The Bell House records
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The Bell House records

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305. 404.814.4040. reference@atlantahistorycenter.com
Creator: Bell, Emma, 1848-1914
Title: The Bell House records
Dates: 1922-1957
Quantity: 0.25 Linear feet (one half document case)
Identification: ahc.MSS957

Biographical/Historical Note

The Bell House was a boarding house for Atlanta bachelors from the late nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. In 1878, Emma Bell, a young widow with two children, began taking in boarders at her home located at 67 North Pryor Street. Although she initially accepted both men and women, she later restricted her residents to unmarried men, either bachelors or widowers. Known as the Bell House, the boarding house moved to the former Leyden House at 198 Peachtree Street in 1893. Later it moved to 258 Peachtree Street near the Capital City Club. A gas street lamp, one of fifty original gas lamps in Atlanta dating to 1855, traveled with Mrs. Bell and her residents each time the boarding house moved. Mrs. Bell claimed that the gas lamp was "a sentinel angel over her boys." According to lore, Mrs. Bell enforced three rules in her establishment: no drinking; residents had to wear a coat at all times downstairs and on the veranda; and no smoking in the dining room. Residents of the boarding house were known as The Bell House Boys and residency constituted membership in an elite fraternity. Many prominent Atlanta professionals were former residents. As many as seventy-five bachelors took their meals at the Bell House at one time, and over the years, over 300 men resided there. Most of the Bell House Boys eventually married, receiving a silver pitcher from the other residents as a wedding gift. After Mrs. Bell's death in 1914, residents incorporated the Bell House and took over all management responsibilities. In subsequent years, the Bell House moved several times to locations which included a house at West Peachtree and Linden and the old John T. Grant home at Peachtree and Pine. For a time, the Bell House rented rooms at the Cox-Carlton Hotel. In 1930, it moved to the Thornton mansion on Peachtree Street, where it remained until the demolition of the Thornton house in 1957. In 1951, the Bell House Boys donated the gas street lamp to the Atlanta Historical Society. Additional historical information has not been determined.


Scope and Content Note

The records document the annual meetings and accounts of the Bell House from 1922 until its dissolution.

The Bell House records consist of a budget, ledger, meeting minutes, and general materials. The general materials include by-laws, correspondence, meeting notices, and a newspaper article on the demolition of the Thornton Mansion. The budget records the expenses of the Bell House, such as linen services, food deliveries, servant and manager salaries, and the rent received from tenants. The ledger provides more in-depth documentation of receipts and debits of the organization from 1953 until 1957.

The meeting minutes are contained in a scrapbook and document the annual meetings of the Bell House from 1922 until 1950. The annual meetings generally included the election of new officers and decisions on the management of the corporation. Long-time officers included Louis Cline, Albert Sears, Charles E. Shepard, Henry B. Kennedy, Dr. Major F. Fowler, and Lynn P. Foster. The records are not evocative of daily life in the boarding house, but do provide basic information on this unique boarding house.

For additional information, please see the Bell House Boys association file.


Arrangement

This collection is arranged alphabetically according to titles supplied by staff.


Index Terms

Bachelors--Georgia--Atlanta
Boardinghouses--Georgia--Atlanta
Cline, Louis
Foster, Lynn P.
Fowler, Major F., Dr.
Kennedy, Henry B.
Sears, Albert
Shepard, Charles E.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

The Bell House records, MSS 957, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, 1996

Description Control

This collection was processed in 1999.


Restrictions

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.


Container List

 

Box

Fldr

11Budget, 1954-1957
 
2General, 1930-1957
 
3Ledger, 1953-1957
 
4Meeting Minutes, 1922-1950