By John Schaffner
Many residents and visitors to Buckhead assume the Duck Pond park, located just east of Peachtree Road between East Wesley Road and Lindbergh Drive, is a city of Atlanta public park and is maintained by the city. But the park is actually private property and is maintained by the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association, which owns it.
Peachtree Heights East was the project of Eretus “Petie” Rivers, a railroad man turned real estate developer for whom E. Rivers School on Peachtree Battle Parkway is named.
He started his career as a developer by purchasing several hundred acres of “wooded, wild land” straddling Peachtree Road north of Peachtree Creek. So, in 1908 with Frank C. Owens, president of the Southern Land Company, E. Rivers planned the Peachtree Heights Subdivision.
Eretus Rivers had other real estate interests within Peachtree Heights East. On October 15, 1909, he bought from Leontine Chisolm Andrews the property between what is today Brookwood Drive, East Wesley Road, the lots next to the east of Acorn Avenue, and Lindbergh Drive. The purchase price reportedly was $1,000 subject to $12,000 principle payment to Hugh Inman.
In 1910, O. F. Hauffmann laid out the plat of the E. Rivers Subdivision in what is now Peachtree Heights East. Advertisements for the new subdivision said “the trees are beautiful, the land is rolling and well drained, several flowing springs are found.”
By 1913, there were 20 homes in the subdivision. Construction was interrupted by World War I, but by 1928, the homes numbered 175. Today there are more than 340 homes in Peachtree Heights East.
“We still have one of the original auction maps that is framed and kept as the map of authority by whoever is the president of the neighborhood association,” according to Bob Guinn, chairman of the Peachtree Heights East neighborhood’s board of trustees. “It advertises this quaint subdivision just two blocks beyond the trolley car end, where it ended at Peachtree Battle.”
Quinn explained that the lowland area, which is the present duck pond and linear park, “just laid as a swamp for some number of years, so the stories go, until 1932.” That is when, according to Guinn, Rivers’ widow, Una Rivers, “left a hand-written indenture where she gave all this property to the neighborhood in perpetuity — that it couldn’t be developed, it couldn’t be transferred.”
He said there is a spring up at the far (north) end of the park and “the use of the spring was to be mutually shared by all the land owners.”
Quinn said the property title is still held “literally as a private title by the board of trustees of this neighborhood. So we hold the property, but we can’t do anything with it.”
He said the city had tried to tax it as developable property. “But we worked a deal with the city where they have just a very minimum tax base they apply to it, but we have to keep it up,” he added.
The park underwent major restoration in 2001, with new landscaping, stacked rock retaining walls and stone bridges over tributaries.
Quinn explained that the neighborhood recently paid the city to put in curbing around the park “and they left all this rock trash here.” That is how Quinn had decided to spend his Feb. 16, cleaning up.
Meanwhile, dozens of neighborhood residents — young and old, men, women and children — were out that day raking leaves and debris, thinning out the overgrowth, removing dead growth and doing their share to maintain the park for residents and visitors to enjoy.
“It is a private park, but we welcome others to enjoy it,” said Jill Helmer, chair of the Peachtree Heights East neighborhood’s parks committee. “We just ask that they clean up after themselves and their pets.”
“It (the park) has to be kept up by the backs and sweat and donations of the neighborhood. It is a real amenity and we try to take care of it,” Guinn said.