Cheney House

CHENEY HOUSE

THE CHENEY HOUSE 

The Cheney House has been described by William Mitchell, former Director of Historic Site Surveys for the Georgia Historical Commission, as Athens’ finest example of Victorian Architecture. It was built in 1893 by Mrs. Frances Mary Shaw Cheney, who, after the death of her husband, Franklin Washington Cheney II, decided to relocate with her four young children and newborn son

Mrs. Cheney married Henry Carlton Tuck at the residence in 1899. Mr. Tuck was known as a University of Georgia graduate, lawyer, elected member of the Georgia Legislature and former Mayor of Athens. Their marriage lasted over a decade; however, Mrs. Cheney divorced Mr. Tuck on October 21, 1913 and resumed the Cheney name. Sadly, Mrs. Cheney passed away just five years later, on April 20, 1918.

Frances and Maude, two of the daughters, decided to stay in the house and were the sole caretakers of the Cheney House for the next fifty-one and fifty-five years, respectively. The Cheney family resided in the house for over eight decades.

In 1946 and 1947, Maude became a very vocal landlord writing many letters to the Federal Office of Price Administration, U.S. Senators, and President Truman regarding raising the price of monthly rent for the upstairs rooms.

Her letter to President Truman was responded to by Ivan Carson, Federal Deputy Commissioner for Rent on 1/9/1947. It stated, “You, no doubt, are familiar with the fact that, in order for a landlord to secure a rental increase, he must bring his case under one or more of the 14 grounds provided by the Rent Regulation. We are very glad to be able to tell you that these grounds have proved an effective basis for increases. Landlords have been granted raises on 1,000,000 rental units since the inception of Federal Rent Control and 30,000 are currently being allowed per month.”

Maude was tenacious and continued her letter writing campaign. Congress changed the laws in 1948.

ARCHITECTURE 

Overly sufficient amounts of natural lighting, delicately carved interior and exterior detailing, large and expansive rooms, fireplaces galore and complex roof lines are all key elements of a wonderfully composed Queen Anne Victorian house.

Further characterizing the Eastlake style is the carved, geometric pattern on each baluster going up the twelve-foot grand staircase.

The Cheney House is a superior composition of the Queen Anne Victorian style and boasts influences of the designer Charles Eastlake, primarily noted in the rounded balcony opening and oriel window upon the second story of the front façade of the house. Also integral to the front façade of the house is a round tower protruding from the second floor on the northwest corner of the house.

With almost 4,000 square feet, there are eight rooms original to the house, which could undoubtedly serve multiple purposes. Four of these rooms are on the first floor, and respectfully, four on the second floor, although no space is clearly defined as to its purpose or intended use. Fireplaces serve all but one of the eight rooms and the eighth fireplace is in the main foyer. The mantels in the house are original and are all hand carved.

Characteristic of the Queen Anne Victorian style, there are over thirty windows in the house and due to their size and placement, provide the house an amazing amount of natural light.

The Cheney House was the first in Athens to have indoor plumbing. The architect resided in New York and planned for the city installation of water and sewer lines as was happening in New York.

One of the eight fireplaces in the Cheney House, featuring the original hand carved mantel.

There are many original bronze door hinges that remain and are irreplaceable. They were produced via a method called “cire perdue” meaning lost wax. A model is made in plaster, coated with wax in which details of the design are executed and covered with a perforated plaster mold. It is then heated until the wax melts and runs out of the holes, and molten metal is poured into the mold and fills the space. When cool, the mold is broken and the hinge is created.

After the rise of the Industrial Revolution, the intricate details and fanciful carved woodwork found in Queen Anne’s are all available for purchase, ready-made, either by catalog or through a supply, thus making Victorian houses a more practical dream home.

However, in 1893, all of the intricate Queen Anne Victorian features in the Cheney House were made by hand.

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