One might say that Coca-Cola is to Atlanta what champagne is to, um, Champagne. So for remodeler Judy Mozen, restoring The Coca-Cola Co. founder Asa Candler’s early 1900s mansion, Callan Castle, was no ordinary job. “It was an honor,” says Mozen, one that included remodeling the former hiding place of the world’s best-kept industrial secret. “[Candler] had a vault for his money,” she explains, “and also for the formula.” Yes, that formula.
Unfortunately for the current occupants, the house conveyed without that precious slip of paper—or Candler’s fortune—so Mozen had to restore the building’s badly deteriorated exterior while keeping a tight rein on project cost. Nevertheless, she says, “the owner wanted it to be as close as we could humanly make it to the original.” The results tell the tale: Were Asa Candler to appear today, he would find his old house looking brand new again.
The soft drink pioneer built his 10,200-square-foot Beaux-Arts abode in Inman Park, the city’s first planned suburb and now a historic district. The house’s protected status added several layers of oversight to the project. “People had a lot invested in what the house looked like,” says Mozen, whose work included replacing a pressed-metal roof, rebuilding mosaic-tiled porch floors, and restoring elaborately detailed wooden cornices and a massive two-story, columned portico. The project’s polished outcome attests to the level of craftsmanship involved. But equally important was Mozen’s ability to source a multitude of custom components and coordinate their installation.
“We created a spreadsheet to list every single part in this house,” Mozen says. “There were 41 different profiles of molding: Egg-and-dart, sausage-and-bead, Southern cypress pencil trim, Southern cypress frieze cap …” Aside from some flexible trim at the veranda’s curved roof, virtually everything was fabricated to order. “We paid a lot of setup charges,” she says. “Molding knives had to be made. It was huge.” And the sheer quantity of materials entailed dealing with numerous small vendors. “Once we found a supplier and agreed on a price,” she says, “it was, How many can you make at a given time?”
Much of the original trim, including the corbels that line the cornice and the applied garlands that grace the entablature, was made of plaster. Conveniently, Mozen says, “there were corbels that had fallen on the ground that I could pick up and send off to get copied [in plaster].” With all the components finally in hand, she organized her nine-person crew as an assembly line—“you’re going to be in charge of installing the corbels, you’re going to be in charge of installing the cornice”—using sections of the original assemblies, removed intact, as full-scale mockups to guide the work.
Connect the Dots
Before replacing the mosaic tile at the house’s veranda and side porch, Mozen insisted on testing the soil below, and her caution proved wise. Neither area had adequate bearing capacity, but the side porch was almost comical. “We found a lot of crazy things buried under there,” Mozen says, “from construction leftovers to pieces of clothing.”
Replicating the original tile pattern—a snowflake design with a Greek key border—spurred another round of creative thinking. “I found two companies that would [duplicate the existing tile],” Mozen says, “but they were going to send me thousands of little pieces in boxes. My tile guy said, ‘You can’t afford me.’” Mozen saved the day by dividing the layout into repeating sections that could be mounted on backer sheets for quick installation. “When I sent out the plans that showed how it could be done, that’s when the good prices started to come in,” she says. “The final cost was a fifth or a sixth of what it would have been.”
Reroofing the building required several reconnaissance missions. Popular at the turn of the 20th century, the original barrel tile-pattern metal roofing isn’t available as a stock item. Finding no local fabricators willing to reproduce the material, Mozen resorted to haunting engineering-oriented blogs, one of which led her to a small specialty roofing company outside Chicago. “They had an old government-surplus press,” she says. More importantly, they weren’t fazed by the scope of the project. “There were over 5,000 pieces,” Mozen says. “They had to make eaves, ridges, the finials at the gable ends—all kinds of fancy pieces.”
The next search was for an installer. Commercial outfits would be better versed in metal roofing systems, Mozen says, “but most of them want jobs that are quick, not jobs that are beautiful.” In this case, hard times helped. “We were one or two years into the recession,” she notes, and at least one able commercial roofer was hungry enough to take the job. “I don’t know if I could have managed it otherwise,” she says.
The final quest was for a simple piece of information: What color roofing would be historically authentic? The rusted, repainted old lid offered nary a clue, so Mozen sought out Candler’s children’s houses and buildings the family had endowed at nearby Emory University. Sure enough, she found, some of them had similar metal roofs. “And they were all red,” says Mozen, who found that most appropriate. After all, she says, “it’s the Coca-Cola color.”