In 1986, Atlanta Historical Society, now Atlanta History Center, recognized a need to raise funds for increased programming, growing staff, and a proposed museum. They wanted the fundraiser to be fun, elegant, and meaningful. Louise Allen, wife of former Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, was vice chairwoman of the Historical Society and was active in every aspect of its affairs. She was instrumental in convincing the Historical Society to purchase Swan House when her aunt, Emily Inman, passed in 1965. Mrs. Allen teamed up with Society members Lorraine Williams and Barbara Smith, and consulted Terry Brown, the wife of George Brown IV of the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain. Brown was well-known in Atlanta for her success with coordinating other prominent galas. Together these women took it upon themselves to get the ball rolling. Because Swan House was built in 1928, the ball committee members decided they wanted the first gala to have the feel of a 1920s party—and they delivered.
“We wanted to create something extremely personal, as if Mrs. Inman had invited 450 friends.”
In the spirit of the original Swan House owner, Emily Inman, the Swan House Ball is now an Atlanta tradition steeped in elegance and community. For nearly four decades, some of Atlanta’s greatest business, social, and community leaders come together each year for a night of fun, fashion, fellowship, and philanthropy. While the look, feel, and themes of the ball have dramatically changed over time, the mission remains the same—raise funds to support the annual operations of Atlanta History Center and its educational programs while honoring those who have given not just to the History Center, but to the city of Atlanta. In anticipation of this year’s 36th Annual Swan House Ball, we dug through the archives to share some of the most memorable—and endearing—moments through the years.
Promotion & Planning
“What I discovered about Swan House Ball is that it’s not as much about the History Center as it is about those who have contributed to Atlanta’s history and its future,” said Sheffield Hale, Atlanta History Center President and CEO. “As Ambassador Andrew Young said during his 2018 Swan House Ball speech, ‘The History Center is also a Future Center. You have to build the future on the foundations of the past. You forget your past and your history to your own detriment. It’s important for us to know how we got here in order to be sure we’re going in the right direction.’”
Past Swan House Ball honorees include Olga C. Goizueta (1988), Anne Cox Chambers (1989), Herman Russell (2011), Ambassador Andrew Young and Mayor Sam Massell (2018), and Lovette Russell (2021).
“The whole point is not to take yourself too seriously. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in black tie.”
We hope you will join us for the 36th annual Swan House Ball on Saturday, April 23, 2022 honoring Thomas Fanning, President, Chairman and CEO of Southern Company.
Click the link below if you are interested in supporting Swan House Ball, or contact Erin O’Leary, Vice President of Development, at 404-814-4056 or Erin.Oleary@atlantahistorycenter.com for more information.