Actual Factual Georgia

If you’re new in town or have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail Andy Johnston at q&a@ajc.com or call 404-222-2002.

Q: Clairmont Road gains an “e” heading south toward Decatur, or Clairemont loses an “e” when heading north away from Decatur. What’s the story behind that?

—Andy Ackermann, Knoxville, Tenn.

A: You've stumbled across one of the biggest puzzles in DeKalb County.

Does anyone have Sherlock Holmes’ cell number? Let’s see if we can help figure out the “Case of the Missing E” – which sounds like a “Sesame Street” skit — by analyzing the evidence.

The story starts with a doctor named Robert B. Ridley, who built a home in the area in the 1880s – the road was called Shallowford Indian Trail in those days (according to a 1992 Decatur Historic Preservation manual sponsored by the city and the Decatur Historic Trust Preservation Commission) — which he named Clairemont after his daughter Claire. So it would seem the road should always have an “e” in its name. But when Ridley’s farm – which near what is now Scott Boulevard in the area around Garden Lane and Lamont Drive — was sold and subdivided, a resulting development was named “Clairmont Estates,” losing the “e” somewhere in the process.

The author of the manual interviewed John Ridley, a grandson of Robert B. Ridley, and he said that the name “has always been disputed and probably always will be.” He had an article snipped from a 1908 newspaper that spelled Clairmont without the “e.”

Did someone mistakenly leave out the “e,” or was it purposely dropped?

A more in-depth investigation shows that two changes happen around the Decatur city limits, which bisect Clairmont/Clairemont just north of Maediris Drive, at the Decatur Family YMCA. Heading north away from the city, it becomes Clairmont Road. Going back toward Decatur, it’s Clairemont Avenue (with the “e”). So the YMCA is at 1100 Clairemont Ave., but if you walk north what online maps show is a total of 312 feet, you’ll come to Public Storage at 1210 Clairmont Road.

While that might not solve the “Case of the Missing E,” it should help answer some of the questions surrounding it. If you have any more information about Clairmont/Clairemont, send me an email.

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