My favorite pastime is sitting in a rocker on the front porch of my historic home, admiring the quiet beauty of my neighborhood. One of the real treasures of Acworth’s Collins Avenue Historic District is the Kienel-Howe home. Tucked behind a flowering garden with white picket fencing, this bungalow is shaded by two magnificent Japanese maples, and it has a wonderful story to share.
Collins Avenue Historic District was designated in 2001 by the National Register of Historic Places. The district represents 150 years of Southern vernacular architecture, anchored on one end by the 1838 John Collins homeplace, and on the other end by the 1920s Kienel Compound. The district’s homes developed over many years, adapting to modern day housing needs. Fortunately, the homeowners along Collins Avenue planned their renovation projects carefully, leaving the facades intact. This approach ensured the preservation of the historic residential character of this neighborhood.
The Kienel-Howe home is one of four bungalows built by Fred Kienel when he relocated to Acworth in 1926 to re-establish Unique Knitting, founded by his grandfather in 1908 in Philadelphia. Dress and athletic tube socks were manufactured, and around 150 locals were employed during the 55 years of its existence in Acworth. Unique’s weekly output ranged from 5,000 dozen pairs of socks in its early years to 10,000 in later years. Northern labor problems were behind the company’s move from Philadelphia. Kienel and his hosiery business were lured to Acworth specifically by low taxes, low wages and free land. The Acworth Board of Trade purchased a cotton field on North Main Street and 5 acres of the McMillan property adjoining Main Street and Collins Avenue. It then sold the land to Unique for “one dollar and other considerations.”
Unique constructed the mill on the cotton field and sold the residential land to Kienel, personally. Locally known as the Kienel Compound, it consisted of four bungalows. Kienel, his partner and their families were housed in the two larger bungalows. The smaller two bungalows faced Collins Avenue, and originally housed the managers of Unique Knitting.
Today, Malinda and Rick Howe and their daughter, Kara, own the Kienel-Howe home, which retains its classic bungalow form. Craftsman details, featuring sloping roof lines, exposed rafters, wide eaves and distinctive mullions on both the windows and doors, adorn the home.
“Our home is a happy house, but, at times, chaotic with three adults who work full time, plus a menagerie of pets adding their own personalities to the mix. It was truly the best move we have ever made,” Malinda Howe said.
As the owner of Anchor Realty Partners, Howe first visited the home when she was asked to prepare a listing for its sale.
“I watched the virtual tour over 50 times those first few days, and I was completely captivated,” she said. “Rather than list the home for sale, I made an offer to purchase it. Our daughter Kara was just a teen in 2007 when she, Rick and I moved in with our golden, Shadow. Both the home and our family have changed. We now have two dogs, Molly and Finley, plus five cats. Our home has also evolved, and we have made it our own. My passion is gardening, and my cottage garden reflects it.”
Kienel’s bungalows were based on designs by Leila Ross Wilburn, a noted Atlanta architect and female pioneer in her field. Wilburn exclusively designed residential properties and published design books. Her book, “Ideal Homes of Today,” features homes with modern, open floor plans. When built, the Kienel-Howe home was a three-bedroom, one-bath house. Over the years it has changed, with upstairs attic spaces allowing for the staircase, and a large master suite with two additional bedrooms and a bath. Although extensively remodeled, all of the living spaces have been enhanced without altering the front facade of the home – a true preservation accomplishment.
I hope residents and visitors alike will drive or stroll down Collins Avenue, and enjoy the vista that I enjoy every time I venture out my door. This quiet, tree-lined street offers views of a variety of architecture, enabling you to step back in time as you walk. Unique bungalows from the 1920s stand next to folk Victorian homes. Regardless of the season, you will find that the gardens along Collins Avenue share their colors and scents with all who pass by.
– Abbie Parks, an Acworth resident, co-authored pictorial essays on regional history and collaborated on a book celebrating Acworth’s 150th birthday that featured anecdotal history and family photographs