ago, I couldn’t wait for the right house to come on the market,” Sibley told Curbed Atlanta via email. “After living here for two years, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

True, Sibley’s selling her current home, but she’s searching for another property in the neighborhood, where she can apply what she’s learned about renovation and design.

Another home down the street is reaching higher, in terms of resale price.

At $465,000, the property at 2804 McClave Drive is larger, with four bedrooms and three bathrooms in 2,200 square feet.

Built in 1958, this home is essentially all new construction, given that renovation work stripped the structure down to the studs. Still, the property aims to pay homage to neighborhood history while embracing the latest technologies.

Blending yesterday with today seems to be the motto for Northwoods these days.

“Both old and new neighbors work together to make this neighborhood a truly unique place,” says Andrew Morris, president of Northwoods Area Neighborhood Association. “Our eclectic and growing group loves to gather for all sorts of social events, and we work hard side by side to maintain and improve the neighborhood.”