MODERN ATLANTA: Then & Now

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).

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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.

20's Southern Bell Long Lines Building

The 20’s Southern Bell Long Lines Building is still standing downtown.

Atlanta’s fourth and current City Hall was built, in 1928, as a soaring Art Deco tower.
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The 1933 US Post Office has been restored, and is now the MLK, Jr. Federal Building.
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A rare art deco mansion from 1935 is on Peachtree Battle Ave.

In the 1940’s, the Art Moderne and International Styles took over… new modernism was constructed all over the city.

1940
The new Municipal Airport Building opened in 1940, although the airport launched in 1925.
1947
The streamlined Art Moderne Atlanta Journal, from 1940, is still hanging on today, barely…
Famous international-style modernist I.M.Pei designed the Gulf Oil Building in 1949, in marble and steel, now restored.
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Leb’s Famous Atlanta Diner, Downtown, 1949
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1950’s Marietta St.  Whatever was not really old, was built in the International style.
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Space-age Plaza Park, a downtown urban renewal project, was built in the 1950’s between viaducts at Five Points.
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New Formalism, at NABISCO in 1955. Parts can still be found.
Georgia Tech’s School of Communications
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A synagogue from 1955, on LaVista  Road.

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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.

1958, Demolished 1990's. Photograph of presentation model. Note differences in roof configuration from AJC photograph.
Atlanta Police Headquarters, 1958. Razed 1990.
The First National Bank /Wachovia, 1958, next to the elaborate Ponce de Leon Apartments, where Emory Health’s Proton Center now stands in flux. This would have been a great mid-century skyscraper to keep.
The fabulous Atlanta Cabana from 1958.
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Atlanta Cabana interior
1959
Lenox Square was born in 1959 in modernist style. Later, as a young child, I loved the hanging sphere motifs in the parking lots… and the flying saucer Gulf station.

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This prairie style Motor Inn on Ponce de Leon, was next to The Eagle.
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Atlanta’s Robert Green studied with F. L. Wright and designed this in the 60’s.
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The new Atlanta Airport opened in 1961, as the largest airport in the world. Atlanta outgrew it’s cutting-edge facilities years before expected.
Atlanta Municipal Airport interior lobby 1962. Note the mobile artwork, too bad that seems to have been lost.
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Lofty, beautiful, ticketing areas in the Atlanta Municipal Airport.
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A new parabolic concrete gas station was built to match the new airport.
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Henri Jova’s round bank branch on Monroe was modern and elegant for Trust Company Bank.

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The 1963 Orkin Exterminators-Rollins remains on Piedmont.
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The Parliament House (1964) is a recent historic reuse as dorms for Georgia State University. Note the old Sinclair Gas station with the dinosaur– remember those?
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John Portman’s award-winning home, off Northside Drive, 1964
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The First federal Savings & Loan building of 1964 was built with no interior columns, on Marietta Street. It always looked to me like it belonged on Ipanema Beach, Brazil.
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1964’s Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
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1964 Wesley Residences, near Emory University
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The Georgia Archives Building, built in 1965 of Georgia marble, was always one of my favorites. It will be razed soon, to build a new state courthouse.
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ATLANTA GATEWAY sculpture, 1966, at Atlanta Industrial Park.
One Park Tower, 1961, will soon be home to a new hotel on Woodruff Park.
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The marina at Stone Mountain in 1966.

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Circa 1966. Kenneth Johnson, Architect; Edward Daugherty, FASLA, Landscape Architect; William Trapnell Associates, Interior Design

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!

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Mercedes-Benz Buckhead on Pharr Rd, by famous architect Bruce Goff, later to become a much-loved mega-Oxford books, now razed for highrise developments.
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The Atlanta Civic Center was built in 1967.
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The Atlanta Civic Center was quite glamorous in its day, resplendent in red and gold.

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Of course, the Hyatt Regency Atlanta was record-setting with it’s modern atrium design.

 

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Lord, Aeck & Sargent designed the iconic 1967 C & S Bank next to where Bank of America towers over the south east today at 1023 feet tall.
1968’s modernist Equitable by SOM, New York
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1968 rotunda on Pharr Rd.
1960’s round homes in Atlanta
Modern ranch-style homes in mid-century Atlanta
Drive-in movie theater
Life of Georgia, 1968, North Ave
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1968 Delta gate rotundas at Hartsfield.
1968-69. 1289 Moreland Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia Kenneth Johnson, Architect; William Trapnell Associates, Interior Design
A 1969 Moreland Avenue Bank Branch was designed by Kenneth Johnson, Architect with William Trapnell Associates, Interior Design.
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The courtyard of the Moreland Ave branch.
Peachtree Center, 1970
1971 Trust Co of Georgia Bank

 

Courtyard at Colony Square, midtown, Atlanta.
Courtyard at Colony Square, Midtown Atlanta 1972
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Omni International Complex, 1975, now CNN Center
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1976 design of Five Points MARTA Station

 

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 Icon Marcel Breuer’s highly misunderstood Atlanta Central Library

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The Westin Peachtree Plaza was the tallest hotel in the world for several decades.  1976
Marriott Marquis Atlanta 
Bell Headquarters, 47 stories, by SOM (NY) & Rosser International

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The 1983 High Museum of Art by Richard Meier marks the transition from modernism to post-modernism in Atlanta.
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4 thoughts on “MODERN ATLANTA: Then & Now

  1. Wonderful post Wayne ! Marty matson, friend of Diane and chuck, and employee of David and Randy at Renaissance. Best Regards to you and Rick.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much, Marty. And congratulations to you, Mr. VP of Sales at the fabulous Renaissance Tile & Bath. My best to you, as well as, Randy, Dave, and Chuck three of my oldest friends!

      Like

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