Residents and visitors to Serenbe may be familiar with the greenspace known as Deer Hollow located just inside the main Atlanta-Newnan Road entrance to the community. Some have wandered through the trails, attended ballet performances by Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre or maybe thrown a frisbee or walked their dog. What they may not be familiar with is the area’s long and storied history.
Thomas Jefferson Barfield was the first owner of the land in the late 1800s. He lived in a small cabin and added to it as his family grew until he eventually sold the land and house to James “Jimmy” Shell and then moved into Palmetto. Jimmy and his second wife Frances, remodeled a one room log school house on the property to be their family home, building onto it as the family grew. The little cabin found itself surrounded by rooms until it became the hallway of a very beautiful Victorian cottage. Jimmy had three children from a previous marriage, and he and Frances Ann had another 17 children. Their oldest child, Homer, was born October 19, 1888, and their youngest, Hattie Edison, lives within walking distance on Rico Road. Their youngest son, Andrew, lived at the family home after their deaths. A recent family reunion on the land hosted over 200 people and family members still live in Chatt Hills.
A few years after the Nygren’s purchased the original farm property in the early 1990s, now The Inn at Serenbe, they purchased an adjoining 60 acres, which included what remained of the original Shell homestead - the chimney foundation. Long before Steve imagined a community, he sold 10 acres to friends Smith Hanes and Alyssa Berry of Bella Cucina, who were planning to build a home, gardens, test kitchen, and cooking school. The years passed, Serenbe was conceived, and in the first years of success Smith and Alyssa’s plans changed, resulting in the sale to mutual friends and early Serenbe residents John and Karen-Flanders Reid.
The Reids also had a dream to build on the property, yet once they found a home on Hearn Road and saw their land sitting unused, they graciously opened it up to arts programming and private events including those magical Terminus ballet performances.They fell in love with the historic cabin and fireplace foundation on the property and over the years have lit it up during the holidays and opened it up to friends on Christmas Eve.
After 10 years of ownership, John and Karen came to an agreement with Serenbe to incorporate the acreage into the community, creating five estate lots and leaving the remaining acres in permanent conservation per the Chatt Hills 70/30 land overlay plan. The land was combined with matching acreage from Serenbe to extend the greenspace to Selborne Lane creating Deer Hollow Park.
They contracted with Land Plus Associates, owned by Serenbe residents Alec Michaelides and Kenneth Lemm, to design an effortless and rural landscape plan to further organize the space. This area was named Deer Hollow by Karen because this is where the deer gather, and it will be a passive natural greenspace, meaning it won’t be for organized sports or other similar activities. Rather, it is a tranquil open space for people to relax in or meander through the trails. There will be an open green and seating area, plus beautiful trails surrounding it that will showcase temporary and permanent public art installations, that will continue The Reid’s legacy of hosting the arts. The historic structures the Reids loved so much will remain on the property, but will not be accessible to visitors so that they may be preserved.
The first art installation at Deer Hollow Park is funded by a community organization that came together during the summer of 2020, with a vision to curate and install a welcoming sculpture. Their hard work and determination has resulted in a permanent installation by internationally acclaimed sculptor Curtis Patterson. His piece, “Serenity for Shango,” pays homage to the lineage of African American culture. Shango is a deity of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and his traditional double-ax figurehead is believed to imbue both power and energy. In this piece, the double iron is an analog to the double ax meant to recognize those who served as domestic laborers for hundreds of years in this region. The sculpture celebrates the iconography of African art and the profound impact it has had on modern and contemporary art. The surrounding gathering space provides an opportunity to connect with others and the serene wonder of nature. Curtis Patterson’s piece has been installed and is available for all to view and enjoy. Art Farm at Serenbe will be responsible for the sculpture as part of the Public Art & Special Projects Council.
Art Farm is also bringing a temporary installation to Deer Hollow Park, “Rich Soil” by artist Kristine Mays. Kristine is an artist currently living and working in San Francisco, California. Independently trained and a self-described “maker”, she began creating with wire in 1993, after years of drawing, sketching, sewing, and bead work. Of her current work, Mays says, "I am honored and humbled that I can spend my life creating artwork and sharing it with the world.” Kristine’s pieces were recently on view at The Atlanta Botanical Gardens and will be on view at Deer Hollow through 2023.
Visit Deer Hollow, available from dawn to dust, to relax or enjoy the art installations. Entry is by foot via the trail network and Selborne Lane just beyond the crosswalk at Gainey Lane.