Spruill Center for the
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30338
Office Hours: Mon - Thur 9 am- 7 pm; Fri 9 am- 5 pm
The Spruill Center for the Arts was founded in 1975 as a part of DeKalb County Government. In 1982, it became a private nonprofit multi-disciplinary arts institution. The Spruill Center for the Arts provides high-quality fine arts programming for the community through clases in literary, performing, and visual arts. It is supported in part by grants from DeKalb Council for the Arts, Georgia Council for the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts. Donations to the Spruill Center for the Arts are tax deductible.
The following information is from a brochure distributed by the Spruill Center for the Arts and written by Emily Pogue Henry.
The Spruill Center for the Arts Gallery & Historic Home
is located at 4681 Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30338. They are open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am until 5 pm. Admission and parking are free. They can be reached by phone at 770-394-4019 or by fax at 770-394-3987.
A History of the Spruill Homeplace
The Spruill Homeplace in Dunwoody, Georgia, was the center of a large working farm from the mid-19th century until 1965. Today, the main house and two outbuildings are still standing in good condition on the property. The house has undergone numerous additions and renovations since being built in the 1840s, and features a century's worth of phases and styles of Southern folk architecture.
Through the generosity of Onnie Mae Spruill, Stephen T. Spruill's daughter, and Ethel Warren Spruill, his second wife, the Spruill Homeplace and five surrounding acres have been donated to the Spruill Center for the Arts to serve as a place to foster the arts, and as a remembrance of one of Dunwoody's first families, the Spruills.
A Pioneer Homestead
James T. Spruill (1816-1896) settled and began to farm a significant portion of the land which is present-day Dunwoody in the early 1840s. The first structure built on the property was a log house, typical of its day and common among pioneer families in this part of the country. Family members recall that the house was two stories tall and that the original walls were constructed of large, round logs. The log house survives today only in the memories of older family members and their stories, because it was torn down in 1905 after becoming infested with termites.
The oldest extant part of the current structure was built in 1867 as an addition to the log house. It consists of two rooms, located in the back of the house. One room currently houses the history exhibit and the other has been converted to a rest room and hallway. These rooms were once a kitchen/living area (the family refers to it as the "keeping room") and an extra bedroom, respectively. The addition was made in order to accommodate the large family of Thomas Franklin Spruill (1846-1920), James' son. Open hearth cooking was done in the large stone fireplace. The corner cabinet has five let-in shelves and an enclosed cabinet. The "keeping room" has original wooden wall paneling, which the family switched from horizontal to vertical in the 1880s to give the room a more modern look.
The Spruill Family
The Spruills are among the first settlers of Dunwoody and the earliest English settlers of North America. Dr. Godfrey Spruill (b. 1650) immigrated with his wife to the New World from England in the 1690s, settling in the Albemarle Sound area of North Carolina. For the next five generations, Spruills played an important role in the religious and political life of the fledgling colony.
By the late 1700s, a Spruill had settled in Abbeville, South Carolina. When the first U.S. census was taken in 1790, a William Spruill was living in Abbeville with a wife and several children. Judging from the will of William's father, John Spruill (d. 1808), we can surmise the Spruills had lived in Abbeville for quite some time and were prosperous farmers and land owners.
In the early 1800s, William's oldest son Stephen (b. 1787) moved to DeKalb County, Georgia. The 1830 census shows William later joined his son in DeKalb, where he died in 1846. In the early 1800s, the Cherokee and Creek Indians had ceded a good deal of land to Georgia and Alabama. Georgia used a lottery system to distribute this land, and Stephen Spruill obtained land in Sandy Springs that stretched from Long Island Creek to what is now Mt. Vernon Road.
In 1842, Stephen's son, James Spruill (1816-1896), married Miss Millie Adams (1821-1896). They moved from Sandy Springs to the current site of the Spruill Homeplace, and were among the first white settlers of Dunwoody. James' son, Thomas Franklin Spruill (1846-1920), a private in the Confederate Army, is listed as having surrendered to Union troops in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1865. After Thomas married Naomi Martin (1844-1941) in 1867, the "keeping room" addition was added to the rear of the original Homeplace to accommodate the growing family.
Stephen Thomas Spruill
When Thomas' son, Stephen Thomas Spruill (1870-1967), married Miss Mollie Lee Carter (1872-1932) of Sandy Springs in 1889, the Homeplace was presented to them as a wedding gift. Stephen was to live in the Homeplace and farm the land his family had farmed for generations, until his death in 1967. It was Stephen who, in 1905, tore down the original Homeplace because it was infested with termites and rebuilt the Homeplace as we know it today. Throughout the early twentieth century, Stephen acquired land from neighboring farms, and by the time of his death was one of the most prosperous farmers and largest land owners in both Fulton and DeKalb counties. Most of Stephen and Mollie Lee's descendants continue to live in the Dunwoody area.
The Box House
In 1905, Stephen Spruill (1870-1967), Thomas' son tore down the log house built by his grandfather, and using the 1867 addition as an anchor, he then built the "box house." The "box house" consists of the four rooms and a central hallway which runs the length of the house. The hallway and high ceilings (14 ft.) facilitated air circulation during hot Southern summers before air conditioning. With its simple architecture, the Spruill House is a fine example of Southern farmhouses from this period.
The house rests on a brick pier foundation and uses a typical floor joint and wall stud system. The walls are constructed of sawn wood studs, and the roof exhibits a combination of both hip and roof gable roofing. The exterior is composed of mill cut lap-board siding, which may very well have been supplied by the Spruill's Mill in North Fulton County.
The front facade has six columns and two pilasters. It features Victorian detailing, such as spindle work and flat jig-saw cut trim, which give the house its special charm. (This trim was added a few years after the house was built, perhaps because woodworking machinery and the growth of the railroad system made precut Victorian detailing more accessible in those years.) The shutters on the front facade can swing open or remain shut. The side and the back proches are informal and less ornate. Similar to the railing currently found on the back porch, the original facade railing was comprised of horizontal strips of lumber.
In 1937, Stephen and his second wife, Ethel Warren Spruill, remodeled and updated the house. During the remodeling, the wall which separated the living room and hallway was removed to make the living room more spacious, and a modern kitchen and bath were installed.
Smokehouse & Seed House
There are two outbuilding still standing along with the house. The smokehouse was built in the 1840s, at the same time as the original log house. Iron hooks, upon which meat was hung to be dried and cured, can still be seen along the smokehouse's walls. The smokehouse is constructed of large round logs similar to those in the original house.
The second outbuilding is a seed house. Here, staple farm supplies, such as corn, wheat, and cotton seed were stored. The seed house was built in the early twentieth century and is made up entirely of mill cut lap-board siding, with no rounded logs.