T. Blair Dillard House — Carmelita

1080 West Paces Ferry Road NW

1917: P. Thornton Marye

In May 1916, the Constitution announced that Thomas Blair Dillard, “formerly of Salem, Va.,” planned to build “a handsome Italian villa, costing between $35,000 and $50,000, on the 27-acre tract he purchased . . . for $18,600 in cash, on the south side of Pace’s Ferry road, just west from the Sanders McDaniel residence.” Apparently Dillard had visited Atlanta with his young wife, Margaret (Stuart) Dillard, during “grand opera week” and the couple “became so favorably impressed with the beauties of the city, its environs and unexcelled home sites, that they determined to locate here permanently.” Margaret’s childhood home of Pasadena served as the inspiration for their Italian villa.

The T. Blair Dillard House. The Constitution, Mar. 17, 1974.

Dillard bought the land from Mrs. M. H. Moody, and he hired Philip Thornton Marye as architect.

But Dillard likely never saw the completed home. He left Atlanta about May 1917 “as the result of domestic differences,” and the villa was completed soon after. Margaret named the home Carmelita, and she filed for separation. Shortly after in June 1917, Dillard died in an automobile accident in Lexington, Virginia when he “put on his emergency brake and the automobile turned turtle.” He is buried in Salem’s East Hill Cemetery.

In August 1919, Margaret married Hugh B. Adams of Fayetteville, North Carolina at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church. The Constitution called her “an acknowledged belle” and noted that “‘Carmelita’ . . . has been a happy feature of the social life.” She soon after moved to her husband’s home in Fayetteville and sold the grand home to Mrs. Valeria (Rankin) Manley for $76,500 in June 1921. The name Carmelita fell into disuse.

“Under the Greenwood Tree at ‘Carmelita.'” The Constitution, Sept. 5, 1930.

The Adams family eventually returned to Atlanta and the 1930 U.S. federal census found them with their daughter at 1337 Peachtree Street. Hugh and Margaret later divorced, and Margaret died in Atlanta in May 1956. She is buried in Christiansburg, Virginia.

Raymond Vickers writes about Carmelita in the hands of Valeria (Rankin) Manley and her husband, Wesley Doughty Manley, in Panic in Paradise:

In 1923, a reporter described her visit to [the Manley] estate: “As I turned off Pace’s Ferry Road and rolled slowly up the long driveway toward the Italian Villa, [I felt] the pleasant thrill always experienced when one’s eyes see and recognize perfection.”

Manley’s butler opened the door for dinner guests, while his driver waited to chauffeur the rich and powerful around town in his Cadillac limousine. When the Manleys and their four children went on shopping excursions to New York or Europe their maid accompanied them, and while in town they motored around in flashy cars. During the reckless months leading to the crash, Manley bought a new limousine, a 1926 Rolls-Royce, and a large Marmon sedan. He also bought his teenage daughter a Marmon sports car.

Caught up in the fantasy, Valeria Rankin Manley was a compulsive spendthrift. In 1926, when her husband’s banks were suffering a cash crisis, she went on a spending spree. Sharing a joint account with her husband and unconcerned about its balance, she wrote checks “whenever she wanted to.” She especially enjoyed shopping at Atlanta’s Chamberlin-Johnson-DuBose Company, which had been operating since 1866. Chamberlin’s, with its impressive five-story building, was one of the most exclusive department stores in the South. During the first half of 1926, she purchased on credit at Chamberlin’s 101 pairs of hose, 32 pairs of gloves, 23 dresses, 12 pairs of shoes, 10 handbags, 5 girdles, and a kimono. She also bough shirts, blouses, and costly jewelry, along with chairs, rugs, and other items to decorate her home. After Mrs. Manley defaulted on the charges, Chamberlin’s filed suit and received a judgment against her. Apparently Mrs. Manley was not the only customer with a poor payment history. The Atlanta landmark was forced out of business in 1931.

A jury found Wesley Manley guilty of “fraudulent use of the mails” in October 1929, and he was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. He served five of those years before he was released and died in a sanitarium in Asheville, North Carolina in March 1935.

In May 1930 Valeria (Rankin) Manley sold Carmelita to Lindsey Hopkins, Sr. for about $100,000. At that time the 14-room house sat on 20 acres as Valeria had kept some acreage along Pace’s Ferry for herself. Hopkins hired architects Cooper & Cooper “for a complete remodeling of the residence.” They “added a wing to the original structure and redesigned the formal gardens, and swimming pool. A tennis court was built and it was bordered with twin avenue of giant magnolia trees.”

Hopkins died in 1937. The 1940 U.S. federal census found his wife, Leonora (Balsley) Hopkins, living at the home with her sister, Elizabeth Brady, and their caretaker (Roy Williams), cook (Rachael Wilson), and maid (Rosie Parks). Leonora died in 1964 and is buried in Westview Cemetery with her husband.

After Leonora’s death Carmelita was sold to a developer and divided into lots. Mr. and Mrs. A. D. Adair, Jr. purchased the house and the estate’s remaining four acres. The current owner, Arthur Blank, purchased Carmelita from the Adair family in 2006.

Select Bibliography

Atlanta Constitution. “Opera Visitor Liked Atlanta; Will Live Here.” May 24, 1916.

———. “Dillard Loses Life in Auto Accident.” June 15, 1917.

———. “Mrs. M. S. Dillard Weds Mr. Adams, of North Carolina.” August 21, 1919.

———. “Society.” September 5, 1920.

———. “Mrs. W. D. Manley Buys Fine Home.” June 9, 1921.

———. “Manley in Prison To Begin Serving Seven-Year Term.” Oct. 25, 1929.

———. “Hopkins Buys Manley Home For $100,000.” May 18, 1930.

———. “W. D. Manley Dies in Asheville, N.C.” March 14, 1935.

———. “Funeral Notices.” May 8, 1956.

Barnard, Susan Kessler. Buckhead: A Place for All Time. Athens, GA: Hill Street Press, 1996.

Bristol (VA) Herald Courier. “T. Blair Dillard.” June 16, 1917.

Gwin, Yolande. “Handsome Estate to Open April 20.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution, March 17, 1974.

Vickers, Raymond B. Panic in Paradise: Florida’s Banking Crash of 1926. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1994.

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