Atterbury studied at Yale and Columbia Universities, and apprenticed in the office of McKim, Mead & White before completing his architectural degree at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His early work focused on designing suburban residences for wealthy clients including a weekend house in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, for Henry W. de Forest, a leading philanthropist interested in improving workers' housing. Through this connection, Atterbury was commissioned in 1909, along with John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to participate in the design of the garden city suburb of Forest Hills Gardens. In an effort to lower building costs for the project, Atterbury developed a system of precast concrete panels, created off-site and assembled on location, from which each house in the community was constructed. This was the first of his continued investigations into the use of prefabricated materials. During his career, Atterbury worked on over 100 projects, including commissions for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. His article, Model Towns in America, on Forest Hills Gardens for Scribner’s July 1912 issue was an inspiration to other early urban planners.