Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
875 West Peachtree Street, N.W.
Located on the southeast corner of West Peachtree and Seventh Streets, the Academy of Medicine displays an architectural style, scale, setback and landscape features unique to the Midtown area of Atlanta. This building is significant to the city in three categories. It is historically significant as the home of Atlanta's oldest medical society, the Medical Association of Atlanta, established as the Brotherhood of Physicians in the 1850s. Architecturally, the Academy of Medicine is significant for its Neo-Classical design attributed to Philip T. Shutze, though R. Kennon Perry supervised the project. As a central meeting place for the medical society, where members shared ideas, discussed medical techniques and theories for many years, as well as the more recent site of recitals, concerts and small conferences, the Academy of Medicine also possesses cultural significance in the City of Atlanta.
Organized medicine developed in Fulton County in 1854 with the establishment of the Brotherhood of Physicians, soon after known as the Atlanta Medical Society. Suspended during the Civil War, medical society meetings resumed in Atlanta after 1865, though the society's name changed with several reorganizations over the years. The group has been known as the Atlanta Society of Medicine (1865), the Atlanta Medical and Surgical Union after a merger with the Fulton County Medical Society (1872), the Atlanta Academy of Medicine (1873), the Fulton County Medical Society (1905), and the Medical Association of Atlanta (1971).
Prior to construction of the Academy of Medicine building in 1941, the medical society held its meetings in various locations. From 1902 to 1916, the Carnegie Library provided meeting rooms and medical library services to the organization. After 1916, the society moved into temporary quarters in the Chamber of Commerce building, and in 1923 the group purchased the Woods White home on Prescott Street for its meeting and library needs. In 1939 the group purchased the site on West Peachtree, and two years later financed the construction of the more prestigious Academy of Medicine building.
In addition to meeting and library facilities, the new site served as a training center for interns and society members. Though these formal educational classes were short-lived, the informal exchange of ideas among members contributed to the growth of medical knowledge in Atlanta for many years.
Over the past two decades, an emphasis on specialization within the medical profession, and increased access to medical information via hospital libraries, conferences, etc., reduced the demand for use of the Academy of Medicine as a meeting place for the medical community. By the late 1970s, the building was in disuse and disrepair. In 1981 the medical society leased the property to Atlanta Medical Heritage, Inc., a non-profit corporation responsible for raising funds and supervising a planned restoration of the building. The restoration adapted the structure for the leasing of meeting and office space, as well as use of the auditoriums, and was completed in 1983.
THE ACADEMY OF MEDICINE
The Academy of Medicine is an excellent example of Neo-Classical architecture. Though R. Kennon Perry (1890-1954) signed the plans for the structure and supervised the project for Hentz, Adler and Shutze, the design of the building is distinctly that of Philip T. Shutze (1890-1982). Shutze was a leading authority in the Neo-Classical style in the Southeast, designing mostly residential structures in Atlanta. The Academy of Medicine is one of the few non- residential, small institutional buildings in the city designed by this architect. Built in 1941, it was one of Shutze's later works.
Facing West Peachtree Street, the Academy of Medicine is centrally located on approximately one acre of land. The building is deeply set back from the main thoroughfare, and a lawn extends from the street to the building. Large oaks and magnolias contribute to the landscape features, framing the front facade of the structure. Shrubs line the building's foundation and a paved brick walkway leads to the main entrance. The rear portion of the property is a parking lot.
The five-bay building contains symmetrical flanking wings and end pavilions extending from the central pedimented portico on the front facade and the semi-circular bay on the rear. The portico features six Tuscan columns and a large, elaborate caduceus, the symbol of the medical profession. A centrally located cupola with Roman windows sits atop the standing-seam, hipped copper roof. Other symmetrical features include rounded-arched windows, and pilasters found on all corners of the building. On the north end of the structure is a recessed doorway with columns in antis. From the front portico, a vestibule leads into the domed rotunda which is central to the organization of the building. The semi-circular bay, housing a 300-seat auditorium, is entered from the east portion of the rotunda. Corridors lead to the flanking pavilions which have been adapted as meeting rooms. The basement contains offices used by the Medical Association of Atlanta.
The Academy of Medicine combines exceptionally high artistic values, quality craftsmanship, and integrity. The Neo-Classical style is recognized as important to twentieth century architecture in the United States. Architect Philip T. Shutze has been acknowledged by scholars of architectural design as a regional master of the Neo-Classical and someone worthy of national recognition. Atlanta is fortunate to have the Academy of Medicine as an intact example of the work of this architect.
The Academy of Medicine was constructed to serve as a central gathering place for members of Atlanta's medical society and to provide post-graduate instruction to the city's physicians. Changes in the city's demographics and the needs of the society's members eventually altered the demand for the structure on West Peachtree. An adaptive use restoration project was begun in 1981. When completed two years later, the building resumed its city-wide role in Atlanta as a gathering place. This time Atlanta's residents attend conferences, meetings, and musical recitals at the Academy of Medicine.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, E 8:1, April 21, 1983; B 3:1, April 23, 1983; H 1:4, June 19, 1983.
Fulton County Deed Records, Book 7795, p. 402; Book 8320, p. 94; Book 9356, p. 244.
Intown Extra, April 19, 1983, p. 19; April 24, 1983, p. 8; May 5, 1983, p. 18; June 20, 1985, p.11.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Kacy Ginn, National Register Researcher, Historic Preservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 1980.
Group I (1) (3)