Thursday, September 24, 2015

Off the Beaten Path in Worth County

Sometimes you stumble upon a little slice of heaven. That was the case yesterday, when I went to check out an abandoned bridge down in Worth County.

I didn't know the surrounding area would feel so magical. This gorgeous wetland was still and quiet, despite being not that far from the current highway alignment. Several egrets took flight as I approached.

The bridge was probably constructed during the 1920s. The highway, US 82, was realigned during the 1950s. The bridge can be seen on this 1940 State Highway Map:

By 1958, the new highway alignment was in place, as seen on this topo map:

If I had known what I would find, I would've packed a picnic lunch and stayed a while, instead of eating Krystal burgers in the car on the way there. I didn't expect to be so overtaken by this seemingly ordinary stretch of abandoned roadway. The place was a reminder that magic and transcendence are often found where you least expect them.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Grant Park School: Gone but (not?) Forgotten

In 2013, I wrote an article for BURNAWAY Magazine about the importance of preserving neighborhood schools, and what we lose when they're gone. I mentioned Grant Park School as one that was a casualty of interstate construction, but recently someone commented and said that's not quite accurate. The original Grant Park School was lost as I'd reported, this commenter said, but a later Grant Park School still stands as The Arts Exchange. So I went to check it out.

The Arts Exchange - confirmed as the former Grant Park School - is a Spanish Colonial Revival style building hiding in the shadow of I-20 at the end of Kalb Street, a remnant street that was once part of a connected street network in the Grant Park neighborhood. The Arts Exchange opened in 1985 and won an award from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. Despite being in use today, the building is in a state of disrepair - so much so that when I approached, at first I thought it was abandoned. The cornerstone dates its construction to 1930, and it is indicated on the 1931-32 Sanborn Fire Insurance map as "New Grant Park School."

The original Grant Park School is also visible on the 1931-32 Sanborn map. It was a two-story brick building with a basement, built in 1903. Its location at Boulevard and Kalb Avenue is now in the middle of I-20, as I had mentioned in my BURNAWAY article.

Sanborn Map courtesy University of Georgia online collection.

A c. 1911 photo shows children on the steps of the Grant Park School. Its brick walls and stone foundation, with basement windows, are evident.

Photo courtesy Atlanta History Center.

The Arts Exchange is located adjacent to GlenCastle, better known to preservationists as the Atlanta Stockade. That building is currently boarded up and appears vacant - a surprise to me, since as far as I knew, it had been low-income housing operated by Charis Community Housing for a long time. Another investigation for another time, perhaps. However, on a hill beside the GlenCastle parking lot, I noticed a cornerstone dated 1903, listing members of the Atlanta Board of Education. Perhaps this is the cornerstone from the original Grant Park School. 

It's always sad to find remnants of historic buildings standing alone, as if the isolated piece apart from its whole could be expected to convey the story that the building itself once embodied. However, better to preserve remnants, I suppose, than for places to vanish without any indication that they ever existed. But as preservationists, we strive for more, and as a society, I hope we can do better. Schools, in particular, have the power to bring us together in a way few other building types can. They deserve to remain in use as living buildings, not as stone markers decorating empty parking lots.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Possum Poke in Worth County, Georgia

Rural Georgia certainly has no shortage of stories to tell. And sometimes those stories surprise you, like when you are minding your own business, driving down a highway in Worth County, and you stumble upon what appears to be a roadside park of WPA or CCC vintage. And when you get out to explore, you (how long can I keep up this writing-in-the-second-person narrative?) discover a monument that appears to be several decades younger than the surrounding site - and commemorates a former governor of Michigan.

Roadside park along US Highway 82 in Worth County

Although I have given it my best as far as internet research goes, I haven't been able to find any information on the old roadside park. However - and I mean this is the least-clickbait-sounding-way possible - what I did find is, arguably, even better.

Monument to Governor Chase Salmon Osborn

As it turns out, Chase Salmon Osborn, the former governor of Michigan to whom the above monument is dedicated, once had a winter retreat and hunting lodge in Worth County, just outside the small community of Poulan. The property, called Possum Poke, still exists, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

"Big Poke" at Possum Poke. (Photo credit: The Chase S. and Stellanova Osborn Home Page.)

From historical sources, Governor Osborn appears to be flamboyant and multi-faceted in the way only a late 19th/early 20th century politician could be. He made money in newspapers, timber, and iron ore, and after a decades-long political career, settled at his winter retreat in Georgia with his adopted daughter (also his secretary and "companion"), Stella Brunt. There the two of them spent a lot of time writing books - 17 in total, including A Tale of Possum Poke in Possum Lane - and in 1931, Miss Brunt changed her name to Stellanova. She and Osborn saw the light while at Possum Poke, and worked tirelessly for the creation of an Atlantic Union. That's right, they were secessionists. Governor Osborn is quoted thusly:
If ever the great masses of people in the world who are living under despots are organized under despotism, the self-governing peoples, who are in a hopeless minority, will be forced to unite for self-preservation.
Chase Salmon Osborn as a young man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

Governor Osborn passed away at Possum Poke in 1949, but not before marrying Stellanova Brunt, his adopted daughter, two days before his death, in part to ensure that she would carry on his vision of an Atlantic Union. And carry it on she did, for another nearly 40 years until her death in the 1980s. In fact, Stellanova Osborn was instrumental in getting Possum Poke listed in the National Register, as the only remaining place specifically associated with Governor Chase Osborn and the Atlantic Union.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tate Depot

Built in 1916, the former Louisville & Nashville Railroad depot in Tate exemplifies the rural combination depot form and style. The combination depot, serving both freight and passengers, is generally a 1 or 1 1/2 story tall, three-bay building with a freight room at one end, waiting rooms at the other end, and offices in between. A projecting bay on the track-side of the building houses the ticket office. Many of these depots had segregated waiting rooms. 

L&N 364 at Tate GA Sept 1966. Photo credit: George Lane, SSAVE. Some photo rights reserved; see this link at Creative Commons. For source photo, see this page at Flickr. Courtesy of
A through-the-window shot of the interior
Detail of freight room doors.

Often, railroads would hire an architect to produce a single depot design and these would be reproduced down the line. Though not exact replicas, several depots along the L&N line share similar features.

Ellijay Depot, c. 1912. Photo by Leamon Scott, courtesy of
Woodstock Depot, c. 1912. Courtesy of
Blue Ridge depot, c. 1906. Courtesy of

The Tate Depot remains noticeably intact, but has clearly suffered from neglect over the last couple decades. An approved $400,000 TEA grant from 2006 should be addressing this, but the project appears stalled. Of particular concern is the termite damage at the building's NE corner. An ill-thought alteration replaced a brick pier with a wood pier that is now home to a seriously overlooked termite colony - the sill plate is as soft as cardboard.

Termite damage on the Tate Depot

Monday, January 27, 2014

Buddy Candler's Briarcliff Manse in Disrepair

Briarcliff, the Georgian Revival mansion built for Asa Candler, Jr in 1920 sits vacant, and has for quite some time. The property was bought by Emory University in 1998 along with a dozen other buildings associated with the Georgia Mental Health Institute. The mansion in all of its decrepit misery is, astoundingly, located in historic Druid Hills, right here.

In 1910 Asa Candler, Jr, known to many as "Buddy", moved from Inman Park to a 42-acre farm in Druid Hills. He ran a commercial farming operation on the property that was lauded for its use of electric lights and fans to provide better conditions for the animals which reportedly increased yields.

In 1916, Buddy hired architects C.E. Frazier and Dan Boden to design his new home. Frazier must have been well known in Druid Hills at the time, having designed several large "English-American" houses that decade. Little is known about Boden. Buddy enlarged the mansion in 1925 with the three-story 'Music Hall' that included an incredibly large Aeolian organ, now owned by Wesleyan College in Macon.

"Abandoned Mansion" photography by Brian McGrath Davis

Perhaps the most distinguishing element to the mansion's history is the collection of exotic animals Candler kept on site. The collection included a Bengal tiger, four lions, a black leopard, a gorilla, baboons, and six elephants. Candler donated the entire menagerie of animals to what would later become the Grant Park Zoo.

The mansion also included two swimming pools, one open to the public for 25 cents per person. The pool had a neon-lit fountain and a concessionaire to buy Coca Cola and snacks.

In 1948, the Candlers sold the estate to the General Services Administration for use as a veterans hospital, which never materialized. Instead, the Georgian Clinic (later known as the DeKalb County Addiction Center) opened there as the first alcohol treatment facility in the state.

Today, the building is boarded up and only occasionally used for television and movie location filming. From Brian McGrath Davis' photographs and others, it is clear that the building is slowly rotting away.

It appears from Emory's 2005 master plan that they would like to demolish the 1950s-era Cross-shaped health building, its associated 'Bungalow' buildings, and the numerous pre-fab and utility buildings on the property and build housing for employees - though this plan does not seem to have any traction yet. The fate of Briarcliff is unknown, though, according to a PR piece on YouTube its too expensive to rehab and too expensive to tear down.

Sounds like Emory needs to initiate a capital campaign for this Architectural treasure...

Exterior of Asa Griggs Candler Jr.'s house (1922) on Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, Georgia, September 1953, courtesy of the Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library

Thanks for the tip on this sad story from an anonymous comment on this post.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

East Tennessee, Virginia, & Georgia Freight Depot

Architect Unknown

"The Peters Street Freight Depot was originally a 2-story structure with twin turrets in a modified Italianate Style. It was built to serve Atlanta's 'produce row," as well as other shipping needs of a growing city. Raley Brothers, Inc., Wholesale Grocers, have leased this building for the past sixty years, and have made extensive changes and repairs. 

The second story was removed in the late 1940s because the roof was badly deteriorated and the present tenant did not need the space. A new entrance was made in the side of the building because the railroad needed more space to accommodate automobile carriers. This change cut off access to the old rear entrance.

According to railroad records, the annual report for July 1, 1885 to June 30, 1886 shows an Atlanta freight house 50x400 feet contracted for; records for fiscal year ending June 30, 1887, show the new freight depot at Atlanta was completed. The depot was used by the railroad until about 1915. It was then leased for use as a pickle factory for a short time. Raley Brothers moved into the building in 1917-18, and has occupied
it continuously since that time."

What was left of the depot finally succumbed to a fire in 1992. Today the site is a dog park, and probably waiting to be redeveloped (into apartments no doubt). The blog Return to Atlanta posted about the building (and the Atlanta Historic Resources Workbook) and has a couple old birdseye view maps of the depot (check out that Mansard roof!). The rest of the blog is worth a look too, though the author doesn't appear to be actively posting anymore.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Atlanta Coca·Cola Bottling Company

George Harwell Bond, Architect

"The Coca-Cola Bottling Company moved to its present location in 1939. The plant was constructed on the site of one of the ramparts dug by General Sherman. 

A rectangular two-story structure, the building is given a vertical emphasis by its two-story entrance and by pilasters dividing the rows of factory windows. Constructed of brick and limestone, the building exhibits elements associated with the Art Deco style. The stepped-back facade features an outstanding entrance. Framing the doors are two-story ribbed shafts and a lintel with a pair of concentric squares and the name "Coca-Cola" carved on it. Above the double doors with their stylized grillwork is a bas-relief sculpture by the noted Atlanta artist Julian Harris. It features a Coca-Cola bottle superimposed on a sunburst surrounded by signs of the zodiac.

The Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company, owned for many years by the Montgomery family, was acquired by the CocaCola Company in 1979."

It appears that the building was demolished in the mid to late 1980s. The site is currently surface parking (an all-too-common end use for historic places). The current bottling facilities are located near Hartsfield-Jackson airport.

Views of the exterior of the Coca-Cola Company Bottling plant located on 864 Spring Street in AtlantaGeorgia, c. 1950. Kenan Research Center, Atlanta History Center.