Nellie Mae Rowe
Nellie Mae Rowe was born in 1900 in Fayetteville, Georgia. Her parents were from slave families and she was the youngest of ten children. She married at the age of 16 and followed her uncle to Vinings. Six years later her husband perished after being kicked by a mule. She later married Henry “Buddy” Rowe. She worked as a domestic in Vinings and after Buddy’s death in 1948 she began to transform their two room house into her folk art studio, which she referred to as her “playhouse.”Her yard had handmade chewing gum sculptures on the fence posts, drawings affixed to the interior and exterior of the house, life size dolls she made out of quilts and other adornments she simply found such as Christmas ornaments, generic images of Jesus and a plastic Virgin Mary.In the early years the community was not happy with Nellie Mae’s so publicly displayed creations. They called her a conjurer and a hoodoo. However, as curiosity grew so did Nellie Mae’s art and the community began to change their attitude.
In the mid 1970s she first began to gain widespread attention. People came by busloads to see her house in Vinings. Nellie Mae lived there until she died in 1983. Her work is shown today in the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington as well as galleries in New York, Philadelphia and the High Museum in Atlanta.
So where was this “playhouse?” It was on the site formally occupied by The Marriott on Paces Ferry Road. A commemorative plaque and a large shade tree mark the spot.