A Storybook Masterplan

Guarding a Treasure

Cloudland Station is a true gem of nature. John Tatum and his development team understood this when Firefly Communities first purchased the land, and they came prepared with a new masterplanning approach to ensure this beauty was protected. They knew that the conventional masterplanning methods for a new subdivision would not do it justice. This is the short story of how this one-of-a-kind masterplanning methodology, which began many years ago, came to fruition.

The Backstory

One lazy summer Sunday afternoon, when John was a young lad, he asked his Dad to drive him into the countryside, outside Tallahassee Fl., where he grew up. His Dad was always up for spending time with John, so off they went. John was the navigator and using a fold-up map, he was in charge of where they went; and through the back roads of north Florida they explored. John recalls that first drive was somewhere east of Tallahassee, and they stopped to enjoy an ice cream sandwich together at a crossroads general store. This became a fun ritual that was repeated again and again on those outings, which John still treasures today.

John's innate love of exploring country roads started early and this passion never stopped. He continued these weekend drives with his own four children when they were young. With a DeLorme Gazeteer Map in hand and his wife’s borrowed van, he carried on his Dad's legacy, exploring the country roads outside of Atlanta.

John, through these weekend jaunts, discovered the awesome beauty that permeates what he refers to as the "rural provinces" of Georgia, and also his favorite area, NW Georgia, which ultimately became the choice location of Cloudland Station. Little did John know that these weekend excursions would play a role in developing Cloudland Station many years later, but they in fact did.

The Beauty of the Province

A southern rural province is not a defined measurement of land, nor a governmental designation of any sort; and while it serves as a description of what John could cover in a long day's meanderings in the country with his dad or his kids, it is more than that. It is a ruralscape that includes many beautiful vistas as one travels through it. It is the place where small crossroads and small villages share a swath of all this natural beauty. Its a place of old farms, railroad crossings, museums, public parks, and all kinds of flowing water.

It is not a planned place, but a place that grows organically. It is space people inhabit for working, recreation, worshipping, and raising families, and after 250 years, a province will have amassed many great stories. The stories are often told in books, preserved letters, and the folklore passed down through the centuries. However, John heard another set of stories. The stories that John could hear came to him in his car driving down the country road. These stories were whispered by the buildings he passed by. These buildings each had their own tales. Whether it was a barn sitting too close to a narrow spot in the road, or a train depot being repurposed as a coffee shop, or a home set on a hill far away looking off peculiarly in an odd direction, these are the storytellers that John would listen to. Nothing was ever certain in what a building told. But that never mattered. It was fun to ponder and beautiful to see.

Reimagined Stories

John, in time, came to realize that the rural province is perhaps the most beautiful large scale community in existence. Its evolving architecture, spanning over 250 years, adorns its villages, neighborhoods, and farms with special charm and nostalgia. Its un-imposition on the surrounding rolling hills and forests serve to preserve sweeping and beautiful vistas. Its organic growth over centuries allowed for an eclectic beauty that could have never been planned. Most important, its way of life proved to be a near perfect balance between human intervention and nature.

John soaked in this for many years and ultimately decided to build a community that would pay homage to the rural province. Picking the best and most fitting stories from those he visited over the years, these stories would be reimagined in another place - Cloudland Station. Today Cloudland Station is the first masterplanned community to replicate the beauty of the rural province.