Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Butler Deck

Hello again! This time we're going to look at a block that is wholly unremarkable today, but was once quite remarkable indeed. It consists mainly of a parking deck and is just a stone's throw from the State Capitol building downtown.

The block is bordered by Jesse Hill Jr Drive (formerly Butler Street), MLK Drive (formerly Hunter Street), the Downtown Connector (formerly a lot of things including Terry Street), and the CSX Railroad (formerly the Georgia Railroad).

The block initially developed as a collection of dwellings, as you can see from the 1871 birds eye view below (there may be some commercial properties sprinkled in there). Its proximity to the railroad, however, quickly led to some significant commercial and industrial development.

In 1879, Charles Swift built the laboratory and headquarters for his Swift Specific Company on the corner of Butler and Hunter. The laboratory was where the popular S.S.S. Tonic was made.

Swift Specific Company, 1890
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
If you've been following along, you may remember Charles Swift from the Turner Field post. His home on the corner of Crumley and Capitol was later the original Piedmont Hospital.

Charles Thomas Swift, 1890
Charles Swift's House at Capitol and Crumley, 1887
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
The tonic itself had apparently been around since 1826 when a Perry, GA plantation owner named Irwin Dennard received the recipe from nearby Creek Indians (specific details vary). Swift, also of Perry, purchased the formula from Dennard some years later and named it Swift's Southern Specific Tonic (thankfully abbreviated S.S.S.). Swift moved to Atlanta in 1873 and built the laboratory six years later. More details on the Swift family as well as different versions of the tonic's origin can be found here.

1886 Constitution
S.S.S. Tonic was marketed as a cure-all, and I mean cure-ALL. Take S.S.S. for anything from "that tired feeling" to cancer. All bases covered!

1888 Constitution
The company had a Medical Consultation Department that provided information and advice on skin and blood conditions. They also had a free mail-order book that detailed a variety of these conditions in addition to offering helpful information like weight/measurement conversions, home remedies, birth stones, recipes, and first aid.

The following images are from a copy of the book dating to around the 1920s (ish?), all courtesy of Atlanta History Center:

According to the book, S.S.S. could be used for the following:

Unsightly Blemishes
Eruptions on Limbs
Clear Skin (a Business Asset)
Nose Eruptions
Disfiguring Pimples
Bodily Fatigue
Weak Blood
Lost Weight
Loss of Energy
That Tired Feeling
Youthful Vigor
Plump Well Rounded Flesh
The Joy of Living
"Feel Fit" Every Day
Body Strength
Growing Old Gracefully
Making You Feel Like Yourself Again

1892 Constitution
S.S.S. is still sold today as an iron/B-vitamin supplement. I skimmed some reviews online and found that a lot of people who take it now were given doses as children by their parents (and their parents were no doubt given doses by their parents' parents).

1890 Constitution
Getting back to this photograph for a moment...

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Note the two structures directly to the left of Swift Specific Co. The one to the immediate left is the Georgia College of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery. To the far left is Woodward Lumber Company.

The Georgia College of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery opened sometime around 1880. Eclectic medicine was a popular turn-of-the-century practice involving herbal remedies and physical therapy. Since eclectic medicine was considered an alternative practice, graduates of the college were not admitted to Grady Hospital staff.

From Atlanta Illustrated , 1881
Next door, Woodward Lumber Company opened around the same time and quickly grew to encompass the majority of the block. In the 1892 birds eye view below, this row of buildings is seen from the back. Swift Specific is numbered 52, the Eclectic College is to its right, and Woodward Lumber is at the far right against the railroad tracks. You can also see the numerous stacks of lumber taking up the middle portion of the lot, as well as the smattering of dwellings that still remained on the block.

1892 - Certainly nothing could go wrong with all those stacks of dry wood on a crowded city block...
A disaster waiting to happen became a disaster that actually did happen when all the lumber caught on fire in 1895, destroying the mill and many of the cottages along Hunter and Terry St. The Eclectic College also caught fire, and although it was not totally destroyed, the college moved to a new location in 1896.

The vacancies left by the destruction of Woodward Lumber and the Eclectic College allowed for some significant new additions to the block. The new Fulton County Jail took the place of the Eclectic College in 1898 and the Atlanta Milling Company replaced Woodward Lumber in 1899.

Fulton County Jail ("The Tower"), 1898 Constitution
In 1898, the old overcrowded county jail on Fraser Street closed, and all 208 prisoners were transferred on foot to the new jail, nicknamed "The Tower." It cost $175,000 to build, with the tower itself standing over 100 feet high.

Courtesy of AJC
Edward Flanagan, a convicted murderer, had the honor of being the first prisoner transferred. He was personally escorted to his new home by Sheriff Nelms. Flanagan was put in a cell right next to the gallows where he was scheduled to be hanged (his sentence was later changed when he was declared insane). The other two death row inmates at the time were transferred later that day. George Bankston, serving time for highway robbery, called it "the dandiest jail on the continent." Sounds...nice?

1898 Constitution
The new jail housed male and female inmates, but inmates were segregated within by both gender and race. Whites occupied the top floors and blacks occupied the bottom floors. Women occupied the front portion of the third floor, called Third West. In 1914 the female prisoners complained that the facilities were inadequate for them, with insufficient separation between them and the male inmates. Renovations were completed in 1918 that resulted in the third floor being exclusively for women.

Courtesy of AJC
One of the women imprisoned in the Tower was Mrs. Daisy Grace, who was accused of shooting her husband Eugene in 1912. Mr. Grace claimed to have awoken in his bed one day to discover that he had been shot; the bullet was lodged in his spine and he was paralyzed. He then accused his wife of drugging and shooting him. Daisy asserted that Eugene had often been violently abusive, and that on the day he was shot, he pulled the gun and threatened to shoot her. There was a struggle, and Eugene accidentally shot himself when the gun went off in his hand. The Graces were popular and wealthy, so the story was all the rage in Atlanta at the time.

1914 Constitution
Two days after Eugene was shot, Daisy was ordered to report to the Tower. She had been entertaining the press from a room in the Kimball House, Atlanta's most famous hotel. She walked the six blocks from the hotel to the Tower. She was the only woman in the Tower at the time and gave interviews to the press during her stay. Reports indicated that as a rich socialite, Daisy had a difficult time adjusting to jail, complaining about the quality of the air and meals. Some of her fellow inmates on the above floor sent her a letter offering their support and belief in her innocence. 

She spent 13 days in the Tower before being released on bail. Circumstances of the trial sent her back into the Tower for three more weeks about a month later. News of her return to the Tower was huge in Atlanta, and the only thing that could bump it from front-page headlines was the news that the Titanic had sunk (Daisy read all about the ocean liner's tragic demise from her cell). She was ultimately acquitted, though her now estranged husband continued to claim she tried to kill him. Eugene was paralyzed for the rest of his short life and died from his injury in Newnan in 1914.

Daisy Grace, 1912
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Probably the most famous of the Tower's many inmates was Leo Frank. On May 2, 1913, Leo Frank was ordered to report to the Tower as the main suspect in the murder of Mary Phagan. Phagan was a 13-year-old worker in Frank's pencil factory where she was found strangled to death. There are a few books written about Leo Frank, questions about his guilt/innocence, the possibility of antisemitism affecting the verdict, and his death. For more specific information on the whole tragic affair, I encourage you to seek out those books (or at the very least Google). For our purposes here, I will be sticking to Frank's time in the Tower.

Mary Phagan & Leo Frank
While in prison, Frank made few public statements, which led to the press referring to him as "The Silent Man in the Tower." Knowing the trial would take some time, Frank had his cell redecorated to the point that the Constitution reported it looking like a living room, where he received many visits from family and friends including his wife Lucille Selig. He spent about two years in the Tower before being transferred to the state prison in Milledgeville in 1915. Soon after, a mob kidnapped him from prison and lynched him.

Leo Frank entering Fulton Tower, 1913
Another noteworthy Tower inmate was Frank DuPre, the "Peachtree Bandit," who became a local celebrity on December 15, 1921 when, drunk on moonshine, he stole a diamond ring from Nat Kaiser's Jewelry on Peachtree in the heart of the shopping district. As the 18-year-old DuPre made his escape amid the Christmas shopping crowd, he shot two men, killing one (a detective). The ring was for one Ms. Betty Andrews, who DuPre had met just six days earlier. It took weeks for authorities to find and capture DuPre, who had made it all the way to Detroit. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang in the Tower's gallows.

The story captivated Atlanta so much that on the day of his hanging in 1922, an enormous crowd gathered on Butler Street to witness it. A window from the gallows allowed the crowd below to watch as DuPre saw the world outside one last time. Some even watched from the dome of the State Capitol nearby. DuPre was apparently pleased with the number of people that turned out for his final moments. A year later, Howard Wright, an inmate in DuPre's old cell, claimed to see his ghost.

Frank DuPre, "The Peachtree Bandit," 1921
Execution by hanging was falling out of favor with many Georgians at this time due in part to the prevalence of unlawful lynchings. In 1926, the state decided to control all executions from one location and had an electric chair constructed at the state prison farm in Milledgeville. Thus, in 1926, Mack Wooten was the last man hanged in the Tower. The gallows were dismantled a year later.

1959 - Where gallows once were
But enough about murders and executions. 

The Atlanta Milling Company was constructed next door to the Tower in 1899, on the location of the old Woodward Lumber Co. It was one of the largest plants in Atlanta, and almost 200 people turned out for its grand opening, including Georgia Governor Allen D. Candler.

1903 Constitution. View from the railroad tracks.
You can see the Capitol dome in the background.
Packing Room, 1899 Constitution
Store Room, 1899 Constitution
Atlanta Milling produced Capitola brand flour, which was widely consumed in Atlanta at the time.

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
You can see these buildings in the 1919 birds eye below, helpfully labeled for your convenience. The Parcel Delivery Co is exactly what it sounds like, but I couldn't really find much else about it. You can see some dwellings still hanging around on the corner of Hunter and Terry, but they won't last too much longer.

You can see the block in the 1920 photograph below behind the Capitol dome.

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
In 1920, Atlanta Milling Co constructed a new grain elevator. It was the largest grain elevator south of the Ohio River, capable of holding 250,000 bushels of wheat. It was a massive structure, towering over all the other buildings on the block. The picture below is looking south from the railroad tracks. The main Milling Co building is on the right.

Grain elevator, 1920 Constitution

If you look at the 1928 atlas and the 1949 aerial view below, you can see that not a whole lot changed on the block in those 20 years. At some point, the main Milling Company building was either demolished or the top floors were removed, but the footprints are otherwise pretty similar. You can see how tall the grain elevator is by the huge shadow it casts across the railroad tracks in the 1949 image.


Courtesy of Georgia State University
Courtesy of Georgia State University
Courtesy of Georgia State University
The 1954 photo below gives a better indication of the height of the grain elevator as well as the missing Milling Co building. That building was at least five stories high, but now the remaining structures are only about two stories (grain elevator excluded of course).

Courtesy of Georgia State University
By 1959, America had highway fever, and Atlanta was no exception. In the photograph below, everything along Hunter Street has been demolished, including Swift Specific Co. It looks like most everything along Terry Street is also gone, opening that space up for highway construction.

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Here we have a photograph from the early 1960s. It's taken from a little bit south of the block, and you can clearly see the highway taking shape.

Early 1960s
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
By 1960, Fulton Tower had 440 inmates, with overcrowding and an aging building contributing to pretty poor conditions within. That year, all inmates were transferred to a new $2 million jail on Jefferson Street. The Tower was left vacant until it was demolished in 1962. Atlanta Milling Company expressed interest in purchasing the Tower site in 1960 but never did. The Milling Company doesn't appear to have lasted much longer anyway. Records indicate it was gone by the mid-1970s. I found some documentation that had the Atlanta Milling Co. listed on Jimmy Carter Blvd in Norcross as of 2009.

This photograph from 1962 shows our block from afar (outlined), and if you can see it, the Tower and the grain elevator are gone. This photograph is also noteworthy for showing just how much the highway transformed the landscape.

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
The next photograph is where things get really depressing. The block just behind Miss Freedom is ours, but it looks just like all the other hideous wastes of urban space that we call parking lots. If sickly gray is your favorite color, then this is the view for you!

ca. 1975
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Here we are getting a little closer to today, sometime around the 1980s. Not much has changed on our block, it's still rather dismal. But you can see the Sloppy Floyd building in the top left corner. That's the block next to ours, but it comes into play very soon.

All those employees coming in to work in the Sloppy Floyd building meant a lot more parking spaces were needed. Our block came to the rescue with another fine example of the world's greatest invention: the parking deck.

The Butler Deck services the Sloppy Floyd Building and is managed by the Georgia Building Authority. It has a total of 1,867 spaces within.

A pedestrian bridge takes people from Butler Deck across Butler/Jesse Hill to the Sloppy Floyd Building. There's another bridge that connects the Butler Deck to the Pete Hackney Deck one block north.

The exit ramp from the Downtown Connector runs along the eastern side of the block, merging with MLK Drive on the southern side and Jesse Hill Jr Drive on the western side.

Here we are looking west from the Connector, a must-see stop on any driving tour of Atlanta.

The Georgia State MARTA station is attached to the Sloppy Floyd building and opened in 1979. The rail line going to and from that station was constructed during the late 1970s and extends across the northern edge of our block, just south of the railroad tracks. The MARTA line is elevated above street level, and at some point, the railroad tracks were elevated as well.

Railroad, MARTA, and pedestrian bridges.
If you've ever taken the MARTA train westbound to the Georgia State station, you've probably (never) noticed a small structure in between the MARTA line and railroad tracks. Google Maps has two businesses listed there: Sinks N Tubs, a bathroom and kitchen remodeling service, and Dynamic Science Editing, a scientific proofreading and editing service. This seems like an absurd location for either of those companies, and I can't really find any more information on them. If I had to guess, I'd say this structure is actually either a subterranean laboratory for top-secret government experiments or a storage/mechanical shed. Anybody know?

Looking south toward Butler Deck. What secrets lurk within?
And that's pretty much it. Here's the whole block in all its glory today:

Since I glossed over some interesting stuff when talking about Fulton Tower's most famous inmates, I thought I'd provide a list of books if anyone is interested in some further reading:

And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, by Steve Oney

The Leo Frank Case, by Leonard Dinnerstein

"Rich Georgian Strangely Shot": Eugene Grace, "Daisy of the Leopard Spots" and the Great Atlanta Shooting of 1912, by Tom Hughes

Hanging the Peachtree Bandit: The True Tale of Atlanta's Infamous Frank DuPre, by Tom Hughes