Sunday, June 7, 2015

25 Park Place

Hey folks! It's been a long time! Apologies for the delay. Let's get right to it.

Since my last post, the new Atlanta Streetcar commenced service downtown (yes, it's been that long), part of which runs along Edgewood Avenue. For this post, I thought it might be fun to talk about a block related to the first time an electric streetcar hummed along Edgewood, which is in fact the whole reason why that street exists.


The specific block we're looking at is bordered by Auburn Avenue (formerly Wheat Street), Equitable Place (formerly Porter's Alley), Park Place (formerly Pryor Street), and Edgewood Avenue (more-or-less formerly Line Street).



We begin as we often do with the 1871 birds eye drawing, which shows a smattering of dwellings and perhaps some apartments or commercial buildings. We don't really have much to go on here, but we get the general idea of what it looked like.

1871
The 1878 atlas gives us some names to work with:

1878
J.W. English we can assume is James W. English, who was a city councilman at the time and later served as mayor. His residence was on Cone Street and his office was on South Broad, so this would be some other property he owned.

According to the 1878 city directory, Mrs. Mary C. Mundy (I also saw it spelled Munday) was the widow of Ed W. Mund(a)y, who owned a clothing shop on Marietta Street (an 1867 ad for which is below). This property on Pryor was Mrs. Mund(a)y's residence.

1867 City Directory and Strangers Guide
There were eventually some coal and wood yards on the block, as you can see in the 1886 Sanborn map below (imagine living next door to a pile of coal). The 1881 city directory lists a Hugh H. Gordon as a lime, wood, and coal dealer here on Pryor.

1886
The earliest building that I could find an image for was the YMCA building, constructed around 1886 on the northwest corner of the block (Park Place and Auburn Ave today).

1886
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
YMCA, ca. 1886
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Below are some images of the YMCA's parlor and reading room. The building also had a basement with a swimming pool. Fancy pants!

YMCA Parlor ca. 1890
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
YMCA Reading Room, ca. 1890
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
The rest of the block around this time consisted of dwellings and a variety of businesses, including dress makers Dellingham & Jackson, publishers Scribner & Sons, and the home of druggist D. Tudor Heery (an ad for his Peachtree Street business is below).

1891 City Directory
1891 brought the most significant change for the block yet with the arrival of businessman Joel Hurt (1850-1926). We will now go on a brief tangent away from our block, but it's important, so hush.

Young Joel Hurt
Hurt, who moved to Atlanta from Alabama in 1875, was involved with banking, insurance, and real estate. A real Monopoly Man! He also ran notoriously brutal convict labor camps, which were criticized for the excessive beatings and deaths of black convict workers. Nevertheless, his significant impact on Atlanta's turn-of-the-century development can still be seen around the city today.

Hurt's vision of a 20th century city involved a central hub of banks and businesses surrounded by a ring of factories and workers' housing, with a suburban outer ring for wealthier residents. Electric streetcars would then bring businessmen and their wives into the central hub for work and shopping (respectively, of course).

Old Man Hurt. Wait, is he the Monopoly Man???
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
In 1882, Hurt organized the East Atlanta Land Company, which would help him facilitate his urban vision in a few ways. First, in 1886 he co-established the Atlanta & Edgewood Street Railway Company, which initially used horse-drawn trolleys but became the city's first electric streetcar company in 1889. Also in 1889, development began on Atlanta's first park suburb, which he named Inman Park after his friend and colleague Samuel Inman.

1896 Constitution
Hurt had a new home built for himself in Inman Park, which still stands today (you can see images of the modern day interior at Curbed Atlanta here).

Joel Hurt House
Courtesy of Curbed Atlanta
Inman Park was on the outskirts of the city at the time, on an area of land ravaged by the Battle of Atlanta in 1864. Before the trolley line was built, the roads out to Inman Park were rugged and disjointed. The East Atlanta Land Company purchased the land between the city and the suburb, displacing many of the area's residents in the process, and constructed a new direct road for the trolley. That road would be Edgewood Avenue.

Edgewood Avenue Trolley Barn in Inman Park (still standing), ca. 1889
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Edgewood Avenue extended from Inman Park westward to Five Points, which brings us back to our block. In 1891, Hurt planned a new modern office building on the southern portion of the block, hoping it would attract new business to Atlanta. The building, named the Equitable Building after the Equitable Assurance Society that financed its construction, was a major turning point in Atlanta's built environment.

The building itself was designed by John Wellborn Root of Chicago's Burnham & Root architecture firm. Root was raised in Atlanta but did not return after evacuating during the Siege. He lived in England and New York before making his way to Chicago where he teamed up with Daniel Burnham in 1873 and was instrumental in founding the famous Chicago style of architecture (Burnham was in charge of the architecture for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). Root returned to Atlanta on Jan. 8, 1891 to deliver the building's plans, but he died of pneumonia seven days later.

John Wellborn Root
Before it was built, the Constitution ran a story on the pending Equitable Building, which included the drawing below. The January 1891 article began by exclaiming, "Eight stories and a basement! That's the size of the 'Equitable' building!" The steel-frame structure would be the first of its kind in Atlanta. and though comparatively small by today's standards, it is considered the city's first skyscraper.

1891 Constitution
Construction began in 1891 and was completed the following year. A Masonic cornerstone ceremony was held in June of 1891, during which a capsule filled with Atlanta memorabilia was sealed within the cornerstone along Edgewood and Pryor. Unfortunately, the capsule was improperly sealed, and the contents were mostly destroyed.

Cornerstone Ceremony, 1891
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Following the ceremony, a banquet and reception hosted by the East Atlanta Land Company was held at the nearby Kimball House, the menu for which is below.

Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
At least one person perished during construction. The Galveston Daily News, of all places, reported it with poetic detail:

"A fall of 165 feet, from the top of an eight-story building, was a sight which paralyzed 3000 people around the Equitable Building at Atlanta. Thomas Moorehead, a workman on the cornice work, suddenly lost his balance. The body wavered slightly as it left the building and plunged into space. A scream was heard. After a fall of forty feet, the body turned two somersaults, then stiffened out, and reaching the sidewalk, struck on all fours, his forehead touching the flagging, and the result was a shapeless mass of flesh."

Yikes.

In the 1892 photograph below, you can see streetcar track construction in Five Points, and the Equitable Building, almost complete, is at the end of the road in the background.

Streetcar track construction, 1892
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Equitable was completed in 1892, and you can clearly see it in the birds eye drawing from the same year below (11 is Equitable, 12 is YMCA). The main floor had 24 granite columns that wrapped around it, with the upper stories composed of light brick and terra cotta. It stood at about 105 feet tall and had four steam-powered elevators.

1892
ca. 1892
Courtesy of Georgia State University
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
If you look at the 1892 Sanborn map below, you can see Equitable on the southern end of the block. From above, the building has kind of a crooked U-shape. Inside the U was a courtyard providing natural light for interior offices. At the bottom level of the courtyard was a skylight, beneath which was the basement where the bank vaults were eventually housed.

1892
This fantastic photo submitted to Atlanta Time Machine shows a streetcar running along Edgewood in front of Equitable. The view is looking west toward Five Points.

Courtesy of Paul Lycett via Atlanta Time Machine
Equitable's first tenant was the Lowry Banking Company, run by Colonel Robert J. Lowry. Colonel Lowry apparently once told a young Robert Woodruff, "When you marry, don't marry one of these tall, willowy girls. Marry a short, duck-legged girl. They last longer." Charming! The building slowly but surely gained more tenants over the next several years.

1896 City Directory
1892 City Directory
1896 City Directory
1896
1896
1896
1896
1896
1902
Around 1893, the Trust Company of Georgia moved into the building. Trust Company had previously been the Commercial Traveler's Savings Bank, founded in 1891, but board member Joel Hurt (him again!) pushed for the change to a trust company (and no doubt the move to his fancy new building). History Atlanta has an informative piece on the Equitable Building, including a history of the Trust Company of Georgia, more photographs, and fun facts. I recommend taking a look here.

Equitable Interior, ca. 1896
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
It was often suggested that a saloon and pool hall be set up in the basement. Ernest Woodruff, for one, was a supporter of the idea, but Hurt, like his father, did not support the sale of liquor in Atlanta (so if you're keeping score: liquor = bad / convict labor = good).

1895 Constitution
1897 Constitution
North on Pryor, 1895
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
1895
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
By the 20th Century, the building had filled up quite nicely. The following image from the 1902 City Directory shows the list of tenants in the Equitable Building. The full list goes on for two more pages.

1902
Also by then, the rest of the block had filled in a bit more. In the 1899 and 1911 Sanborn maps below, you can see some larger commercial structures that stretch the length of the block, where before there were smaller boarding homes and the like.

1899
1911
In 1913, the Trust Company purchased the the Equitable Building from the East Atlanta Land Company. After what I'm sure were countless debates and careful consideration, it was renamed the Trust Company of Georgia Building. The signs above the Pryor and Edgewood entrances were updated to reflect the new names.

Also in 1913, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce purchased the YMCA Building for their headquarters At some point the roofline was severed, which you can see by comparing the image below to the earlier one of the YMCA.

Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, 1916
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1919 Birds Eye
Between 1928 and 1932, a steel tower with an electric light beacon stood atop the Trust Co. Building, which helped direct burgeoning air traffic to Candler Field (now Hartsfield-Jackson). The beacon was moved to Candler Field as the airport expanded. I couldn't find a picture of it, unfortunately.

North along Pryor Street, ca. 1920
Courtesy of Georgia State University
In 1930, a plaque was installed on the building with "The Prophecy of John C. Calhoun," a rambling excerpt from an 1845 address in which Calhoun detailed the founding of Atlanta in relation to its geography and railroads. It's kind of a chore to read, but if you're interested, you can see the full text at Markeroni (I love that name) here.

"The Prophecy of John C. Calhoun," 1961
Courtesy of Georgia State University
One of the buildings in between the Chamber of Commerce and the Trust Company was the six-story Publisher's Building. It was originally built for Inman Smith & Co. wholesalers. In 1936, the Ivan Allen-Marshall Company purchased it for their new headquarters and retail store.

Publisher's Building, 1936
Courtesy of the AJC
The following photos show the storefront windows for the Ivan Allen-Marshall building as well as some interior shots of both the store and the offices upstairs.

1949
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1949
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1949
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

ca. 1945
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Ivan Allen-Marshall office, 1949
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Ivan Allen-Marshall break room, 1949
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Delivery trucks in alley behind Ivan Allen, 1948
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1951 Constitution
1947 Constitution

Physically, the block remained pretty much the same for the next 20-ish years.

1949 Aerial Photograph
Courtesy of Georgia State University
1949
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1953
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1956
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1960
Courtesy of Georgia State University

Some noteworthy happenings from this period include:

A Trust Company of Georgia anniversary with a becolumned (I make words up) cake:

Trust Co of GA anniversary cake, 1951
Courtesy of Georgia State University
A parking deck across the street with adjoining bridge to the Trust Company Building:

Parking garage, 1953
Courtesy of Georgia State University
A parade float declaring the Equitable/Trust Co. Building "Atlanta's First Skyscraper." I don't know the reason for the parade, but the picture below shows it running along Peachtree Street in front of Loews Grand Theater:

Parade float declaring "Atlanta's First Skyscraper," 1954
Courtesy of Georgia State University
A parade for President Dwight Eisenhower passing right in front of the block (note Trust Company's columns on the right side of the photo):



By the 1960s, big changes were afoot. The Atlanta Chamber of Commerce had vacated their building in 1948, and it changed hands several times until that portion of the block was purchased by Ivan Allen Company. In 1961, Ivan Allen leased the land to the Trust Company, who planned a new skyscraper plaza for the whole block. In 1963, the Chamber of Commerce building was demolished and replaced by a temporary brick and concrete park while plans were developed for the new Trust Company skyscraper.  Construction of that building was underway around 1966. Check out the photos below for some final looks at the Chamber of Commerce and adjoining buildings.

undated
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1960
Courtesy of Georgia State University
The new 26-story Trust Company building was completed in 1969. A 1968 AJC article titled "The Beauty of Our Building Boom" called the new Trust Company building a "simple and handsomely proportioned tower." Poor old Equitable isn't even mentioned and seems doomed to be replaced by plans for a reflecting pool along Edgewood Avenue. That reflecting pool never materialized, but Equitable didn't last much longer. This same article praised new developments like this all over the city and admired the destruction of the "ancient" old buildings they replaced. It really goes to show Atlanta's development mindset at the time and provides at least one reason why the city lost so many of its lovely historic buildings.

New Trust Company Tower, 1968
Courtesy of AJC
In the photograph below, you can see two new skyscrapers under construction. The one on the left is the new Trust Company building on our block (you can also see the backside of the old Trust Co building on the bottom left corner). The one on the right is the new Equitable Building going up on a separate block.

Trust Co on left, Equitable on right, 1967
Courtesy of Georgia State University

Construction, 1968
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1968
Courtesy of Georgia State University
In 1969, local historian Franklin Garrett said, "With improvements made by its long-time owner, the Trust Company of Georgia, the old Equitable is a better building than ever." The man knew plenty about Atlanta's past but wasn't so great at predicting its future. The Trust Company felt the old building was just too old and outdated, and it was demolished in 1971.

ca. 1970
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

1970
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1970

1970
Courtesy of Georgia State University

1970
The Trust Company replaced the old Equitable with a new building adjoining the skyscraper, which housed the main banking office. Construction commenced in 1971.

1972
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
Below you can see the Trust Company skyscraper and the new, squatter banking building in the bottom right corner, east of Central City Park (now Woodruff Park):

1973
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

Sometime after 1972
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

View from Central City Park (Woodruff), undated
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center
A new time capsule was placed outside of this building in large planters off Edgewood Avenue, containing memorabilia pertaining to Trust Company and Atlanta as well as audio tape recordings of various Atlantans leaving messages for 21st century descendants. The recordings include Franklin Garrett and kids from Paideia School.


Pieces of the old Equitable Building were saved and incorporated into the new buildings. Inside the building, the large stone entryway and two of the columns were displayed in the area connecting the larger and smaller buildings. That part of the building is now the SunTrust bank, and you can see it looking through the windows like a creep like I did, or by lingering in the bank like a creep like I also did. I felt weird taking pictures in a bank, though, so you'll have to just take my word for it or go see it for yourself.

The Prophecy of John C. Calhoun plaque was also preserved (how blessed!) and placed on the planter with the time capsule.


The signs depicting Trust Company's name were kept, with one each on the Park Place and Edgewood sides of the new building.


A few more of the columns also survived, and some of them have had quite a journey. Three of them remain outside of the existing building on the Park Place side.


Roughly five others (I found conflicting information on how many) were moved to a neighborhood development in East Cobb on Columns Drive. Over time, so the story goes, those columns were being swallowed by kudzu, so three of them were moved in front of the modern Equitable Building on Peachtree in 1994. That would leave a couple behind on Columns Drive. I went on an excursion up there to see if I could find them, but I didn't see anything. It doesn't help that I have no idea where they're supposed to be. Maybe they're not there at all. If anyone has more on this, I'd love to know!

Anyway, the three that did escape their kudzu death made it to Peachtree Street for a time. The Architecture Tourist blog has a great post on the modern day Equitable Building that goes into some of the ways that building incorporated the old Equitable's history. You can see it here.

Columns outside new Equitable Building, 2013
Courtesy of History Atlanta
Those columns moved again in 2013. The current Equitable has seen some tough times since the recession, and new owners donated the columns to the Atlanta History Center for display, where they remain today.

Moving to AHC, 2013
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

2013
Courtesy of Atlanta History Center



In 2006, Georgia State University purchased the Trust Company building, and renovations have been ongoing. Some of the building is now occupied by classroom and office space. Its current name is 25 Park Place.

From Woodruff Park, 2014

2014

2014

2014
In the basement level, there are still some bank vaults, which I also felt uncomfortable photographing, as well as some framed images juxtaposing the old Trust Company Building with the new.



Whooooaaaaaa...

GSU is currently converting the smaller building into a digital media lab, which is set to open in 2016. That should be pretty cool.


So that's pretty much that. Light a candle for Old Equitable tonight. See you again (hopefully) soon!

3 comments:

  1. Loved this, as always. Can't wait for the next entry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading! I'm slowly but surely working on another, so stay tuned...

      Delete
  2. Have you covered the block where the Walco Building was? [Pryor Street and Auburn Avenue] The Walthour and Hood Co a sporting goods retailer. I was hoping someone might do a little history on them. I remember their ads and mailers back in the 80s. I was in the cycling industry they at the time were one of the few bike parts distributors in the south.
    Thanks - Keep up the good work.
    http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/Walco Sporting Goods (Atlanta, Ga.)/mode/exact

    ReplyDelete