Herndon Home Centennial

Herndon_Foundation.jpgBy Special to the Daily World
The Herndon Foundation paid tribute to the legacy of the Herndon Home and to the Herndon family with a Centennial Celebration on Sunday, Sept.11,  at the Atlanta History Center.  The home celebrates its 101st anniversary this year.  Honorary chairpersons for the gala occasion included Herman Russell, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Ingrid Saunders Jones.

Entertainment for the evening’s festive event included excerpts from the opera, “The Herndons,” which was written and produced by Sharon J. Willis.  The wedding scene from the opera was performed by members of the Americolor Opera Alliance. Roberta Phillips, the principal docent and museum manager,  delivered special excepts from the historical tours that she provides at the Herndon Home.

The Herndon Foundation presented its Legacy Award to Dr. Edward D. Irons, chairman emeritus of the Herndon Foundation.

“The Herndon Foundation is the guardian of the Herndon Legacy. “It is our privilege and responsibility to perpetuate Mr. Herndon’s entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropic legacy throughout the Atlanta community and across these United States,” says William J. Stanley III, chairman of the Herndon Foundation.  “At this critical juncture when African Americans are seeking mentors and role models, Alonzo Herndon’s life work is exemplary. It is a beacon which continues to call us to service a century later. It compels Black men and women of every age to become inspired by Mr. Herndon’s accomplishments. It encourages us to emulate his business prowess and commitment to the community.”

The Herndon Home, designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000, is one of those historic properties in America that gained exceptional value for its unique heritage as a great American home.  This family mansion of Alonzo Franklin Herndon built in 1910 is located on Diamond Hill at one of the highest elevations on the Westside of Atlanta. The house was designed primarily by Adrienne Herndon, wife of Alonzo, and was built exclusively by Black craftsmen.  The two-story 15-room house,

Italiante Beaux Arts Classical in style, is an example of high society dwellings at the beginning of the last century.  The Herndon Home will forever serve as a lasting tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and talent of one of Atlanta’s most extraordinary African-American families. More than 1 million visitors have toured this mansion to experience firsthand the lifestyle of the Herndon family and to gain a better understanding of Atlanta’s Black culture and history.

The house contains the original furnishings as well as those acquired later in the century by Alonzo’s son Norris. He was the second Black graduate of the Harvard Business School, and traveled extensively throughout Europe and Africa where he collected antiquities and decorative arts for what he envisioned as a museum in honor of his parents.

Born a slave from Social Circle, Ga., Alonzo Herndon went on to establish and operate more than one successful barber shop on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta after the civil war.  One of these emporiums was elaborately decorated with marble flooring and a crystal chandelier as well as furnishings and fittings acquired during his excursions to Europe.  Herndon became a developer and major property owner in Atlanta and later founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.  He is widely considered to be Atlanta’s first Black millionaire.

He was also an organizer of the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of the NAACP. After Herndon’s death in 1927, Norris Herndon assumed the presidency of Atlanta Life, with Jessie Herndon, Alonzo’s second wife, as Atlanta Life’s vice president. During this period, the company experienced tremendous growth.

The Centennial Celebration of the Herndon Home represents the kick-off of the first major capital campaign initiated by The Herndon Foundation to support the expansion of services and the ongoing restoration of the Herndon Home.  The foundation has plans to complete the renovations thereby providing a larger facility in which to host social events at the home.

The Herndon Home is located at 587 University Place, N.W.; Atlanta, GA 30314.  Guided tours are conducted hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment.

There is a fee for admission and special discounted rates are available for groups.  For more information about the Herndon Home and to schedule a tour, telephone 404-581-9813.

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