Buckhead has a reputation as Atlanta's most affluent and elegant district. But its name preserves the legacy of its frontier beginnings, when hunting in the virgin forests was the main local enterprise.
As a community, Buckhead traces its origin to Henry Irby's general store and tavern, which was founded in 1837, according to an Irby descendant. It was located at what is now the northwest corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Roswell Road. Irby's tavern became the stopping place for travelers rich and poor in the thinly populated wilderness and the community that grew up around it was known as Irbyville. He maintained it until well after the Civil War. Irby, who died in 1879, is buried in the Sardis Methodist Church cemetery on Power's Ferry Road near its intersection with Roswell Road.
It was Irby, according to his descendant, who killed a large deer and mounted the "buck head" where travelers could see it.
Why this display made such an impression on people who came across it is hard to say. Some sources describe it as a sort of joke, a way of poking fun at European noblemen who displayed hunting trophies on their walls. At any rate, the name Buckhead proved durable, and a campaign in the late 19th century to rename the area Northside Park was unsuccessful.
In the late 19th century and much of the 20th century, Buckhead was still lightly populated, but it was no longer a wilderness. It had become a posh suburb of Atlanta, where wealthy people lived serenely on lush, well-tended estates.
One of these estates, the country home of the Ottley family, became the site of Lenox Square mall in 1959. The building of Lenox Square was an important moment in the history of Atlanta, and the mall itself is the modern equivalent of Irby's tavern, a social and commercial hub for Buckhead.