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[image] William P. Nicolson House
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The eclectic style Nicolson House showcases a columned, flat-roofed porch
National Register photograph by Yen Tang

This late 19th-century eclectic residence was designed by Atlanta architect Walter T. Downing for Dr. William P. Nicolson in 1892. Dr. Nicolson was a prominent surgeon, Dean and teacher at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Atlanta, and President of the Georgia Medical Association. Downing, a respected and important Atlanta architect, was the designer of numerous residential, commercial and public buildings in Atlanta. The Nicolson House is only one of five residences designed by Downing known to still exist in Atlanta. It remained in the ownership of the Nicolson family until 1982.

The house is a compact two-story suburban home, sited on a restricted lot with moderate front and rear yards in the Midtown area. The visual complexity of the eclectic exterior design results from the application of a decorated, two-story rounded bay projection and columned, flat-roofed porch to the front of a two-story square block house with medium pitched hipped roof. The shell motif, so popular with Downing, permeates the applied carved decoration from the shell pattern in the freely designed Ionic capitals supporting the front porch to the large shell which, as the major visual concentration of the house, adorns the main facade projecting bay. The use of materials on the exterior further expresses the architect's emphasis on varied architectural composition. The main body of the house is clad in clapboard siding with plain corner pilasters, molded caps and plain frieze at the second-story floor level. In contrast, the lower portion of the projecting bay is sheathed in a board and batten siding with a tongue and groove vertical siding on the upper level providing a smooth, plainer surface for the shell, swag and torch details and ornate frieze. The interior features a U-shaped staircase with a large lower landing that is used for a sitting area with a built-in settee. The central hall is spaciously designed to be a major circulation and visual link to the public rooms on the first floor. Its large size is characteristic of the openness of the first floor plan, which emphasized social entertaining. Large single and double recessed sliding paneled doors, opening directly onto the central hall, connect all major first floor rooms.

The William P. Nicolson House is located at 821 Piedmont Ave. in north Atlanta. It is now the Shellmont Inn, a bed and breakfast. Call 404-872-9290 or visit their website for more information.

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