DeKalb History Center Historic Complex

The DeKalb History Center maintains a historic complex at Adair Park on West Trinity Place. The historic complex includes three antebellum structures: the Benjamin Swanton House, the Biffle Cabin, and the Thomas-Barber Cabin.

 

 

Benjamin Swanton House

The Swanton House, with a circa 1825 log cabin at its core, is one of the oldest structures in Decatur. The log cabin portion was constructed by early DeKalb settler Ammi Williams. When the house was purchased in 1852 by Benjamin Franklin Swanton, he added several additions, and the cabin was transformed into a Georgian cottage with Greek Revival architectural details.

 

Benjamin Swanton arrived in Georgia during the Dahlonega Gold Rush of 1828, and began selling mining machinery. In 1852, Swanton came to Decatur and established himself as a successful industrialist. In the years leading up to the Civil War, Swanton engaged in a variety of business ventures, all which were located in close proximity to the Decatur Courthouse.

 

During the Civil War, Swanton and his family fled to Maine leaving the house under the supervision of a widow and ten little girls who were in her care. On July 19, 1864, the Swanton House became the headquarters for the Federal Army of the Tennessee, who were en route to Atlanta. Much of downtown Decatur was burned during the war, yet the Swanton House was one of the only buildings that was spared. Among the tales surrounding the house is that a Yankee soldier was held captive in the upstairs closet under the eaves after the Battle of Atlanta.

Urban renewal threatened the Swanton House throughout the 1960s, and in 1968 the house was moved in order to ensure the preservation of the structure. Although the house still is no longer in its original Atlanta Avenue location, it now stands on land that was once owned by Benjamin Swanton.

 

The Swanton House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.

 


The Biffle Cabin

Log Cabins once abounded in rural DeKalb County and the DeKalb History Center maintains two log cabins at the Trinity Place Historic Complex. The Biffle Cabin, built between 1825 and 1840, was originally located on a knoll overlooking Barbashela Creek. This cabin was built by Revolutionary War veteran John Biffle, who was born in Germany in 1744. In 1822, Biffle, who had been living in North Carolina, arrived in DeKalb County with his wife and son. When he died in 1850 at the age of 106, he was the county’s oldest resident.

     

 The Biffle Cabin was discovered in the mid 1970s by workers clearing land for the construction of the Hidden Hills Subdivision on Biffle Road in Stone Mountain. Although the workers believed the building was an abandoned house, after stripping multiple layers of exterior siding, a log cabin was uncovered. The cabin features a unique construction technique most commonly used in Eastern Pennsylvania and a large stone fireplace.

     

 In 1976 the DeKalb Historical Society acquired the Biffle Cabin and in 1977 it was moved to its present location in Decatur’s Adair Park, adjacent to the Swanton House.

 

 

 

The Thomas-Barber Cabin

 

The Thomas-Barber Cabin, was built in the 1830s by George and Martha Thomas, who were among the early settlers in DeKalb County. Originally from South Carolina, the couple and their six children made their way to Georgia in a covered wagon. They built their home, a 20x30-foot long log cabin, on Decatur-McDonough Road (now called Browns Mill-Salem Road). George fired his rifle at the front wall, making a peep-hole which enabled the family to see who was coming down the road from Decatur. The cabin later served as a stage coach stop for wagons making the two-day trip between McDonough to Decatur.

           

In the early 1970s, the Barber Family donated the cabin to the DeKalb Historical Society. In 1983, the cabin was deconstructed log by log, and moved to the Adair Park Historic Complex. Soon after it was moved, the restoration process began, and several Appalachian craftsmen arrived in Decatur to assist with putting an wood shingle roof on the cabin.