After 10 years living in the Johns Creek community of Newtown, Elizabeth Warren figures her family has the best of everything. Beyond the swimming and tennis activities of their landscaped neighborhood is accessibility to nearby restaurants, concerts, the Chattahoochee River and the highway, if they want to shoot downtown to an Atlanta Falcons football game.
This story originally appeared in the June/July 2016 edition of Living Northside Magazine.
“We live in an extremely close-knit neighborhood,” she says. “During the summer, the pool is packed from morning till night. It’s amazing, such a gift. We now have a real wine market [Hinton’s Wine Store] and a good sushi place [Sushi Somo]. Sidewalks and road improvements have made Newtown almost completely walkable for us.”
Elizabeth and her husband, Derrick, live in the Mayfair St. Clair subdivision with their 10-year-old son, Wesley, and 5-year-old daughter, Kingsley.
Neighbors enjoy wine nights, annual Easter egg hunts, pool movie nights, summer holiday cookouts, a fall festival and kindergarten kickoff parties.
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On the last day of school, parents meet the school bus with water balloons and squirting water-guns. “It is a tradition that children and parents enjoy,” says Elizabeth, who works with Apex Insurance. “Then, laughing and wet, we all head to the pool. It’s a total blast.”
Many believe Newtown was named after Thomas Newton, a landowner in the 1800s. Many of his recorded deeds were spelled “Newtown.”
The community’s boundaries are not defined, but its parameters are generally considered to be from Old Alabama at Haynes Bridge Road to Jones Bridge Road and areas within a few miles of Newtown Park.
In those early years, farming communities produced and sold cotton. Two churches, a one-room schoolhouse and a country store stood along dirt roads.
The general area gained notoriety in the 1960s as a premier golfing destination, with the relocation of the Atlanta Athletic Club from East Lake Country Club. The Club was first established in 1898 in downtown Atlanta. Famed golfer Bobby Jones was a member and served as president until his death in 1991.
Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center
The Autrey family — who operated a mill grinding wheat, flour and corn — originally owned the 46-acre property. Autrey Mill Nature Preserve Association along with Fulton County and the City of Atlanta saved the property from redevelopment in 1988, when another family owned it.
Today, the Heritage Village of historic buildings and replicas, animal exhibits and wooded trails attract thousands. Twenty-eight species of native trees include dogwood, loblolly pine, native magnolia and azalea. Remnants of the old Autrey family’s mill, once five stories high, are down by Sal’s creek.
One park feature is a statue of monkeys known as the Monkey Massacre Memorial. The statues inspire a legend that in the 1920s a circus train accident in Duluth caused the monkeys on board to retreat to the area of Old Alabama Road. As the story goes, farmers were alarmed and shot and killed the monkeys.
An unnamed artist brought the monkey statues to the park in the 1990s, to create a place of remembrance and reflection. They are located on Forest Trail of the preserve.
Weekends are busiest, but on any given day, the 52-acre park is busy with folks strolling, running or simply hanging out.
Park-goers have three multi-use athletic fields, three softball fields, two basketball courts, tennis courts, 13 picnic pavilions, playgrounds and a multi-use path.
The one-acre Dream Dog Park — featuring artificial turf, sprinklers and obstacles — will no doubt have you eternally in your pooch’s good graces.
A, 10,600-square-foot amphitheater is home to Johns Creek Farmers Market on Saturday mornings through October and a Summer Concert Series June 24 through Sept. 24.
More park features include the Veterans Memorial Walk, a peaceful four-acre trail dedicated to men and women who have served in the United States armed forces; and a poplar community garden of 41 plots offered through lottery by the Johns Creek Garden Association.
FOOD AND DRINK
Altobeli’s Restaurant & Piano Bar
A taste of Italy with a hint of New York can be had at Altobeli’s Restaurant and Piano Bar. A wall of photographs reveals that since 1989, when owner Al Bashiri opened his eatery on the quiet side of Haynes Market Shopping Center at Old Alabama Road, his piano bar has attracted such names as Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton.
Altobeli’s presents live music seven nights per week. Pianist Randy Barnes has performed there with guest vocalists and other musicians for 24 years, helping to make it a neighborhood favorite.
“They are my blood, my valued and regular customers,” says Bashiri of the pictures capturing the busy restaurant throughout the years. “We know what they like, their favorite tables, and we make sure to be ready to please them, like having their favorite bottle of wine opened to breathe on the table before they arrive.”
Tantalizing menu selections include tagliatelle Bolognese, a pasta dish tossed with Altobelli’s homemade meat sauce, and veal scallopini that is sautéed and cooked in a caper lemon white wine sauce and served with angel hair pasta.
“We have the greatest staff, very loyal, like a family,” Al Bashiri says.
3000 Old Alabama Road., Johns Creek. 770-664-8055. altobelis.com
Classic burgers, veggie burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, beer and wine are a sampling of the offerings at this popular eatery. 3005 Old Alabama Road., Johns Creek.770-676-9942. villageburger.com
Along with a busy sushi bar, Chinese and Thai delicacies are available for dining in, take out and delivery. A Thai noodles and rice dish has a choice of chicken, tofu, shrimp and beef. 3005 Old Alabama Road., Johns Creek. 770-752-8488. sushisumofresh.com
Kate Kelner, Altobeli’s bar manager and an employee for 20 years, sings in the piano bar on rotating Thursdays and Sundays.
Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center has a 14-foot space that was considered a goldmine in the 1830s, but there’s no proof that it ever produced gold.