Since before the turn of the 20th century, Atlanta has been a laboratory for New York, Chicago, and local architects alike, to experiment with new building techniques– like early skyscrapers and modern styles.
Although not easily perceived by new transplants, Atlanta has been on the cutting-edge of design for over a century.
Bradford Gilbert, the architect now known for designing the first steel-framed curtain wall building in New York, designed Atlanta’s Flatiron Building, completed in 1897, five years prior to New York’s more famous Flatiron Building.
When elevators and steel frame construction were the newest technology, architects were fast to implement the new ideas into Atlanta buildings. The pace-setting Chicago-style skyscraper, made famous by Louis Sullivan, was popular in Atlanta, and can be seen in the upper floors of the (1901) steel-framed Empire Building at the corner of Marietta and Broad Streets. It was the first steel-framed building and the tallest in Atlanta (until 1906), as well as, one of the tallest in the world. Later, acclaimed Atlanta architect, Philip Shutze, redesigned the lower floors in elaborate neo-classical style for Citizens & Southern National Bank (Bank of America).
The 1920’s brought Art Deco modern style all over Atlanta– from office buildings, to department stores, to City Hall.
From architecture, to retail store design, to fashion, Atlanta has always been very current. Rich’s founders brought Paris’ latest fashions to Atlanta in the 1870’s, and Rich’s kept Atlantans always in the know of the latest style into the millineum. Also, Davisons was Atlanta’s other home-town department store, although it was owned by R. H. Macy since 1926– so New York fashion was never far away.
The 20’s Southern Bell Long Lines Building is still standing downtown.
In the 1940’s, the Art Moderne and International Styles took over… new modernism was constructed all over the city.
Googie signs of the atomic age were place makers in suburban Atlanta in the late 50’s, early 60’s. What was once the popular popular Broadview Plaza shopping center, has now become the transit-oriented district of Lindbergh, in Buckhead.
The 1966 C&S (Bank of America) Branch, on Roswell & Wieuca Roads, still extant, by Kenneth Johnson, Architect– simple on the outside, but look at the striking interior!