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Haas-Howell BuildingDesignated: Landmark Building Exterior
December 23, 1991

75 Poplar Street
Fronting 90' on the north side of Poplar Street, and 50' on the west side of Forsyth Street at the northwest corner of Poplar Street and Forsyth Street
District 14, Land Lot 78
Fulton County, City of Atlanta
Existing Zoning SPI-1

Construction: 1920
Architect: Neel Reid

Located within the Fairlie-Poplar District in Atlanta's Central Business District is one of Atlanta's early twentieth century office buildings, the Haas-Howell Building. This building is located on 75 Poplar Street, at the intersection of Poplar and Forsyth. As one of the city's early skyscrapers, the building represents the expansion of commercial businesses from Five Points north and northwest. The building was designed by Atlanta's renowned architect Neel Reid in the Beaux-Arts Style for the prosperous Haas-Howell Insurance Company.

LOCATION AND HISTORY

At the turn of the century the Fairlie-Poplar District went through some very dramatic changes. City directories indicate that in 1900 the area was essentially residential with nearby commercial establishments to serve it. It was where the people who worked in the neighboring Five Points lived. But as technology advanced and the city growth began northward, the Fairlie-Poplar area changed from residential to high-rise commercial.

By 1910 Poplar Street saw its first commercial business and by 1919 the whole street had become commercial as had the rest of the Fairlie-Poplar District. So when Herman Haas and his partner, George Arthur Howell, built the Haas-Howell Building on 21 Poplar Street there were many tenants seeking available office space.

The Haas-Howell Company is one of Atlanta's oldest insurance companies. It was founded in 1891 by Aaron Haas. In 1904, Herman Haas joined his father's firm becoming Haas, Son & Howell. In 1912, Aaron retired from the business changing the name back to Haas-Howell once again. The company continued to prosper and in 1933 added a partner by the name of Dodd. The company remained an integral part of Atlanta's insurance business through the 1950s. It was in 1960 that the business expanded beyond insurance into the real estate field. Real estate became so successful for the company that by 1980 insurance was dropped from the company advertisement.

During the period of 1920 to 1984, the Haas-Howell Insurance Company occupied the eighth floor of its own building. The building's other tenants included a multitude of professional firms, from engineers to lawyers. In 1928 the street address changed from its original 21 Poplar Street to its current address of 75 Poplar Street.

ARCHITECTURE

The Beaux-Arts Style refers essentially to the aesthetic principles enunciated and perpetuated by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Neel Reid, the architect of the Haas-Howell building, was a student of this school and used this style in many of his residential and commercial structures.

There are many phases of Beaux-Arts Style which essentially lasted from 1880-1920. Near the end of its popularity, the style moved from ornate design to more sedate forms. This is true of the Haas-Howell Building whose Beaux-Arts architecture is very understated in comparison to the ornate U.S. Customs Building across the street. Its two-story base is a smooth heavy ashlar stone with quoined corners. The entrance way, located on Poplar Street, features an arched doorway with decorative fruit swags framing it and the building name carved above it. The facade is symmetrical with ten windows across each facade. The outside windows consist of two pairs of single-hung windows with the middle six windows double-hung. Windows at street level are large segmental arched display windows. The top floor is separated from the seven stories below by decorative molding. The slightly eaved overhang roof is supported by decorative brackets.

JOSEPH NEEL REID

Joseph Neel Reid was born in Jacksonville, Alabama on October 15, 1885. He came to Macon, Georgia when he was eighteen years old. Reid first became interested in architecture when his mother hired architect Curran Ellis to remodel their house. Ellis took the bright and talented Reid to work as an apprentice in his business. He showed such promise that Ellis encouraged Reid to move to Atlanta for more intensive training.

Reid landed a job immediately with the office of architect Willis F. Denny. It was at this time that Reid met Hal Hentz, an Emory graduate who was superintendent of the construction for the Chandler Building. Hentz and Reid became good friends and decided to enroll in Columbia University School of Architecture together. After a year, the two friends enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

In 1907 Reid was summoned to return to the United States by his father for financial reasons. Upon returning from Paris, Reid remained in New York, and worked as a draftsman in the firm of Murphy and Dana. In 1909 Reid came back to Atlanta intending to set up his own practice. He summoned his friend Hal Hentz back from Europe to join him, and the two entered into a partnership that would evolve over the years into the southeast's most distinguished architectural office.

Their first commission was the Georgia Life Insurance Building in Macon. From then on commissions came readily to the firm. In 1913 Rudolph Adler joined the firm as a partner. Hentz described their partnership as a very harmonious one with Adler acting as the business man, Reid the creator and designer, and himself as the public relations man.

Some of the many buildings Reid designed are Rich's, Muse's, Emory University Hospital, Brookwood Train Station, Southern School Book Depository (now the Apex Museum) as well as many of the homes in Druid Hills, Buckhead, and Ansley Park. Reid designed not only the exteriors of the houses but the interiors as well. He was also known for the landscape gardens that accompanied his homes. Some of the most noteworthy houses are the Andrew Calhoun House, Draper-Robitsher House, Asa Candler House, as well as many others in Atlanta, Macon, and LaGrange.

Neel Reid was diagnosed as having brain cancer in 1923 just as he was reaching the height of his career. He died at his home in Roswell, Georgia on February 14th, 1926.

REFERENCES

Atlanta City Directories, 1900-1984.

Atlanta Historical Society File on Fairlie-Poplar District.

Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs, Volume II, Volume III, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. 1954.

Lyon, Elizabeth. "Business Buildings in Atlanta: A Study in Urban Growth and Form" Doctorate Thesis, Emory University, 1971.

National Register Nomination form for the Fairlie-Poplar District.

SHPO File on Fairlie-Poplar District

The Temple, File on Jewish Businessmen in Atlanta's History.

CRITERIA
(criteria descriptions)

Group I (1) (2) (3)
Group II (1) (3) (6) (7) (9) (10) (11)
Group III (1) (2) (3)

FINDINGS

The proposed nomination of the Haas-Howell Building meets the above referenced criteria, as well as the minimum criteria, for a Landmark Building or Site as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.

Contact Info
City of Atlanta
Atlanta Urban Design Commission
(AUDC)
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 3400
Atlanta, Georgia 30335-0331

Tel: 404.330.6200
Fax: 404.658.6734

Doug Young
dyoung@atlantaga.gov

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Last updated: 6/11/2013 1:13:21 PM