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Hirsch Hall

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Hirsch HallDesignated: Historic Building Exterior
December 12, 1989

55 Coca-Cola Place, S.E.
Fronting approx. 50' on the south side of Coca-Cola
Place at the southwest corner of the intersection of Coca-Cola Place and Pratt Street
District 14, Land Lot 52
Fulton County, City of
Atlanta Existing Zoning SP1-1

Constructed: 1920-22
Architect: Eugene C. Wachendorff
Builder: Griffin Construction Company

The original Grady Memorial Hospital was located in an area that contained, for the most part, residential structures. A primary consideration for the selection of the site was undoubtedly the close proximity of the Atlanta Medical College.

The Medical College, established by Dr. J. G. Westmoreland, was chartered by the legislature on February 14, 1854 and the first lectures were held in City Hall. However, by June 21, 1855, a large brick building had been constructed on the northwest corner of Butler and Armstrong Streets. Maps from 1871 show the structure surrounded by residences and undeveloped land.

By 1892, the Grady Hospital building appears on a birdseye map. To the west and to the north, along Edgewood Avenue, a few commercial structures have appeared. In later years, both the medical facilities and commercial structures expanded. Hospital records reflect the purchase by the city of the remaining residences on the block in 1912.

Patients were transported to the hospital by a rubber wheeled, horse drawn ambulance. It was in 1911 that the hospital purchased its first motorized ambulance from the White Motor Company. The development of the Edgewood Street Railway by Joel Hunt made the hospital more accessible to patients and visitors, as did the much later development of the adjacent expressway system. Many patients walked to the clinics from the neighborhoods located in the Old Fourth Ward to the north.


It is difficult to conceive of a time when Atlanta had only one private hospital of any substantial size (St. Joseph's Infirmary, founded 1880), no municipal hospital, and no adequate facility that would treat the city's indigent citizens. Henry Woodfin Grady, the great spokesman for the "New South," had long advocated the establishment of a municipal hospital.

The establishment of the hospital partially resulted from a movement that began when the Atlanta Benevolent Home was turned over to a board of trustees in 1881. Shortly thereafter, the board met to decide its dissolution in order to secure "a wider field for doing good." Any new facility was to remain free of religious affiliation. In 1884 the board met to prepare for the sale of the home and to join the movement for a city supported hospital. A lawsuit later arose over closing the home, which in 1887 lacked funds to even open. By early 1890, all parties agreed to deed the Atlanta Benevolent Home property to the city so that it could be sold to support the hospital effort.

Following Henry Grady's death in December of 1889, Councilman Joseph Hirsch introduced a resolution to the Atlanta City Council providing for the establishment of a hospital in commemoration of Grady. The Council appropriated $30,000 and appointed Mr. Hirsch to head a committee to secure the rest of the funds. By mid-September of 1890, a lot on Butler Street was bought and graded. The approximately four acre lot was purchased from Col. L. P. Grant, who had previously given the city the 100 acres of land for Grant Park in 1882. The price was $13,500, but upon hearing the purpose for the purchase, Col. Grant returned $1,000 as a contribution to the new hospital.

On December 23, 1890, the cornerstone was laid with "impressive" Masonic ceremonies, a Zouave band, and an address by Mayor John T. Glenn. The Board of Trustees headed by Joseph Hirsch and the Building Committee chaired by Capt. J. W. English had selected Gardner, Pyne and Gardner as the architects. On May 25, 1892, the building was dedicated and on June 1, 1892, the first patients arrived.

Once established, Grady Hospital continually expanded. By 1912, when the second Grady Hospital (Butler Hall) was constructed, the hospital owned all of the block except a small parcel facing Armstrong Street. Two wards for male and female white patients, two wards for male and female black patients, a children's ward, a maternity ward, a laundry and kitchen had been constructed. All were connected by a series of extended corridors. A small morgue and a nurses home were also located on the property.

The first Grady Hospital maintained separate black and white wards, but with the advent of Jim Crow laws after the turn of the century, separate hospital structures were built. At the time that the second Grady Hospital was constructed in 1912, a separate black hospital was established on the site of the old Atlanta Medical College at Armstrong and Butler. That first black hospital, an imposing brick edifice, has unfortunately been demolished.

There were four distinct periods in the administration and funding of Grady Hospital. The institution was under the authority of a lay Board of Trustees from 1892 to 1921. During this period, the hospital was funded by the City and relied heavily on private fundraising and bequests from concerned citizens for its expansion programs. Between 1921 and 1931, the facility was under a politically appointed Council committee, whose members were subject to annual replacement. Local revenues remained the only source of official funding for the facility during this era. The third period of administration was marked by the re-establishment of a citizens Board of Trustees in 1931. Federal funds were available to the hospital for the first time during this period. In 1945 the Fulton/DeKalb Hospital Authority assumed the active management of all municipal hospital facilities. The counties now using the facilities have assumed a portion of the expense for running Grady.

An important highlight in the history of the hospital was the establishment of the Grady Hospital Training School for Nurses. Chartered on March 25, 1898, the school was the first of its kind in the state. Grady has also been for years the principal teaching hospital of the Emory University School of Medicine. More recently, it has also become the teaching hospital for the Morehouse School of Medicine. Medical progress at Grady was marked by the introduction of new technology and therapeutics soon after their acceptance by the American medical community. Among the innovations adopted by Grady were the x-ray machine, diet therapy following discoveries in nutrition research, safe blood transfusions after the perfecting of blood typing, sulfa drugs, and the establishment of a blood bank.


Henry Grady, a native of Athens, Georgia, moved to Atlanta in 1872 from Rome, where he was editor of the Rome Daily newspaper. He became the editor and part owner (with Alexander St. Clair-Abrams and Robert A. Alston) of the Atlanta Daily Herald. This paper, the rival of the Atlanta Constitution, lasted for four years. It was in a March 14, 1874 editorial in the Herald that Grady first used the term "New South".

A charming and perceptive man, as well as a great orator, Grady went on to become the legendary editor of the Atlanta Constitution (1879-1889). He was an outstanding reporter who promoted harmony between the North and South and encouraged industrialization and economic independence for the South. He was a great sports fan who did more than anyone else in the region to establish Southern baseball on a popular basis. He established the philosophy and direction that the City of Atlanta has followed since the days of Reconstruction. Grady died at the age of 39 on December 23, 1889, over one hundred years ago.


Hirsch Hall contained living accommodations, classrooms, a library and laboratories for the School of Nursing. The City provided $60,000 toward the construction. A bequest of $30,000 from Charles Currier, a local banker, was added to the fund, as well as a $10,000 bequest from Joseph Hirsch.

Joseph Hirsch was a German immigrant who, with his brothers Morris and Henry, made a substantial fortune in the manufacture and sale of clothing. He was also a banker, volunteer fireman, city council member, alderman and a founder of the Hebrew Orphans' Home. He served for decades as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Grady Hospital and as head of the Building Committee. His contributions to the hospital were substantial. Hirsch died in 1914.

The Board of Trustees had been concerned as early as 1912 that a new nurses home should be built. It was noted at that time that if four adjoining lots were purchased, the hospital would own the entire block.

The specifications for the new building stated that it was to be a five story plus basement, reinforced concrete building with brick veneer. According to the Building Committee minutes of January 1, 1912, "simplicity is to be the prevailing note in the design of this building."

A competition was held. The first place went to the firm of Blair, Kern and Adams, the second to Eugene C. Wachendorff and the third to Frances Palmer Smith. There was some delay in the construction, as the building was not erected until 1920. By that time, the Board minutes reveal that Blair, Kern, and Adams was replaced by the second place winner Eugene C. Wachendorff.

The rectangular plan, symmetrical facade, rectangular sash windows and masonry construction are elements that reflect the Georgian Revival style. Centered on the front facade is a broad porch over a raised basement and topped by a balustrade. The porch is supported by paired columns and, at the corners, three columns. The entrance door is also flanked by columns. Windows on this floor are full story, round arched windows with fan lights.

The five story building is divided into three levels by stringcourses: the first level consists of the basement and first floor, the second level consists of the three middle floors, and the third level consists of the top floor and roof structures. The prominent cornice supported by paired brackets does not fit the Georgian mode, but is a detail that can be found on apartment structures built throughout the city during this period. Later additions were made to the building.


Eugene Wachendorff (1880-1957) was an Atlanta native and the architect for a number of schools and hospitals both in Atlanta and other cities in Georgia (Columbus, Thomasville). His projects in Atlanta include Crawford Long Hospital (1909, 1922 addition), Booker T. Washington High School and Roosevelt High School. He worked on the subdivision of Grove Park in 1906.


Atlanta Journal and Constitution Magazine, March 8, 1914, pg. 7.

Birds Eye View of Atlanta. 1892.

Birds Eye View of Atlanta, 1871.

City Builder, Vol 9, #2, April, 1924, pg. 30.

Garrett, Franklin, Atlanta and Environs, 1954.

The Grady News, January 1967, Special Edition honoring the 75th Anniversary. Grady Hospital, Mss. 429, Atlanta Historical Society.

Granberry, Allen D. "Grady Memorial Hospital: The First Fifty Years, 1892-1942." M.A. Thesis, Georgia State University, 1989.

Grinnell, David A. and Renny Price. Draft National Register Nomination and additional research.

Handlin, David P. The American Home. 1979.

Hopkins, C. M. "City Atlas of Atlanta, Georgia," 1878.

The Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, Vol. 29 no. 3. "Early Medical History of Georgia and Savannah Hospitals," March 1940.

Sanborn Maps, Atlanta Historical Society.

(criteria descriptions)

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


The proposed nomination of Hirsch Hall meets the above-referenced criteria for a Historic 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
55 Trinity Avenue, Suite 3400
Atlanta, Georgia 30335-0331

Tel: 404.330.6200
Fax: 404.658.6734

Doug Young


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