Monday, July 19, 2010

Rhett's Dickering Talents

Since we looked into houses last week and we now have a good idea on how much building such an opulent mansion must have cost Rhett (around $60,000, if the James residence came to $53,000), why not take our obsession curiosity one step further and see how much he actually paid for the land on which the house stood?

So we looked into Atlanta, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by John Hornady (admit it--you all thought I was going to say Peachtree Street, Atlanta, didn't you?), a monograph from 1922 with a wealth of information about the previous century. And we found that the time was actually a very good one for purchases of this kind. After the war, Atlanta went through a recession which also affected land values and so, till roughly 1870, prices were low. 

The closer we came to finding a suitable example from which to extrapolate was this: in 1868, Austin Leyden (remember him?) paid only $4,000 for a property whose front extended 100 feet along Peachtree Street. That same lot had been sold for $5,000 during the war. By contrast, in 1882 when the city was back on its feet, 60 feet of land in the block with the Governor's Mansion, where the Butler Mansion stood, sold for $10,200.

But let's allow that the lots near Leyden house could have been more expensive in 1868, since the land for the Governor's Mansion was close to $10,000 even then. Let's say Rhett paid somewhere around $70,000 for both the land and building the house. What sum would that amount to today? Eh, a mere $1,114,521.


  1. Rhett did rather well with that purchase! $1,115,000 will get a 2 bedroom condo in one of the better neighborhoods in Washington, DC.

  2. Yeah, I thought it wasn't that impressive either. But then iso pointed out that he spent 1/7 of his blockade running profits building that mansion, so that kind of restored my admiration for the man :P

  3. Okay, so a million dollars today isn't that big of a deal in some housing markets. But back then? I think it's pretty incredible. And we don't know exactly what Rhett's net worth was. I suspect he was reasonably well off before the war started but made the bulk of his money during the war and after (Confederate treasury, anyone?).

    Plus, he seems to have been careful with his money, going by his conversation with Scarlett on the honeymoon when he says doesn't want much of his money tied up in real estate. And we have to remember he put down a chunk of change to buy his mother a house in the Battery. I maintain he sank quite a bit of money into the Peachtree Street monstrosity, but he's also skilled at earning money and making good investments (like in Scarlett herself, LOL).


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