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.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Burns Cottage

Thomas H. Morgan, Architect

"Burns Cottage, clubhouse for the Burns Club of Atlanta, is the only replica in the world of Robert Burns' birthplace. The Burns Club, a social, literary and memorial society, was organized in 1896. After meeting for 14 years in members' homes, they contracted with Thomas H. Morgan, club member and prominent local architect, to plan a replica of the poet's birthplace in Ayr, Scotland. Except for the additions at the rear, the Atlanta cottage is an exact duplicate of the Ayr cottage. Construction materials differ. The Ayr cottage is built of rubble stone with clay-and-grass mortar and thatched roof; the Atlanta cottage is Georgia granite with an asbestos shingle roof.

The cottage is curved just as Burns' birthplace was curved to conform with the curving road it fronted. Windows are very small because in Burns' day Scots were taxed according to number and size of windows and panes. 

The public is invited to visit. Caretakers living on the premises conduct tours."

The Burns Cottage is relatively unchanged since 1981, though it appears that it is no longer open to the public. It was listed on the National Register in 1983 and is not locally designated.

The Atlanta Historic Resources Workbook

In the late 1970s, just over a decade from the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act and just prior to the tax acts that created the historic preservation tax credit, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission  (AUDC) began a survey of Atlanta's historic resources. In 1981, with the help of a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the survey was greatly expanded and culminated in the Atlanta Historic Resources Workbook. This nearly 300-page publication represents the first, and perhaps the last time, the City of Atlanta has comprehensively surveyed their domain to determine the existence and condition of its historic resources.

In many ways the Workbook was forward thinking: the inclusion of just a few buildings not quite 50 years (e.g. the Academy of Medicine building), recognition of the value of embodied energy (though that term had not yet been coined), and the suggestion that "conservation" is a more appropriate term than "preservation" to represent all that we do in the field of the historic built environment. The authors of the workbook recognized that Atlanta was lagging behind other cities in their efforts to identify and protect its historic resources. Their efforts did much to catch the city up. However, after nearly three decades, many of the historic resources identified as being important to Atlanta's legacy are gone, and of the nearly 248 sites and 27 districts identified in the Workbook, only 58 sites and 17 districts receive formal protection (and even these are sometimes lost). 

Over the next few months Rag and Bone will be revisiting these sites to see just how far we have come.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Who Lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea and is Unwelcome in Spring Grove Cemetery?

In 1844, the Cincinnati Horticultural Society formed a cemetery association with the purpose of founding a picturesque cemetery in their city that would provide a stark contrast to the grim churchyards, which were quickly overcrowding after recurrent cholera epidemics.  They were part of a grand tradition of the stately burial ground, the rural cemetery, which began outside Boston with Mount Auburn in 1832 and echoed similar funerary landscapes across the pond in Europe.  

Rural Cemeteries were romantic landscapes, designed to create seemingly natural settings, rich with lush and diverse vegetation, rolling hills, ponds and streams, and narrow, curvilinear paths and roads that would slow processions and visitors alike to a "stately pace."  Mount Auburn was the prototype and remains the standard bearer to this day.  The rural cemetery began a transformation of the graveyard to a place that was as much for the enjoyment of the living as a resting place for the dead. As our interests and needs have continued to evolve with each generation, the cemetery and funerary industry have quickly followed suit, leading to numerous forms of landscapes, including the lawn-type and, more recently, the green cemetery. 

c.1880 Rendering of Spring Grove Cemetery (Courtesy of Ohio Memory)
In 1845, Spring Grove Cemetery opened for business ~ and it remains active to this day.  Horticultural societies would often play an important role in the founding of cemeteries of this type, as they were always intended to become some of the largest and most impressive parks in their cities. Spring Grove was unique in that it was used as an arboretum for the study of plants, with ornamental plant varieties in excess of 4,300 by 1850 (and 11,300 nursery plants).  The marriage of romantic architecture, landscape design, and ornamental horticulture, made these sites breathtaking places for contemplation, memory, and for an afternoon stroll or picnic. 

Designed cemeteries like these were typically characterized by particular architectural forms. Ornate gravestones, elaborately-carved tablets (often uniform markers for a family plot), large pedestals, obelisks, a mixture of simpler, traditional forms with breathtaking statuary, family vaults and crypts.  The architectural diversity that exploded in America's cemeteries at this time was revolutionary, to put it mildly.  But certain architectural forms had always been associated with certain landscape types, prior to the rural type and ever since.  Churchyard cemeteries were typically known for having tall and thin tablets, interspersed with the occasional ledger or box tomb.  The lawn-type, pioneered by Spring Grove's own Adolph Strauch, featured mostly low-lying and flush markers that would not obstruct the park-like appearance of the grassy lawn. National Cemeteries were designed to evoke a sense of solidarity and equality; bleached white marble tablets standing in rank. Heritage Conservationists that manage active cemeteries face a challenge of maintaining the integrity of these sites ~ that is preserving the historic design and setting ~ without impeding the ability for plot-holders to express themselves in the commemoration of their loved ones.  It is a fine line with dire consequences for those who cross in either direction.

Walker's Monument (AP)
When 28 year old, Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker was strangled to death in a Colorado hotel room by her boyfriend on Valentines Day of this year, her family found a very personal tribute to mark her grave.   It seems, there was little question as to what Kimberly loved ~ a strange little filter-feeder with square pants, a talent for fast-food grilling, and a mentally-handicapped starfish that lives under a rock for a best friend.  Her family commissioned a 7-foot granite SpongeBob, donning a military uniform with Walker's name and rank.  A second, matching SpongeBob was also made for Walker's twin sister, Kara, who is still alive;  Kimberly's grave would be the first in a pre-purchased family plot.

The family apparently made the arrangements through Spring Grove and with the cemetery's approval, the monuments were placed on October 10th.  The next day, Spring Grove's management contacted the family to notify them that the monuments would need to be taken down.  A public statement from Spring Grove President and CEO, Gary Freytag, explained:
...the family chose a design with the guidance of a Spring Grove employee who unfortunately made an error in judgement. The monument does not fit within the Spring Grove Cemetery guidelines, was not approved by senior management and cannot remain here. As an historic cemetery, we must constantly balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past. We are working with the Walker family and are committed to design a solution, at our expense, that will properly memorialize Kimberly within the context of Spring Grove's historic landscape and guidelines. 
Is this right?  There is no easy answer to that question.  If you have one, then you probably haven't given the matter sufficient thought. Between throwing an employee under the bus (or the media in this instance) and patting his team on the back for working on a solution (since SpongeBob "cannot remain" there), Freytag makes an important point: Spring Grove's management has a responsibility to balance the wishes of current customers with those from the previous 160+ years.   

Heritage Conservationists and preservation enthusiasts alike, frequently preach the perspective of the building ~ that is, that visitors, owners, and even entire generations are merely one phase in the life of a building.  This perspective is more common in Europe and farther reaches of the globe, where buildings have survived in use for five or six centuries, or more;  but in the States, it is only associated with what we consider to be properties of exceptional age or importance.  You just don't buy a 200 year old plantation house to gut the interior and strip it to the studs so that you can make it as "energy efficient" and comfortable as any McMansion.  That's asinine, right?  The proper way to live in one of these homes is to seek a compromise between modern comfort, the architect's vision, and often the wishes of previous owners.  We are caretakers or stewards, nothing more.  There is no place where this balance is more critical than an historic cemetery, especially one that is still active.  Cemetery caretakers have to balance the wishes and aesthetic tastes of each generation to bury within their boundaries with the original vision for the cemetery and each generation that left a loved one in the ground and a fingerprint above it.  At least, that is, in the historic section.

Spring Grove is a National Historic Landmark (NHL), an honor reserved for the most significant of historic properties in this country. Spring Grove was bestowed with this honor in 2007 primarily as the birthplace of the lawn-type design movement, which was developed by Adolph Strauch during his tenure as superintendent from 1855 to 1883.  Strauch didn't display the sort of reverence for the past expressed above, rather he set about creating a new vision for the cemetery; one that would become the defining principles of his signature movement: no fences or hedges around plots permitted (existing ones could not be repaired or replaced in the future); one monument per plot surrounded by flush markers; and all designs would be approved by senior administrators.  Where the rural cemetery was a marriage of romantic ideals of architecture and landscape design, the lawn-type cemetery was a divorce of the architecture and the landscape got to keep the house.  Over time, the cemetery would appear less-crowded, particularly in what would have been the newer sections at that time. In Strauch's time, the cemetery grew another 200 acres and it would continue to grow throughout the following century. 

The NHL boundary for Spring Grove encompasses 345 acres with the road that terminates at the historic northern gate as it's northern limit.  It is within this area of the cemetery, that Spring Grove's management has to practice the utmost caution and consideration in the treatment of existing markers and the placement of any new ones.  The areas within the cemetery that reside beyond this boundary would have been excluded because they were developed after the period of significance (defined as 1845-1925), and as such, do not reflect the architectural traditions and ideals that have made this place significant.  

Spring Grove's Map. Walker's grave is in the highlighted section (above), while the approximate northern limit of the NHL boundary is shown in orange (below). The oldest sections of the cemetery are not shown. 

Kimberly Walker was buried in Section 144, which is near the northernmost limits of the active cemetery, making it among the most recent to be developed.  According to the site map available on their website, there are some 300 acres north of this that have been set aside for future use.  For the casual viewer, this would seem to be pretty far from the older sections of the cemetery; and in this instance, the casual viewer would be right.  As a Heritage Conservation professional, I can say that what happens in Section 144 would have no impact on the historic integrity of the NHL (or the historic cemetery, in general), so long as you limit any monuments to one story in height and don't build any towers.  So, this is not an issue of historic integrity.  It is about appearances ~ conflicting aesthetics in a modern cemetery. 

So, how does one resolve this conflict?  The obvious solution is to return the SpongeBob twins to the Walker Family plot, where they were originally installed.  Are they unusual for the setting?  Sure ~ but they give character to an otherwise typical burial section and, more importantly, the markers were approved.  Cemetery administrators decided after the fact that the SpongeBobs conflict with the aesthetic they want for their cemetery; this sort of issue is nothing new.  But rather than learn from what they perceive to be a mistake and try to avoid this scenario in the future, they have chosen to undo it at considerable cost to themselves and the emotional expense of a bereaved family.  That is their prerogative ~ if they want to weather the negative publicity, let them;  however, do not justify that action with a responsibility to the past.  There is a world of difference between the goal of design guidelines for an historic district and design guidelines for, lets say, a new urbanist retirement community in suburban Orlando, Florida, dating to the 1990s.  The former is like preserving a finished painting, while the latter is about actively painting by numbers to realize some vision for the finished product.  The caretakers of Spring Grove Cemetery have the difficult, but not unusual, responsibility of doing both concurrently; but they do a disservice to the preservation community when they blend these roles to justify an unpopular decision that essentially has nothing to do with their responsibility as stewards of an historic property.  It undermines the work of other preservationists trying to make similar cases for more context-sensitive additions in their historic properties.  So, Spring Grove... return the Bobs.  

(Courtesy of Timeline Cover Banners & Nickelodeon)