Just down the hill from the Miller-Ward Alumni House, on Houston Mill Road, is the entrance to Hahn Woods, formally known as the T. Marshall Hahn Commemorative Forest.
This Emory landmark came to mind last week when I learned of the passing of the man for whom the woods are named—T. Marshall Hahn Jr., Emory trustee emeritus and former CEO of Georgia-Pacific. Among his achievements were a PhD in physics from MIT at the age of 23 and appointment at the age of 35 to the presidency of Virginia Tech, which he built into a research university during his tenure from 1962 to 1974. His obituary from the Roanoke (Va.) Times is here. Marshall had served as chair of the Emory trustees’ Investment Committee and a member of the Executive Committee until his elevation to emeritus status at age 70 in 1997. He blended academic aspiration and business acumen in an extraordinary way.
Hahn Woods is well worth a visit. A stroll along its paths not only leads into a literal grove of academe but also introduces something of the area’s history.
This 4.7-acre preserve was part of a 60-acre parcel that the university acquired from the owners of the Houston Mill House in 1960. In the succeeding decades Emory covered over a pasture and a swimming pool with construction debris, creating a landfill.
In 1993, through a partnership with Georgia-Pacific, which sought to honor its retiring CEO, the university began reclaiming the site as a teaching area for environmental preservation—an effort dear to Marshall’s interests.
Entering the woods from the parking lot, you have a choice between an upper trail, leading past the meadow, or a lower trail that skirts the creek.
Washington Jackson Houston (pronounced HOUSE-ton) chose this site along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek for his mill, for which the nearby road is named. Houston acquired the property in 1842 from his father, Dr. Chapmon Powell, who had settled in the Decatur area in the 1820s and is buried with his wife and other family members in the cemetery on Emory’s Clairmont Campus.
Houston built a dam in the ravine to the east of the road.
Just downstream stand the remains of a single-lane bridge that once carried traffic on Houston Mill Road across the creek. This iron bridge was replaced by a concrete bridge in 1952—the same concrete bridge still used by hundreds of commuters daily.
Pillars mark the path leading past the dam.
Around 1900 Houston converted his mill operations from grinding grist to generating electricity.
In the 1920s Harry Carr acquired the property and resumed grist milling. He built his Houston Mill House in 1925—the same year that Walter Candler developed his Lullwater estate half a mile upstream. Following Carr’s death in 1958—again, coincidentally, the year Emory acquired Lullwater—Emory in 1960 negotiated the purchase of the property from his widow with the provision that she be permitted to live in the house until her death. She died in 1976.
Hahn Woods now hides a lot of history but still retains traces of the past on which Emory’s campus has been built.