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Officials: After preservation, Tuskegee Airman’s Beltline home locked in affordability at $198K

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The Washington Park property’s groundbreaking former owner wanted a legacy of helping other families

A brick ranch home with a driveway at left and a patchy lawn in the foreground.
The “after” version of 1138 Harwell Street in Washington Park.
Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation

The unassuming brick ranch from 1953 at 1138 Harwell Street is where Edward Johnson, a World War II flight instructor with the Tuskegee Airmen, established his family’s roots in Atlanta after the great war.

As the first black Licensed Master Electrician in Atlanta, Johnson had built the home (completing the wiring himself, of course) on one of Washington Park’s last undeveloped lots, neighboring an active Westside railway that’s since become the Beltline’s Westside Trail. With his wife, the late Harriet May Robinson, an Atlanta Public Schools kindergarten teacher and Spelman College graduate, he raised three daughters there.

Johnson died in June at age 103.

But before his passing, Johnson sold the family home—along with another in the neighborhood—to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, in hopes the properties could afford other families a life similar to what he’d known.

Now, the Georgia Trust has wrapped an eco-friendly renovation of the formerly blighted property and is offering it for sale at $198,000.

The sale is a partnership with Atlanta Land Trust and is meant to ensure permanent affordability of the home at 80 percent area median income, or lower. (Right now, that means a qualifying family of three would be capped at making $57,400 annually, or $63,750 for a family of four.)

It’s part of a Westside Preservation Initiative program that aims to revitalize communities such as Washington Park both sustainably and affordably.

This initial project met a set of Earthcraft Sustainable Construction standards, and a “preservation easement” will be applied to the home “to protect it from demolition or insensitive alterations in perpetuity,” officials noted.

An old abandoned house at left and construction along a wooded trail at right.
The home’s previous boarded-up condition, as seen during Beltline construction in 2016.
Google Maps

A key feature of the three-bedroom property is steps-away access to the Westside Trail. It counts 1,479 square feet, one and a half bathrooms, and the potential to expand with an unfinished basement.

Beyond his military service, Johnson founded a company with a fellow Tuskegee Airman, Johnson & Wood Electric, which served as a training ground for young black electricians in the city.

“We are greatly indebted to the Johnson family for making this [rehabilitation and sale] possible,” Mark C. McDonald, Georgia Trust president and CEO, said in a press release today. “It will make a delightful home for a family.”

An open house is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 1138 Harwell Street. Here’s a sneak peek.

A home’s interior with wood floors and a unique arched doorway.
Off the entry, unique doorway detailing is seen with stairs to the unfinished basement.
A kitchen with white countertops and views out a window at right to downtown Atlanta.
The roomy new kitchen includes views to downtown (right) and to the Westside Trail next door (over the sink).
A stone fireplace in a long deep living room with wood floors, and a white kitchen at left.
A fireplace retained in the living room. The Earthcraft-grade redo reduced air leakage by 70 percent while other tests exceeded modern energy codes for new home construction, “all while maintaining original plaster walls and original windows throughout,” project leaders noted.
A view out the kitchen window toward a ranch house across the street and a lefty trail at left.
Westside Trail views, at left.
A white-tiled bathroom has a single vanity and black and white hexagonal tiling on the floor.
Example of a bathroom refresh.
A brick home as show from behind amid a big yard with trees around.
The newly fenced, cleared yard and a patio that links with the living room.