Get Your Swan On: Swan House Ball Through the Years

Louise Allen, 1997 Swan House Ball

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.”

Ryan Gainey, Floral Designer | Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1986

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.

The Fashion

1997 Swan House Ball

1987 Swan House Ball

Lovette Russell, co-chair of the 2011 Swan House Ball

1996 Swan House Ball

1987 Swan House Ball

2011 Swan House Ball

1997 Swan House Ball

1997 Swan House Ball

1996 Swan House Ball

1996 Swan House Ball

The Dancing

1995 Swan House Ball

1987 Swan House Ball

1997 Swan House Ball

2021 Swan House Ball

1995 Swan House Ball

1999 Swan House Ball

2019 Swan House Ball

Peter and Caroline Finnerty, 1999 Swan House Ball

The Décor

1987 Swan House Ball

1995 Swan House Ball

1999 Swan House Ball

1997 Swan House Ball

1995 Swan House Ball

1995 Swan House Ball

Matchbook for The Swan Club, the theme of the 1995 Swan House Ball 

2021 Swan House Ball

Promotion & Planning

Mr. And Mrs. Beverly DuBose III on the cover of the Spring 2000 issue of The Season.

Mr. and Mrs. Billy Payne on the cover of the Spring 1996 issue of The Season.

1997 Swan House Ball program

Betsy West, Louise Allen, and Jenny Pruitt on the cover of the Spring 1999 issue of The Season.

1996 Swan House Ball invitation

Jan Mejia and John Oetgen on the cover of the March 1995 issue of Peachtree Magazine.

1995 Swan House Ball invitation 

The Benefit

During Ambassador Young’s speech at the 2018 Swan House Ball, he referred to Atlanta History Center as a ‘Future Center’ and encouraged attendees to build the future on the foundations of the past. Pictured: Mr. and Mrs. Young with Mr. and Mrs. Massell

“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).

Lovette Russell, Michael Russell, Elizabeth Hale, and Sheffield Hale at the 1995 Swan House Ball

Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale with his parents Anne and Bradley Hale, and sister Ellen Hale Jones

Atlanta History Center President and CEO Sheffield Hale with his parents Anne and Bradley Hale, and sister Ellen Hale Jones at the 2006 Swan House Ball.

“The whole point is not to take yourself too seriously. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in black tie.”

Sheffield Hale, Atlanta History Center President & CEO

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.