Three Generations of Builders: Barge Family Built Two Buckhead Icons

Atlanta is a city that embraces growth, and John Barge and his family have had a hand in helping the city do just that.

“Atlanta has been a city that likes to grow,” he says. “And that’s been good for all kinds of real estate and construction. Atlanta has no geographical barriers, so it can expand in all directions.”

The Park Place condo tower in Buckhead That John Barge helped build and now home of Elton John and other notables.

Barge, a third-generation contractor, spent his life building big, not small. He built Park Place, home to singer Elton John and the late civil rights icon Coretta Scott King, as well as The Concorde on Pharr Court South and numerous hotels, shopping centers and office buildings.

It runs in his family. Barge’s grandfather, Otis Alvin Barge Sr., was the contractor that built the iconic Swan House for the Inman family.

Barge’s father, too, was in the construction business, Southern Bell Telephone Co. was a major client of his at the time.

As you might imagine, Barge entered the family business. Following his education at Yale, Barge, 71, served as a Naval officer, then returned to Harvard Business School, receiving an MBA in 1973. He then returned to Atlanta to work for Cousins Properties Inc. until joining his family’s business, then known as Barge-Wagener Construction Co., in 1981.

Barge, an Atlanta native, married his wife, Olivia, in 1976 and the couple eventually bought their dream home in Tuxedo Park in 1984.


A wedding in front of Buckhead’s iconic Swan house built by Barge’s grandfather.

For more than three decades, the home set the stage for many happy memories. Here, the Barge family raised their two children and hosted many happy gatherings on the back terrace under the same climbing rose that has flourished for decades. It was a bittersweet feeling when the time had come to downsize.

Built in 1939 by Frazier and Bodin, best known for setting the tone of the development of Tuxedo Park residences prior to World War II, the 4-bedroom, 5.5-bath home at 3461 Tuxedo Road sits on a flat 1.5-acre lot and includes large terraces, a tennis court, and a swimming pool. When their children were in high school, they built the pool house to help ensure their children and their friends would be close at hand during their teen years.

“We didn’t need an acre and a half and 6,000 square feet,” Barge says. “We love the home, but it didn’t make a lot of sense for a couple of empty nesters.”

Some friends recommended Ben Hirsh and the process of selling their beloved home began, Barge says.

“We called Ben, whom we didn’t know, about listing our Tuxedo Park home, based on a friend’s recommendation,” he says. “He’s very professional, hard-working and we liked him. We were so impressed that we didn’t contact any other Realtor.”

Hirsh determined right away that the home needed some simple staging to allow the charm of their classic Buckhead home to shine through.

The Barge home in Tuxedo Park and the climbing roses that have lasted for three generations of owners.

“He has a talented staging lady,” says Barge. “She was awesome. For example, we had a sitting room on the left of the foyer as you come in, sort of my home office. It had computer wires going everywhere. She came in and said, ‘Let’s move that upstairs or somewhere else.’ She had us get rid of about a third of our furniture. Less is more, kind of thing.”

Hirsh also recommended the Barges remove some dated wallpaper and repaint a few rooms and do a few other touch ups, bringing in a designer to select the final color palette. Lastly, the yard was totally resodded with new turf where the grass had become thin over the years. After a few weeks of hard work, the home was ready for prime time.

With the professional photography and the staging, “I didn’t realize how great my house looked,” Barge says with a laugh. “But we did exactly what Ben said. If you pick an agent, do what they recommend.”

Start to finish was about six weeks, Barge recalls. Ben sold the home at 98 percent of the $2.5 million asking price.

“The Barges were excellent clients,” says Hirsh. “They did not pick and choose which advice they wanted to take. Instead, they did exactly what I suggested. Their efforts upfront helped me present the home in the best way possible and we achieved a picture-perfect result.”

The way the home was marketed and staged “captured the romance of the house,” Barge says, and he is pleased that a couple with children purchased the home. “You want them to be happy in the home, too.”

The Barges aren’t moving too far from their beloved home, however. They’ve settled in a townhouse in Buckhead, Hirsh representing them as their buyer’s agent.

“We were so impressed with Ben’s work that we then bought a home with Ben as buyer’s agent, even though we found the home ourselves and it had not yet been listed, so we could have proceeded directly with the seller with no agent involvement or commissions,” Barge says. “Ben again performed flawlessly, shepherding everything through smoothly. We now recommend Ben to all of our friends.”


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