Tis The Season: Rediscovering Retro Atlanta One Tour at a Time: Centennial Celebrations of Three Historic Buildings Among Sites Opening Doors During “Phoenix Flies” in March

Posted on: Mar 12th, 2013 By:

1958 photo of the Healey from Georgia State University. (You can see this view today at http://www.atlantatimemachine.com/downtown/healey2.htm)

By Kristin Halloran
Contributing Writer

Well, in like a lion is right. As a transplanted New Englander, this isn’t the kind of weather I expect from March in Atlanta, so I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that March undergoes its magical transformation into a lamb very soon… but in the process, how about a mythical regenerating bird? This month, the Atlanta Preservation Center will hold its 10th Phoenix Flies, with more than 200 opportunities for Atlantans to tour or otherwise experience significant historic buildings and sites, many of which are not regularly open to the public.

Phoenix Flies was created in 2003 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of Atlanta’s treasures, the Fox Theatre, NOT being demolished, and it’s gotten bigger and better each year since then. There’s something for everyone – in recent years, bike tours have been added to the lineup; there are neighborhood walking tours, cemetery tours, building tours, poetry readings, public art walks, storytelling and even a progressive organ crawl. Click here for the full calendar or pick up a printed booklet at most of the tour locations.

Three intown residential buildings are celebrating their centennials this year with opportunities for visitors to discover the joys of intown living: the Healey Building, Kessler City Lofts and the Ponce Condominiums. The Healey, a former office building in the charming and walkable Fairlie-Poplar historic district, is a neo-Gothic skyscraper a block off of Woodruff Park. It was named after its developer, William T. Healey, and designed by Walter T. Downing with the firm of Bruce and Morgan. The beautiful central rotunda was originally intended to connect two towers, the second of which was never built. Renovation was completed in 1988 by Atlanta architecture firm Stang and Newdow, now part of Stevens & Wilkinson, and today the building is full of happy downtown residents. The base houses an assortment of restaurants, shops and offices, including neighborhood favorites such as Le French Quarter Cafe and the VSA’s Arts for All Gallery . When you visit, pay close attention to the interior details that were retained, like the elevators and mail chutes. The Healey will celebrate its centennial with a Phoenix Flies tour on March 23, followed by a reception in the lobby and a chance to see the city views from the 16th floor. Visit the building on Facebook and learn more about the celebration here.

1947 photo of Kline's (now Kessler City Lofts) from Georgia State University.

Following the celebration at the Healey, head a few blocks south to the Kessler to celebrate with us! This location at the corner of Peachtree Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive has housed retail stores since 1855, including Ryan & Myers; Douglas, Thomas & Davison; Davison-Paxon-Stokes; Duffee-Freeman; J.Saul & Co.; Kline’s; Grayson-Robinson; and H. Kessler & Co. Davison-Paxon-Stokes (later moved to the corner of Peachtree and Ellis, where 200 Peachtree is located, and acquired by Macy’s) built the building as it stands today – more or less. In 1964, shortly after Kessler’s moved in, Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) was widened and a 14-foot slice was taken off the south face of the building.

When Rich’s closed in 1991, it drastically affected the department store shopping environment in the southern part of downtown. Kessler’s, which also had locations in Smyrna, West Point, Decatur, Rome, Newnan and Canton, held on until 1998. The building was renovated by Brock Green Architects and Planners, now part of Lord Aeck Sargent, and Kessler City Lofts opened in 2000. Its most striking features are its exposed brick walls, simple concrete columns, original floors and the water tower on the roof. Inspired by the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association‘s loft tours of the past, Kessler residents will open up several occupied and available units to the public starting at 4 p.m. on March 23. Make your way up to the rooftop deck for a sunset toast to another 100 years. You can visit the Kessler on Facebook and learn more about the centennial event here.

Last but definitely not least, the Ponce. One of Atlanta’s most striking residential buildings, the Ponce de Leon Apartments were designed by William Stoddart, not long after he completed the neighboring Georgian Terrace Hotel. At the time, this area of midtown was full of mansions – think Rhodes Hall; the Peters House, now Ivy Hall, and the Rufus Rose House.

undated photo of the Ponce de Leon Apartments and the Georgian Terrace from Georgia State University. (See another view here: http://atlantatimemachine.com/downtown/ponce_75.htm

The Ponce was Atlanta’s first high-rise luxury apartment building, and luxurious it was, with 16 large apartments – three or four bedrooms, three bathrooms, sleeping porches, and separate kitchens and servants’ quarters. In addition, the upper floors housed “bachelor apartments” of two or three rooms each. Many of the residents, especially those in the smaller apartments, chose to dine in the cafe on the ground floor. The Ponce was converted to condominiums in 1982 when many of its interior Beaux-Arts finishes were restored. Exterior renovations are ongoing.

The Ponce is also participating in Phoenix Flies with a centennial tour on March 16, including a visit to the rooftop to see spectacular views of Atlanta. And of course, you can also visit the Ponce on Facebook.

ATLRetro Contributing Writer Kristin Halloran is a damn Yankee who loves living in downtown Atlanta. She is an architect at Lord Aeck & Sargent, and her favorite things include vintage postcards, old brick buildings and secondhand bookstores.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Really Retro: Art Meets History and Hollywood!: A Walking Tour of Downtown Atlanta’s Hotel Row Historic District

Posted on: Nov 23rd, 2012 By:

Hotel Row, an architectural gem in south downtown, as seen from the corner of Mitchell and Forsyth Streets. Photo credit: Kristin Halloran.

By Kristin Halloran
Contributing Writer

If you didn’t seize the opportunity last month to go see the Elevate murals on Broad Street, you’re in luck – they’re still there, AND I’m going to tell you all about another reason to visit the neighborhood: the Hotel Row Historic District.

So, everyone knows that Atlanta owes its beginnings to the railroads – zero milepost near Five Points, Western and Atlantic Railroad, Terminus, Nancy Hanks, Silver Comet, etc. etc. If you need a refresher, Wikipedia’s History of Atlanta page is a pretty good start. You can find out more about the Gulch here (watch this space in 2013 for more on Jeff’s tour), and for good measure, read the entertaining tale of a recent search for the relocated milepost here.

Now that we’re all on the same page about what happened in the 19th century, let’s move on. The 20th century came along, and with it came Terminal Station in 1905, designed by P. Thornton Marye, who later worked for the firm that designed the Fox Theatre. Sadly, Terminal Station was demolished in the 1970s, but for many years, it was Atlanta’s largest and busiest train station. And of course, what does a city need near a busy train station? Hotels. And hotels it had. In 1908, a fire destroyed most of the block, creating a perfect opportunity for property owners to provide convenient lodging for rail travelers.

The north side of Mitchell Street between Forsyth and Spring is now known as the Hotel Row Historic District. It was placed on the National Register in 1989, and for good reason. Like Broad Street south of Five Points, this area was more or less ignored when other parts of the city were being redeveloped. Looking on the bright side, that means that it’s retained substantially more of its historic character than the northern part of downtown, where entire blocks were cleared to make space for modern office towers and soaring new hotels. Hotel Row and other intact pockets of the neighborhood are little time capsules, representative of what most of downtown looked like in the early 20th century: sturdy, but not boring, three- to five-story brick buildings with shops and restaurants on the ground floor and offices, residences, or lodging above.

A postcard shows Hotel Row circa 1910.

Starting at the eastern end of the block, where Mitchell intersects Forsyth Street, you’ll find Concordia Hall. On the Forsyth Street side, you can still see old advertisements painted on the brick, right above the gator waiting for a belly rub who was added to the building as part of Living Walls in 2011. You’ll also see the detail that makes these buildings exceptional. Although some of the applied ornament on the front of the building has been removed over the years, the arched windows, fluted pilasters and remaining stone, terra cotta and brick detailing are definitely worth a look.

Concordia Hall is the oldest building in the district – it’s the only one that survived the 1908 fire. The Concordia Association was founded at Morris Rich & Co. (later Rich’s Department Store) on Whitehall Street (now Peachtree Street) to provide social and cultural opportunities for Jewish businessmen, mostly of German and Hungarian descent. The building was designed by Bruce & Morgan, who also did the neo-Gothic Healey Building in Fairlie-Poplar (stay tuned for more on them, too). In 1912, when the Concordia Association was less active, the upper floors were converted to hotel rooms.

Moving west, the next five buildings all date to 1908-1909, shortly after the fire. The Gordon Hotel was designed by one of my favorite Atlanta architects, Willis F. Denny – probably better known for Rhodes Hall and the recently renovated Kriegshaber House, now the home of the Wrecking Bar. (Denny managed to to get a lot done by the time he died at just 31 – I really need to hurry up and design something that will still be standing in another 100 years!) Now Gordon Lofts (yes, you could live there – and there’s a roof deck!), the exterior of the building retains its ground-level stone pilasters, historic windows and Ionic capitals.

Third-floor windows and Ionic capitals at Gordon Lofts, formerly the Gordon Hotel. Photo credit: Kristin Halloran.

The unnamed commercial building next door is a simple one, solid and elegant. It is separated from the Gordon by an alley, as was common in late 19th- and early 20th-century planning. Most blocks had alleys; Atlanta abandoned nearly all of them in the 1970s. This one now leads to parking for Gordon Lofts.

The Scoville Hotel is next. Plenty of detail is still present on the building’s exterior, and I’ve heard that there are original light fixtures and tile in the lobby. Look for particularly nice stone detailing above the second-floor windows, along with a gabled parapet and a heavy pressed metal cornice with dentils, which are just what they sound like – teeth. The Scoville has been on the market since February. Anyone interested?

The Factory Building is another fairly simple building, also with a heavy cornice. Lunacy Black Market, a favorite haunt of neighbors (like me), is located on the ground floor – Chef Paul Luna (of Loca Luna and Eclipse di Luna fame) opened this eclectic little restaurant after riding his bicycle across the country . It’s friendly and cozy, and there’s not a single thing on the extremely affordable menu of small plates that I haven’t liked. I’ve taken ATLRetro editor Anya99 there, and I think she agreed [Ed. note: yes, I did!]!

The Scoville Hotel - imagine what the right buyer could do with this place! Photo credit: Kristin Halloran.

Last is the Sylvan Building, which has also been converted to loft apartments. It’s a lovely four-story building that was rehabilitated in the late 1980s with help from Atlanta’s Historic Facade Program. It retains much of its brick detailing, and continues the line of the heavy cornices with parapets above.

Need another reason to visit Hotel Row? Small Business Saturday is coming on Nov. 24! The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is in the Gordon and a cute new boutique called Girlfriends recently opened nearby. Friedman’s Shoes, a family-owned business that’s been around since 1929, is located in Concordia Hall. My husband buys his shoes there from a salesman named Murray, whose raspy voice and accent might make you wonder if you’ve somehow been transported to Queens. Friedman’s has been well-known for years for its appeal to athletes who take advantage of its large range of sizes, including Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Julius Erving. The interior is a fascinating maze – make sure someone sees you go upstairs in case you can’t find your way out! And they do carry women’s shoes, too – I have a neighbor who got a great deal on samples there in size 7!

In addition, the art galleries of Castleberry Hill are just over the bridge, as are the Wine Shoe , a down-to-earth tasting room and wine shop, and No Mas, where you’ll find unique handmade furniture, glassware, jewelry and art objects straight from Mexico.

Whew. Have I given you enough ideas to fill up an afternoon downtown? If not, here’s one more thing to do in the neighborhood – Atlanta Movie Tours!  Both downtown and Castleberry Hill have been overrun with TV and movie crews lately, and some pretty famous stars – I heard that a certain former Governor of California was here earlier this week filming car chases and gunfights that frightened everyone’s pets. Atlanta Movie Tours will let you walk (and ride) in the footsteps of your favorite actors from classic and recent movies filmed downtown and farther afield. ATLRetro readers might be particularly interested in the Big Zombie Tour and can use promo code ATLRETRO for a 25% discount on either of the regularly scheduled tours during December – the Big Zombie Tour or the Big Southern Hollywood Tour. I hope to see you in my neck of the woods soon!

ATLRetro Contributing Writer Kristin Halloran is a damn Yankee who loves living in downtown Atlanta. She is an architect at Lord Aeck & Sargent, and her favorite things include vintage postcards, old brick buildings and secondhand bookstores.

Category: Really Retro | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend Update March 4-6

Posted on: Mar 4th, 2011 By:

Decided it might make more sense to run Weekend Update on Friday mornings than on Thursdays. You can still find out about Thursday activities, of course, in This Week in Retro Atlanta on Mondays. And of course, you can plan ahead for the whole weekend.

Friday March 4

Blair Crimmins.

Legendary pianist George Winston tickles the ivories at Variety PlayhouseBlair Crimmins and the Hookers provide a 1920s Vaudeville atmosphere during amagical Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX themed“Night of the Kraken” tying in with its current MYTHIC CREATURES: DRAGONS, UNICORNS AND MERMAIDS special exhibition which will be open for viewing that night. Also, hear they’ll be serving up special mythic-themed cocktails, including a Krakentini, featuring Kraken rum, Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte will be a special guest, and there’s a costume contest planned, too, so don your most mythical duds. Just about to post a last-minute interview with Blair about the fanciful festivities, so be sure to check that out.

Celebrate Mardi Gras early and decadently, or rather BART-I GRAS, with the insane crew of Avondale Estates’ Bart Webb Studios and the sexy and sassy Syrens of the South, Big Easy cuisine provided by Zatarain’s, beads, masks, and the first Bart-i Bra contest where the best decorated bra will be judged to crown the first Queen or King of Bart-i Gras.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Weekend Update | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Week in Retro Atlanta – Feb. 28 – March 6, 2011

Posted on: Feb 28th, 2011 By:

The Retro action in Atlanta isn’t quite as sizzling as last week, making it a great time to check out some of the ongoing great weekly events that pay tribute to vintage jazz, blues, funk and country. Or catch up on your city history with The Phoenix Flies: A Celebration of Living Landmarks, starting Saturday.

Monday Feb. 28

It’s definitely worth braving the showers to hear the vivacious voice of blues chanteuse Francine Reed at Cafe Circa in the Old Fourth Ward. And there’s a Blues Jam at Northside Tavern.

Tuesday March 1

Atlanta’s notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland.

Wednesday March 2

Every Wednesday in March, The Hollidays bring their modern take on classic ‘60s soul, garage, rock ‘n’ roll and obscure blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck plays the blues at Northside Tavern. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Joe Gransden is off but jazz is still on the menu with Scott Glazer and the Real All-Stars at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM. The Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Club meets at a new venue, Melton’s App & Tap, in Decatur, at 8 PM. Topic is how to do (and not do) a photoshoot with opportunity to speak to professional photographers and pin-up professionals.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: This Week in ATLRetro | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2017 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress