Sweet Auburn / M.L.K. Jr. Historic District

First Congregational Church
105 Courtland Street, NE
1908: Bruce and Everett, Architects; LB

First Congregational Church, founded on the present site in 1867, has always had a congregation deeply committed to social activism and the well-being of the black community. Its corner location makes the 1908 structure, in tan brick with white accents resting on a rough-hewn granite base, appear monumental. The treatment of the entrance facade on Houston Street, the "side elevation" on Courtland Street, and a corner tower anchoring the design contribute to its grandeur. Although the consistent use of arched openings acts as a unifying device, the ornamentation is eclectic and full of fantasy. The entrance porch looks Romanesque at first glance, but it is supported by coupled Ionic columns and topped by a Spanish Mission motif; the belvedere atop the tower is directly inspired by those of Italian Renaissance villas; and the large stained-glass window on Courtland Street is straightforwardly Victorian.

Baptist Student Center, Georgia State University
(Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company)
125 Edgewood Avenue, SE
1891: Architect Unknown; NHL, LB. Addition 1988: Interior Remodeling and Facade Restoration 1989: Cavender Associates, Architects; UDC Award

The establishment of the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company in 1900 marked the first application of the franchise concept to the soft-drink industry. This modest structure, which served as the first bottling plant of the Coca-Cola Company for just over a year, became a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Characteristic of the Queen Anne style, the building features a complex roof, with hipped sections and stepped Flemish gables, a square wood-shingled turret addressing the street corner (the second floor originally was used as a residence), and materials and textures combined in a picturesque fashion. In 1966 it became the Baptist Student Center for Georgia State University, which necessitated the recent nonintrusive addition built on Courtland Street.


Atlanta Life Insurance Company Building
148 Auburn Avenue, NE
Date and Builder Unknown. Renovation and Facade 1927: Aiken and Faulker, Builders

Herndon Plaza
100 Auburn Avenue, NE
1980: Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates, with JW Robinson and Associates, Architects

John Wesley Dobbs Building
(Southern Schoolbook Depository Building)
135 Auburn Avenue, NE
Circa 1910: Hentz and Reid. Renovation 1988: ER Mitchell Construction Company

Founded by Alonzo F. Herndon in 1905, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company is one of the largest black-owned business enterprises in the country. The facade of its first headquarters, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company Building at 148 Auburn Avenue (originally a YMCA building), was given a facelift in 1927: old-fashioned colossal neoclassical columns and pilasters supporting a wide entablature were intended to express the stability of the insurance business. Classical as well, but more restrained, is the facade of the annex built next to the original building in the 1930s. In contrast, the abstract masses of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company's current headquarters, Herndon Plaza, with its boldly cantilevered executive floor, bear witness to an aggressive and dynamic entrepreneurial vision. Across from it is the John Wesley Dobbs Building, one of the finest commercial structures in red brick with stone accents remaining in the area. This building (restored with the support of the Historic Facade Program) houses the first phase of the APEX (African American Panoramic Experience) Museum. Funds are being raised to initiate the second phase, a research library for African-American history.


Odd Fellows Building
250 Auburn Avenue, NE
Tower 1912, Auditorium Addition 1914: William A. Edwards, Architect NR. Tower Restoration 1988: Stang and Newdow, Architects; UDC Award. Auditorium Restoration 1991; Perkins and Partners, Architects: UDC Award

Big Bethel A.M.E. Church
220 Auburn Avenue, NE
1891: Architect Unknown

As indicated on its doorway, the Odd Fellows Building was completed in 1912 and served as the regional headquarters of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a major trade and social organization. The six-story structure housed a number of black businesses. Its lower annex, completed in 1914, incorporated a concert hall and theater. For the most part, the picturesque brick-and-stone detailing was inspired by early English "Jacobean" precedents, while the highly stylized African-American heads ornamenting the facade are intended to celebrate the Sweet Auburn community. Damaged by fire in 1923, the nearby Big Bethel A.M.E. Church lost most of its fine Romanesque Revival detailing in the subsequent reconstruction. This historic structure also served as the first school for black children in Atlanta.


Georgia Hall, Grady Memorial Hospital
36 Butler Street, SE
1892: Eugene Clarence Gardner and Sons, Architects (Springfield, Massachusetts); NR, LB, UDC Award

Steiner Building, Grady Memorial Hospital
(Albert Steiner Ward)
62 Butler Street, SE
1923: Hentz, Reid and Adler, Architects; Neel Reid, Designer; HB

Grady Memorial Hospital
80 Butler Street, SE
1958: Robert and Company, Architects. Goddard Chapel 1956: Philip Shutze, Architect

Atlanta's first publicly supported hospital, Georgia Hall (often referred to as Old Grady Hospital) opened in 1892. The institution was named after Atlanta Constitution editor and New South advocate Henry W. Grady (1851-1889). Both its historical significance and its architectural distinction justify the nomination of this three-story structure, red brick resting on a granite base, to the National Register of Historic Places. Georgia Hall has a Romanesque Revival arched entrance portico topped by a carved frieze that incorporates the name of the hospital. The bracketed eaves of the hipped roofs of both the main building and the side tower as well as the scaled down window pattern make the structure look more residential than institutional. Originally a porte cochere was attached to the right end of the Butler Street facade and wards were placed at the back. (These were subsequently demolished in 1959 to make way for a parking lot.) Notice on the same block Neel Reid's Steiner Building, a palazzo-like structure covered in buff brick, which was built as a cancer ward but now houses offices for faculty members from Emory University. In sharp contrast to these modest structures, the twenty-one-story main building of Grady Memorial Hospital stands on the next block across Armstrong Street. The visitor is surprised to find in this modern structure the jewel-like neoclassical Goddard Chapel, designed by Philip Shutze. Grady Memorial Hospital is one of the largest health-care facilities in the Southeast, in terms of both square footage (1.2 million) and number of patients treated annually.


Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
(King Memorial Center)
449 Auburn Avenue, NE
Memorial 1977, Freedom Hall 1981: Bond and Ryder, Architects (New York), UDC Award

Ebenezer Baptist Church
407 Auburn Avenue, NE
1922: Architect Unknown

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center of Nonviolent Social Change was established in 1968 and is visited by more than a million individuals each year. Approaching the Center from Downtown along Auburn Avenue, the visitor passes the Victorian red brick facade of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King, his father, and his grandfather each served as pastor. At the Center, a progressive visual sequence of architectural spaces gradually leads the visitor to a meditative space focused on the entombments of the civil-rights leader: rows of trees planted on lawns along the avenue, a narrow bright blue reflecting pool (symbolizing the life giving nature of water), a Chapel of All Faiths (receiving a soft reflected light from the underside of its vault), and the Freedom Walkway (a vaulted colonnade stepping the length of the site, with niches designed for future murals of King's leadership in the civil-rights movement). The simple white marble block of the tomb was placed dramatically at the center of the pool on a circular brick platform. Much more understated is the brick cylinder hosting the eternal flame, placed directly on axis with the crypt. At the eastern end, enclosure is provided by the two-story Freedom hall, where the information center is located and placed at a right angle to the three-story Memorial Hall, an administration, program and archives building, complete with a large exhibition area. The repetitive concrete barrel vaults with brick infills, which characterize all of these building, are reminiscent of Le Corbusier's Maisons Jaoul near Paris (1955) and respect the quiet red and grey harmony of the memorial ground.


Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home
501 Auburn Avenue, NE
Circa 1893: Architect Unknown; UDC Award

Fire Station No. 6
39 Boulevard, NE
1894: Bruce and Morgan, Architects; UDC Award

Wigwam Apartments
587-591 Auburn Avenue, NE; 44-50 Randolph Street, NE
1940; Vincent Daley, Architect

The Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home was owned by the civil-rights leader's maternal grandfather. The King family lived there until 1941. A two-story frame house with clapboard siding, its irregular massing, porch ornaments, and gable are derived from the Queen Anne style. The National Park Service began restoring the site in 1974. The Park Service has purchased and restored several houses in the area to the time period 1929-1941, which is when Dr. King lived in the neighborhood. Among these are several-two-story Victorian homes along Auburn Avenue as well as more modest "shotgun" houses that were built around 1905 (these are among the last examples remaining in Atlanta of this residential type so common in southern cities at the turn of the century). They form an interesting residential ensemble with their aligned projecting gables oriented to the street. Of both historical and architectural interested across Boulevard from the King Center is the still operating Fire Station No. 6, a flat brick structure graced with fine Romanesque Revival detailing. At the intersection of Randolph Street and Auburn Avenue, the Wigwam Apartments are a rare example of Streamlined Moderne apartment houses in Atlanta. The flat-roofed, stucco exterior is animated by wrapping corner windows and setback stairs and terraces.

 


West Wing, Georgia Baptist Medical Center
300 Boulevard, NE
1925: Burge and Stevens, Architects

North and East Wings, Georgia Baptist Medical Center
300 Boulevard, NE
1951: Stevens and Wilkinson, Architects; SARC, AIA Awards

Professional Building, Georgia Baptist Medical Center
300 Boulevard, NE
1951: Stevens and Wilkinson, Architects; AIA Awards

East Professional Building, Georgia Baptist Medical Center
315 Boulevard, NE
1974: Stevens and Wilkinson, Architects; GAAIA Awards

The original 1925 portion of the Georgia Baptist Medical Center, currently known as the West Wing, is now hidden from view by the 1951 North and East Wings on Boulevard. This addition, in the International Style, received the American Institute of Architects' Award of Merit in Hospital Architecture. Its street facade enhanced by a regular grid of concrete and aluminum sun-shades significantly reduces air-conditioning costs. The asymmetrically placed entrance is marked by a large concrete awning characteristic of the 1950s. The Professional Building to its north was also recognized by the AIA with an Award of Merit in 1957. Across Boulevard, the East Professional Building is a four-story block with an elegant window pattern that alleviates the corners. The hospital complex has the unusual distinction of having had almost all of its recent structures designed by the same architectural firm, Stevens and Wilkinson.