Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
125 Edgewood Avenue, S.W.
The Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant is located on the southeast corner of Edgewood Avenue and Courtland Street. The small, two-story Victorian commercial building was the site of the first Coca-Cola bottling plant in Georgia. It was here that the franchise concept was first applied to the soft drink industry. Historically, this structure is significant to the city, state, and nation for its early role in the eventual world-wide distribution of Coca-Cola, a soft drink which has become an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the United States. It was for that reason the National Park Service has recognized the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant as a National Historic Landmark.
Early in the 1800s, apothecaries began experimenting with omitting soda from artificial mineral water and adding sweeteners and flavoring agents. By the 1850s, Americans were enjoying these fruit-flavored effervescent drinks. Soda fountains became popular additions to apothecaries and within the next two decades, the term "soft drink" was coined for the non-alcoholic beverages.
John S. Pemberton created the flavoring agent or syrup for Coca-Cola in Atlanta in 1886. He test marketed the drink at the pharmacy of Dr. Joseph Jacobs, much to the delight of Jacobs' customers. Pemberton had several investors, but in 1888 because of ill health, he sold his own interest to Asa G. Candler. Three years later, Candler bought out all other investors and controlled the soft drink syrup. A pharmacist himself, he altered the recipe slightly to assure uniformity, and in 1892 incorporated the Coca-Cola Company. During the 1890s, Coke remained almost exclusively a fountain drink with Candler supplying the syrup.
Joseph A. Biedenhorn, a Vicksburg, Mississippi soda water bottler, is generally credited as being the first bottler of Coca-Cola, mixing Candler's syrup with his seltzer. The founders of the Coca-Cola bottling industry, however, were Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead. They contracted with Candler in 1899 to assume full responsibility for bottling the soft drink from coast to coast (with the exception of Texas, Mississippi, and New England where distribution rights were being negotiated). The agreement stated that they would buy all syrup from Candler and his company would furnish general advertising.
The first bottling plant of Thomas and Whitehead opened in Chattanooga during the fall of 1899, but turmoil soon split up the partnership along with the bottling rights. Thomas acquired rights to the Northeast and West Coast. In April 1900, Whitehead, with financial assistance from John T. Lupton, organized the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant in Atlanta. He licensed bottlers in the Southeast, and eventually the Southwest and Midwest areas of the country.
The Atlanta plant began operation at the small, two-story Victorian building on Edgewood Avenue and College Street (now Courtland Street). Unable to service all their districts from a single plant, Whitehead and Lupton established the franchise system for bottling the soft drink. Sixteen plants were established locally, with national bottling and distribution facilities soon to follow. By 1920 almost 1000 independent bottlers served the nation, boosting local economies and enriching the parent bottlers and Candler's Coca-Cola Company. Whitehead and Lupton outgrew their tiny facility within a year.
The Candler era of the soft drink firm's history ended in 1919, when financier Ernest Woodruff purchased the company for $25 million. Robert Woodruff, son of the financier, became president of the firm in 1923, introducing personnel training programs and quality control standards, and continuing innovative sales and marketing techniques. Woodruff stepped up Coca-Cola's expansion to foreign markets, a process Candler had begun earlier.
According to the official history of the Coca-Cola Company, the contract between Candler and the team of Whitehead and Thomas was one of the most important commercial contracts in history. It remains the keystone upon which the Coca-Coal bottling business rests and the basis for the unique distribution system characterizing the entire soft-drink industry. The Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant was one of the soft drink company's earliest establishments and the birthplace of the franchise concept which eventually enabled Coke to be sold around the world. The Edgewood Avenue building is one of the earliest extant historic structures associated with Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
DIXIE COCA-COLA BOTTLING COMPANY PLANT
The old Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant is located on an irregularly shaped lot on the southeast corner of Edgewood Avenue and Courtland Street. The original building is irregularly shaped as well, and wraps its angles around the street corner. There is no set-back from the sidewalk. A brick addition is in progress on the south side and rear of the building. A parking lot is adjacent to the addition.
The two-story Victorian building was constructed to combine work and residence, with a storefront at ground level and living quarters upstairs. The structure is eclectic, combining architectural elements of several styles. Brick, stone, and wood building materials give the facade the chromatic and textural contrast associated with the Queen Anne style, while the Edgewood Avenue facade employs an Italian Renaissance-inspired arcade. A stepped gable, common to Gothic Revival structures, tops a portion of the northern facade. The first-floor corner of the building at Edgewood and Courtland contains an arched window opening with a short Romanesque column and matching pilasters. Above that opening sits a square, wood-shingled turret with three rectilinear windows and pyramidal slate roof. A winding staircase with wrought iron railing on the west side of the building terminates at a square stoop, accessing the residential quarters on the second floor.
This architecturally eclectic little building has served a wide variety of tenants since it was the Coca-Cola Bottling Company Plant. After 1901, it housed several pharmacies, a dry goods store, a plumbing and heating company, a flag and bunting decorating business, and a shop for radio sales and service. In 1966 the Atlanta Baptist Association, Inc. purchased the structure for a student center for Baptist students attending Georgia State University. It has served this function since that time.
Much of the building's facade and some of its floor plan have been changed over the years. Architectural elements original to the structure have been altered or removed during its varied history. At the present time, construction of an addition is underway and renovation/restoration of the old bottling plant is to follow. The one-story addition will contain a reception area, lounge, offices, meeting room, and a kitchen and pantry. Plans for renovation of the older building include a dining hall, game room, conference room, offices, and a library. Restoration of the facade is also planned. The cleaning, restoring, and/or repairing of original architectural features will return integrity to this historically important Atlanta landmark.
Atlanta City Directories, scanned years from 1902-1980.
Atlanta Journal, 19 Nov 1950; 22 Nov 1959; 25 July 1975; 24 Nov 1977.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form prepared by Lee Dunagan, Consultant for AUDC, 1976.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form for National Landmark Designation, 1978.
Signal, 8 April 1980.
Survey of Historic Sites and Landmarks, Atlanta Civic Design Commission, N.D.
Garrett, Franklin. The Coca-Cola Company: An Illustrated Profile of a Worldwide Company. The Coca-Cola Company, 1974.
Group I (2) (3)
FINDINGSThe proposed nomination of the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Company meets the above-referenced 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.