A historic home

Mary Ann Harris Gay,  Life in Dixie During the War

The Mary Gay House was built in the 1820’s in Decatur, Georgia.  

The house is named after the home’s most famous tenant, Mary Ann Harris Gay (1828-1918). The Southern author is best remembered for writing an eyewitness history of the Civil War entitled Life in Dixie During the War. In this book, Mary Gay recounts a series of daring exploits, including her forays across Union lines to secure food and clothing for women and children of war-torn Decatur. Her writings have inspired some of the world's best authors including Margaret Mitchell to create scenes in Gone With the Wind and Mark Twain when he quoted some of Mary Gay's poetry in Tom Sawyer.

During the Civil War, Mary Gay hid winter clothing in her dining room ceiling and later smuggled it to Confederate soldiers. She refused to desert her home while the Union army occupied her land. After her brother was killed during the war, Mary Gay supported her brother’s survivors and other family members by selling her three books door to door.

In the late 1970’s, an emphasis on historic preservation began to sweep the nation. At that time, the Junior League of DeKalb Co. did not have a place to meet or to handle its business – leaders worked out of boxes stored in their car trunks or basements. Also, the community did not have a place to gather outside of homes, schools and churches beside country clubs or the Decatur Federal Sky Room, which was built in the late 1960s.  

The Junior League of DeKalb Co. decided to save the Mary Gay House from demolition in order to preserve a valuable piece of local history and to give the League a permanent headquarters. Originally, the house was located on Marshall Street in Decatur, Georgia.  After years of planning and raising funds, the Junior League moved the house by truck across Decatur to its current location on West Trinity Street next to Adair Park. The League then got to work restoring the home.  

The restoration of the house included stabilizing the home, refinishing the basement for use, and restoring the rooms to the historically accurate Federal Period style of 1815-1830. Architect and historian Norman Askins determined that the house was built in the Federal period (circa 1820) based on his discovery of split lath in the house.

The Junior League of DeKalb Co. continues to be stewards of the Mary Gay House. The League maintains and rents the house for events.  In addition, the Mary Gay House is the League’s headquarters and meeting space. Your use of the Mary Gay House helps to further the mission of the Junior League of DeKalb County.  


Junior League of DeKalb County

Junior League of Dekalb County

Since 1934, the Junior League of DeKalb County has provided countless hours of volunteer service and worked to help the women and children of DeKalb County. The Junior League of DeKalb County is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  Its purpose is exclusively education and charitable. 

Some of their projects include:

  • Establishment of Milk Fund for needy children (1937)
  • Took Red Cross courses in civil defense and engaged in war projects (1942)
  • Organized the DeKalb County Dental Project (1946)
  • Establishment of Hearing Conservation Clinic with DeKalb County Health Department (1954)
  • Established Volunteer DeKalb and the Callanwolde Guild, Inc. (1975)
  • Opening of gift shop at DeKalb General Hospital (now DeKalb Medical Center) (1961)
  • Establishment of the Day League, formerly known as the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center (1989) – incorporated in 1993
  • Establishment of the International Women’s House (1995) – incorporated in 1999
  • Established “A Space Of My Own," a place where children entering group homes selected items for "their space" at the home, such as comforters, clocks, lamps, etc. (2000)
  • Participated in the AJLI’s “Kids In The Kitchen” initiative to combat childhood obesity by empowering children to make healthy choices (2007-2015)
  • Adopted “Nutrition & Obesity” as the community focus area and engaged in numerous community projects such as health fairs, fun runs, food banks, and community gardens (2011-2015)
  • Assisted with the other Georgia Leagues in the passage of the Safe Harbor Act to provide financial help to victims of human trafficking (2016)
  • Adopted “Early Reading & Language Skills” as the community focus area and partnered with numerous community organizations such as GEEARS, Ferst Foundation, the DeKalb Library Foundation, the Decatur Book Festival, Clarkston Community Center, and more to distribute books and raise awareness of the importance of early reading and language skills (2016-present)

The Junior League of DeKalb County continues to offer leadership training, networking, and civic engagement opportunities for women. To learn more about the Junior League of DeKalb County and to get information about how to join, please visit www.jldekalb.org.