Government Walk / South Peachtree / South Downtown

Underground Atlanta
Peachtree Street at Alabama Street NW
Adaptive Reuse and Additions 1986-1989; The Rouse

Corporation, master Planner; Cooper Carry and Associates with Turner Associates, Joint Venture Architects, Sanford Nelso, Principal-in-Charge; Roy Ashley and Associates, Landscape Architects; new South Design Associates, Graphic Designers; Richard Rothman and Associates, Master Plan and Urban Design Consultant to the Owner; UDC, GAAIA Awards

Howard Johnson Plaza at Underground
(Connally Building)
90 Pryor Street, SW
1882: Architect Unknown; NR

No other section of Atlanta has as long and eventful a history as the area in which Underground Atlanta now lies, which was the city's birthplace. Reduced to ruins during the Civil War, it became a thriving commercial district in the 1890's. By the late 1920's, a system of viaducts bridging the railroad gulch had been built to accommodate the expanding automobile traffic. As a result, building entrances on Alabama, Pryor, Central, Wall and Whitehall streets were relocated to the level of these viaducts.

In 1968 part of the lower level became an entertainment center, but this first incarnation of Underground Atlanta, after a few years of success, declined, and the last of its businesses closed in 1981. Encompassing the revitalization of six blocks, today's festival marketplace, which opened in June 1989, was developed in public/private partnership, and is managed by the Rouse Company, known for similar projects such as Faneuil Hall Marketplace (1976) in Boston and Harborplace (1979) in Baltimore.

Aimed at attracting both conventioneers and Atlantans, its 223,000 square feet of leaseable space (both above ground and in the enclosed Lower Alabama and Pryor streets) are devoted to upscale specialty shops and food and entertainment establishments. The design challenge resided in the need to provide good access to the complex and to remedy the apparent lack of visual identity and landmark structures (historic buildings and storefronts comprise only one third of the project.)

A sense of the area's history has been built into the project by a walking tour with markers, theme statues, wall murals, and a historical exhibit of great interest at Atlanta Heritage Row on Upper Alabama Street. Large public areas have been created from scratch, in particular the Peachtree Fountain Plaza across from the MARTA Five Points Station, which dominated by a 138-foot "high tech" landmark tower and framed by pavilions resembling train sheds.

This plaza has become the emotional heart of the city, serving as the gathering place for such celebrations as the announcement of the selection of the site for the 1996 Olympic games, the annual lighting of Rich's Christmas tree, and a New Year's Eve extravaganza in the tradition of New York's Times Square.

Upper Alabama Street is treated as a pedestrian mall, and its fine turn-of-the-century commercial structures, such as the Suite Hotel at Underground Atlanta (the original lower floors of which are sheathed in Atlantic terra-cotta made to resemble Tennessee marble while the well-executed brick tower above is a recent addition) and the Block Building have been authentically and beautifully restored. It is unfortunate that the contextualism of the rest of the project does not extend to the parking decks serving Underground Atlanta" these massive structures create barriers between the festival marketplace and the governmental district.

Georgia Railroad Freight Depot
Central Avenue and Alabama Street SW
1869: Corput and Bass, Engineers; NR

The World of Coca-Cola Pavilion
55 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW
1990: Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates, Architects; UDC Award

For automobiles and tour buses, the primary drop-off point to Underground Atlanta is located near the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot. Built in 1869, this Italianate structure in red brick with stone accents was originally three stories high; it served as offices and a warehouse for the state-chartered Georgia Railroad. Severely remodeled after a fire in 1935, it is the oldest building in Downtown Atlanta, along with the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a block away.

The World of Coca-Cola Pavilion is a welcome addition, defining the street corner and the entrance to Underground Atlanta. The pavilion was conceived as a lighthearted showcase for Coke memorabilia. Notice its bottle-shaped column along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and the neoclassical "Coke frieze, " a whimsical addition to its simple geometry below the roof line. The four-section, square-shaped building is divided into three rectangular pavilions topped by pyramids and connected by glass walls and a covered plaza. From its roof hangs a giant neon Coca-Cola sign, an updated version of the sign that towered above Margaret Mitchell Square on Peachtree Street from 1948 to 1981.

Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
48 Martin Luther King Jr., Drive SW
1873: William H. Parkins, Architect; NR Restoration 1984: Henry Howard Smith, Architect; UDC Award

The shrine of the Immaculate Conception is Atlanta's oldest religious establishment. The first church built on this site in 1848 was among in few structures left standing by the Union army. There are varying accounts of why it was spared. One story is that General Sherman had been warned by its priest, Father Thomas O'Reilly, that its demolition would entail mutiny of all Roman Catholics among his troops.

Nonetheless the original structure was badly damaged by the war, and the construction of a new church was entrusted to William H. Parkins (1836-1894). On the outside, Parkins designed two towers of unequal height and different ornamentation, terminated by impressive finials; he combined elements borrowed from French Gothic churches - the tripartite portal and rose window in particular - with the polychromatic use of materials that was so fashionable in English High Victorian Gothic architecture. The pristine interior is notable for the elegance of its slender iron columns and capitals, its unusual chandeliers, and clover-design paintings of the Apostles on the ceiling of the nave. In 1954 the church was rededicated as a diocesan shrine. Gutted by fire in 1982, it has since undergone a faithful restoration.

Central Presbyterian Church
201 Washington Street, SW
1884: Edmund G. Lind, Architect; NR, LB. Additions and Remodeling 1967: FABRAP, Architects

Campbell-Eagan Educational Building
36 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SW
1926: Dougherty and Gardner, Architects (Nashville). Renovation 1989: Surber and Barber, Architects

Central Presbyterian Church holds an important place in the history of Atlanta because its congregation has long been at the forefront of social activism in the city. The first church on this site was completed in 1860 and survived the Civil War. The present building was designed by an English-born architect, Edmund G. Lind (1829-1909), who worked for a bout a decade in Atlanta and was also active in Baltimore, where a number of his buildings can still be seen. Its design is reminiscent of small parish churches in Victorian England. The unusual presence of twin openings on the Washington Street entrance facade, as opposed to the customary tripartite bay arrangement, enhances the vertical thrust of the nave. Located behind the main church building, the Campbell-Eagan Educational Building is a fine new-Tudor structure in buff brick with terra-cotta spandrels. It houses a health clinic and two multilevel and assembly on its upper floors.

Georgia State Capitol
206 Washington Street, SW
1889: Edbrooke and Burnham, Architects (Chicago); NHL, HL

When Atlanta became the seat of government for the state in 1879, an architectural competition for the capitol was launched. The building's kinship to the neoclassical Capitol in Washington, DC demonstrated the stat's allegiance to the Union. However, as architectural historian Elizabeth Lyon points out, "The capitols building's architectural vocabulary was classical, but the vertical thrust of its tall dome and the complexity of its massing mark it as a forcefully Victorian building" (Atlanta Architecture, The Victorian Heritage, 1837-1918, p. 38).

The novelty of the design solution resided in the use of fireproof construction devices that had been recommended by the consulting architect, George B. Post of New York City. Facades are in Indiana limestone, while Georgia marble is extensively used for the lavish interior decoration. On Washington Street a projecting entrance pavilion has a four-story pedimented portico supported by columns set on large stone piers; the end pavilions feature matching Corinthian pilasters. The central dome was last gilded in 1981, with gold leaf from the North Georgia mining town of Dahlonega. The grounds are park like, with a variety of monuments and markers. The underground parking facility across the street is well disguised as Georgia Plaza Park by landscape architects and planners Saski, Dawson, DeMay.

Atlanta City Hall
68 Mitchell Street, NW
1930: G. Lloyd Preacher, Architect; NR, LB. Addition 1988 and Renovation 1989: Muldawer + Moultrie with Jova/Daniels/Busby and Harris and Partners, Joint Venture Architects; UDC Awards

Trinity United Methodist Church
265 Washington Street, SW
1911: Walter T. Downing, Architect

Atlanta City Hall, a fourteen-story tower surmounted by a shallow pyramidal roof, was erected on the site of the Neal Residence, which served as General Sherman's headquarters during the Civil War. Unlike the Art Deco setback skyscrapers of New York City which inspired its easily recognizable silhouette, the new municipal building featured relatively obsolete neo-Gothic decorative elements, each setback being enhanced with pinnacles and pointed arches (this type of ornamentation had known its heyday with the completion of the Woolworth Building in New York City in 1913).

All exterior and interior materials were extracted or manufactured in Georgia. On top of a granite base, the reinforced concrete structure is covered with cream-colored tiles and olive green spandrels in terra-cotta (notice the Phoenix motif on the second-story spandrels, symbolizing the quick recovery of Atlanta after the Civil War). No money was spared on the main lobby, with its floors and walls in polished marble and ornate gilded-wood ceiling, entrance and elevator doors in heavy bronze, and brass fixtures. The exteriors and all public spaces have recently been restored to their original grandeur concurrently with the addition on the south side.

The lower addition houses a number of services and offices, including the mayor's office, which are distributed around an impressive sky lit atrium. The form of the city council chamber is expressed on the Trinity avenue entrance facade as a semicircular overhang.

Across the street, constructed since the antebellum period in what used to be a fashionable residential district, is Walter T. Downing's Trinity United Methodist Church (its original building also survived the burning of Atlanta). The exterior ornamentation of this powerful brick structure resides solely in the rhythm of its massive buttresses. Inside, translucent stained-glass windows illustrate the history of the church as well as more traditional religious themes.

Fulton County Government Center
141 Pryor Street, SW
1989: Rosser Fabrap International with Turner Associates, Joint Venture Architects; Oscar Harris, Project manager; Paul Freidberg, Landscape Architect

Fulton County Courthouse
136 Pryor Street, SW
1914: A. Ten Eyck Brown, Morgan and Dillon, Architects

The Fulton County Government Center occupies an entire city block, defined by Peachtree, Mitchell, and Pryor streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. In order to match the scale of its surroundings, the building program was divided into several three to ten-story units centered around a glass atrium. The square shapes of the entrance pavilion on Pryor Street and of the openings in the screen wall, the curved glass curtain and gables, all standard devices of post-modernism, are meant to soften the institutional character of the complex.

After the Georgia State Capitol, the nine-story Fulton County Courthouse is the largest public structure built in the classical idiom in Atlanta. The inset section of six giant Corinthian semidetached columns overpowers the modest arched entrances, and looks tightly squeezed in a facade otherwise punctured by utterly utilitarian openings. This arrangement contributes to the general impression of heaviness and mismatched proportions.

The Counsel House
(Bass Furniture Building)
142 Mitchell Street NW
18998: Architect unknown; NR. Addition and Renovation 1924: A. Ten Eyck Brown, Architect. Restoration 1983: John Steinichen, Architect

Cottongim Building
97 Broad Street, SW
Circa 1890: Architect unknown

Concordia Hall
201 Mitchell Street, SW
1893: Bruce and Morgan, Architects

The Counsel House is the finest structure in the Terminus District, a once thriving commercial area that has retained its turn-of-the-century, Mitchell Street was the main artery between the central business district and the affluent residential neighborhood of West End. With the completion of the nearby Terminal Station in 1905, this street attracted a number of small hotels as well. Built as a feed-and-grain store in 1989, the Counsel House has been host to a variety of businesses over the years. The original section, which has known several remodelings and enlargements, has three stories; the addition, which takes advantage of the slope of Mitchell Street, has four. The brick facades feature a homogeneous rhythm of arched windows with terra-cotta capitals and a continuous cornice, ornamented with an inverted pyramidal design in brick. The overall proportions and decorative effect are particularly successful, as is the treatment of the building corner at the intersection of Mitchell and Peachtree streets. Damaged by fire on several occasions, the Counsel House was recently restored with design and financial assistance provided through the city's Historic Facade Program. Inappropriate storefront additions dating from the 1950s gave way to attractive glass planes supported by slender columns.

Other commercial structures of interest awaiting restoration in the Terminus District include the Cottongim Building, a fine example of mill construction with wood joists and cast-iron columns and Concordia Hall (notice the terra-cotta ornaments on the Forsyth Street doorway - especially the lyre at the center of the pediment, which indicates that the buildings first tenant was a literary and musical society).

Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building
(United States Post Office)
77 Forsyth Street, SW
1933: A. Ten Eyck Brown with Alfredo Barili Jr. and JW Humphreys, Architects

Originally built with funds from the Work Projects Administration to house Atlanta's central post office, this monumental structure was located in the vicinity of the now demolished Terminal Station. It was designed in the stripped-down classical style that prevailed for public structures in the 1930s not only in New Deal America but also throughout Europe. The highly symmetrical facades of this freestanding block feature a series of setbacks. They are sheathed in granite left plain and smooth with the exception of an occasional fluted "pilaster" and carved frieze. Vacated by the Postal Administration in 1980, the recently renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building now houses government offices.

MARTA Five Points Station
30 Alabama Street, SW
1979: Finch-Heery, Joint Venture Architects; Vincent Kling (Philadelphia), Design Consultant to MARTA

Considering the decentralized character of Atlanta's metropolitan area, the MARTA rapid-transit system, which opened in 1979, should probably be regarded as a symbol of the city's self-esteem as well as a solution to traffic congestion problems. MARTA's stations were designed by Atlanta firms as highly visible civic monuments, generally uncluttered by advertising billboards and providing little public seating (in an effort to discourage loitering), rather than as understated but functional access points to the rapid-rail system. The stations are for the most part super-structures, sometimes raised well above ground with boldly designed roofs.

Two MARTA rail lines intersect at the Five Points station, which enclosed 200,000 square feet of floor area. A grade-level landscaped plaza covered by a pre-cast concrete canopy provides natural lighting to the underground concourse level. The selection of materials - marble and glass tiles for the walls, cast-in place concrete with metal coffer liners for the ceilings - contributes to the stately character of the two train levels, which are reached by stairs and escalators sheathed in granite.

A dramatic counterpoint to the rigorous overall geometry is brought to the design by three neoclassical arches, visible from the intermediate level at the end of the northbound track. The arches at one time crowned the Whitehall Street facade of the Eiseman Building (1901, Walter R. Downing), which was demolished to make way for MARTA.

The pedestrian mall on Broad Street was planned as part of a promenade through Downtown. Unfortunately the monumental stations and its modern surroundings divide rather than unite the southern and northern parts of the central district.

MARTA Garnett Street Station
Forsyth and Garnett streets, SW
1981: Cooper Carry and Associates and Jones and Thompson, Joint Venture Architects; GAAIA Award

Garnett Station Place
(Southern Belting Company Building)
236 Forsyth Street SW
1915: Lockwood Greene, Engineers; NR. Remodeling 1985: Stang and Newdow, Architects; DC Award

The MARTA Garnett Street Station was expected to act as a nucleus for major redevelopment in the area. Exposed concrete columns support the railway platform and upper public concourse. Glazes aluminum frames are used as wind breaks and offer protection from the elements for the predominantly open-air structure.

Currently occupied by offices, Garnett Station Place is an open-plan structure in brick with stone accents which was built by a manufacturer of belts for textile looms. Its facade on Garnett Street is particularly well composed, with its stately balconied entrance and windows of different widths (the center and corners are marked by narrower glass panes).