Designated: Landmark District Exteriors
99 1/2 Forsyth Street
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places: 1989
Hotel Row is a single block of commercial buildings, primarily hotels, originally built to serve the needs of passengers from the main railroad station in Atlanta, Terminal Station. The buildings are the most intact row of typical early 20th century commercial structures which once formed Atlanta's original business district and include Concordia Hall, the Gordon Hotel, the Scoville, the Sylvan and 2 commercial structures. Several structures were developed by Samuel Inman and Walker P. Inman, two of Atlanta's most prominent businessmen and the majority of the structures were designed by the leading architects of the period. In addition, Concordia Hall which anchors the east end of the block, represents the important role the Jewish community played in the development of Atlanta. The Hotel Row District is significant in the areas of commerce, transportation, architecture and culture development.
The six structures that form the Hotel Row District are located on the north side of Mitchell Street. The block is bounded by the western property line of the property located at 233-235 Mitchell Street on the west and Forsyth Street on the east. The C&S Bank Building, constructed in 1947, fronts the entire south side of Mitchell Street across from Hotel Row.
DEVELOPMENT HISTORY/HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE
Hotel Row owes its use and appearance to two primary factors: the completion of Atlanta's Terminal Station on May 13, 1905, and the destruction of virtually the entire block of buildings in the Terminal Block fire of May 8, 1908. Terminal Station was designed by architect P. Thornton Marye, then of Washington, D.C. The new station was considered to be a vast improvement over the old facility on Wall Street which had been outmoded for two decades. Reinforced concrete was used for the last of the large all-covering train sheds built in the United States. The design of the monumental facades with its Renaissance revival arcades and multiple towers was ideal to create a suitable urban gateway, more specifically the "gateway to the South". As befits a railroad town, Atlanta staged a grand opening for the city's newest rail facility. Along with the opening of Terminal Station came the need for hotels and supporting retail services in close proximity to the site of the station which was located at the northwest corner of Mitchell and Spring (formerly Madison Avenue) Streets.
Richard Peters, one of Atlanta's pioneer settlers, was the major landowner in the area from the mid-nineteenth century to about 1880. Peters gradually sold this land and moved northward along Peachtree Street. In 1861, he sold the land on which Concordia Hall is located to Thomas M. Clarke who built a small house which survived the Civil War. In the 1890s, land along Mitchell Street evolved from primarily residential to commercial use. The 1900 city directory lists a drug store, 2 furniture stores, a grocer, 2 boarding houses, 2 "eating houses", a fruit salesman, millinery, and a sewing machine repair shop on the north side of Mitchell between Spring and Forsyth Streets. The Taylor Hill streetcar line ran down Mitchell Street before it crossed the railroad tracks at Nelson Street and headed toward the town of West End. Samuel Martin Inman had acquired several tracts of land along Mitchell Street as indicated by the Baylor Atlas of 1893. The Mitchell Street viaduct, just west of Spring Street, opened in 1899 and increased the flow of traffic as Mitchell Street became a primary means of entry and egress on the west side of downtown.
On February 10, 1903, the Atlanta Joint Terminal Company was organized by Southern Railway, the Central of Georgia Railroad, and the Atlanta and West Point Railroad. Property was acquired at the northwest juncture of Madison Avenue and Mitchell Street for the express purpose of building a new passenger depot. Reaction to this news was land speculation along Mitchell Street just east of the site. Samuel Inman erected The Terminal Hotel which opened on May 13, 1905, directly across from the station on land which he had acquired in 1904. Walker P. Inman developed the Child's Hotel which also opened for business in 1905. Adjacent to this building, he constructed a three-story brick building which opened the same year. The rapid development of the Spring-Forsyth block was soon repeated following the disastrous Terminal Block Fire of May 8, 1908. Between 4 and 7 A.M. fire broke out in the H. L. Schlesinger Candy Factory at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and Nelson Street. Thirty Buildings were destroyed in the blaze. Concordia Hall is the only building that survived this fire. Rebuilding along the north side of Mitchell Street began almost immediately. On July 23, 1908, Samuel Inman filed for a building permit to construct a five- story brick hotel designed by Morgan & Dillon and located at the corner of Mitchell and Madison; this second Terminal Hotel survived until destroyed by fire on May 16, 1938. Another three-story hotel was permitted by the city and constructed by Inman. This hotel was completed on December 15, 1908. Property values and rents increased as business returned to Hotel Row. On October 31, 1908, the executors of Walker P. Inman's estate sold his property to H. H. Dean for $100,000. (The land had been purchased by Inman in 1877 for $4,000.) In 1910 Dabney Scoville sold his heavily mortgaged hotel to Nathan Kaiser for $100,000. Scoville had purchased the property only five years earlier for $18,000.
The hotels on Mitchell Street were not in competition with the Piedmont or the Ansley which were considered to be grand, New York-style hotels located on "Upper Peachtree", beyond the immediate vicinity of the railroad station. Instead, the Mitchell Street hotels provided comfortable lodging directly across from the Terminal Station plaza. Druggists, tailors, the Astoria Cafe, and the L & J Soda Company provided a diversity of activity within a block's walking distance from the station.
In 1923 the Spring Street viaduct was opened (at which time the Mitchell Street viaduct of 1899 was rebuilt) and old Madison Avenue was buried beneath the new street above. The Spring Street viaduct improved transportation to the businesses along Marietta Street and Peachtree Street to the north. Union Station opened along the railroad right-of-way near Forsyth Street on April 18, 1930. The second Terminal Hotel (built by Samuel Inman at the northeast corner of Mitchell and Madison) was destroyed in the disastrous fire of May 16, 1938 in which 34 persons were killed. The one-story building which replaced the hotel was constructed in 1938 (and is not included in the Hotel Row District).
The decline of Hotel Row began in the 1920s due to the increased availability of automobile transportation and the construction of the Spring Street viaduct which made getting to hotels in the northern part of the city even easier. In the 1950s and 60s, the increase in air travel led ultimately to the demolition of the Terminal Station in 1971. Since that time, Hotel Row owners have found a variety of new uses for these structures as well as continued the traditional ones. Despite the demolition of Terminal Station, the Norfolk South Corporation still maintains offices at 125 Spring Street, one block from Hotel Row.
ARCHITECTURAL AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE
The district is architecturally significant because the structures that make up the block retain most of their original historic architectural character. They typify the early 20th century commercial structures once common in Atlanta but now rare because of extensive urban redevelopment. The district consists of one block of early 20th century commercial buildings, 3-4 stories high, brick load-bearing construction, timber interior framework, with stores at ground level. Individual descriptions follow.
CONCORDIA HALL, 1892
The three-story brick structure is located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Mitchell and Forsyth Streets and once featured a high Victorian facade with gabled roofs, arched windows crowned with pediments, parapet cornices, and a projecting onion dome turret at the southwest angled corner. Because of alterations in the early 20th century, much of the high-style detailing is gone. Concordia Hall spans five bays along Mitchell Street with each bay recessed between partially fluted brick pilasters. The 16" brick walls are load-bearing. Terra-cotta spandrels are located above the store lintels of the three second story windows; the corresponding third story windows contain semi-circular arches of terra-cotta detailing which continues above the foliated keystones and into the stone capped parapet wall. The end bays closest to the corner, feature horizontal bands of filigree work above and below the smaller singular or paired windows. These bands continue on the Forsyth Street facade.
The most striking feature of the Forsyth Street facade is the main doorway marked by bands of terra-cotta detailing with a circular window encased in a short Italianate arch. Above is a broken swan-neck pediment with a lyre as the central motif. The lyre was a symbol used by the Concordia Association. On the third floor a Palladian-style window at one time provided a further design element; the window arches and engaged brick columns are all that remain of this feature.
The Concordia Association was founded in Atlanta in June 1866 at the business of Morris Rich & Co. on Whitehall Street (which would ultimately become Rich's Department Store). According to the Southern Architect magazine of September 1892 "The membership of the Concordia Association embraces a large number of the wealthiest and most prominent of our Jewish fellow citizens, and forms the nucleus of their literary, musical and social aspirations and enjoyments." The Concordia Association membership included successful young businessmen who were of German or Hungarian background and wished to foster their cultural heritage. Dramatic performances, music and literary gatherings, debates and card playing took place in the club. Late in the nineteenth century, declining membership plagued the group and in 1901 the Concordia Association passed into receivership. Various Masonic groups utilized the building from 1902 to 1909. In 1912, Southern Railway adapted the upper floors to accommodate bedrooms for railway workers. In later years the building passed into private ownership; the lower floors have served as retail space.
GORDON HOTEL (formerly the CHILD'S HOTEL, and PRINCETON HOTEL)
This three-story, buff-colored brick building features three bay windows on the second and third stories, recessed between Ionic pilasters. A circular patterned motif in terra-cotta decorates the spandrels above and below the third story windows. The stone cornice is emphasized with small brackets. The ground level also features stone pilasters with Ionic capitals and a detailed cornice mold.
COMMERCIAL BUILDING, 1908
This red brick building contains three recessed window bays and a simple stone cornice. The brick is set in a running bond pattern. The ground level store fronts are emphasized by a second stone cornice.
SCOVILLE HOTEL (formerly the MARION HOTEL), 1908
This three-story, buff-colored brick hotel was built for Dabney H. Scoville who had acquired the property in 1905. The building features four, paired windows across the upper stories. Segmental stone lintels highlight the second level windows which also mark enlarged center voussoirs that connect to the windows above. Modillions and dentils ornament the heavy cornice line. The face brick is laid in common bond and features stone accents, particularly along the ground level. COMMERCIAL BUILDING (The FACTORY BUILDING), 1908
This three-story (stone frame and red brick) facade features three window panels recessed between clustered brick piers. The piers support heavy stone lintels beneath a pressed metal cornice which contains elaborate modillions.
The structure was rehabilitated in 1987 with assistance from the City's Historic Facade Program.
SYLVAN HOTEL, (also housed the WILLIAMS HOTEL ca. 1910) permit issued June 1908
Originally known as the Terminal Hotel Annex, this four-story structure is faced with buff-colored brick. For many years the Imperial Cafe was located in the retail space of this structure. It was built by George McCarty as a commercial and hotel building. Five bays wide, the building houses retail space on the street level with plate-glass commercial fronts of more recent vintage. Originally three separate storefronts with plate-glass windows over marble kick panels existed. At the second floor line, brick panels are recessed creating a simple frieze which appears to support a continuous stone sill serving the second floor windows. Windows are one over one, double hung, and set in pairs in the east and west bays. The remaining windows are single and set between monumental, three-story brick pilasters. A parapet extends several feet above a heavy pressed metal cornice with dentils.
The structure was rehabilitated in 1987 with assistance from the City's Historic Facade Program.
*pre-1926 street number
ARCHITECTS Bruce and Morgan
Alexander C. Bruce (1835-1927) was Atlanta's first member of the American Institute of Architects. Bruce trained in the Nashville, Tennessee office of English architect H. M. Akeroid. He practiced in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was elected an associate in the A.I.A. In 1879, he came to Atlanta to form a partnership with W. H. Parkins. From 1879-1882, he practiced with Thomas H. Morgan. They were responsible for business buildings in High Victorian Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and other revival styles, as well as buildings in the more utilitarian "Commercial Style."
Thomas Henry Morgan (1857-1940) was the founding President of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In 1876, Morgan began his study of architecture in the Knoxville office of A.C. Bruce. He studied with firms in St. Louis and New York before coming to Atlanta in 1879 as a draftsman for the firm of Parkins and Bruce. He became Bruce's partner in 1882. In 1889, he founded a monthly architectural journal, The Southern Architect and in 1906 founded the local A.I.A. Chapter.
Together Bruce and Morgan designed such buildings as the Grant Building (1898), All Saints Episcopal Church (1903), Citizens & Southern National Bank (1901), and the Healey Building (1913).
Willis Franklin Denny
Willis F. Denny (1844-1905) was a native of Louisville, Georgia who trained in architecture at Cornell University. Although Denny died at an early age, he contributed many significant structures to Atlanta's built environment. Among his commissions were: First Methodist Church (1903), St. Mark United Methodist Church (1902-1903, Landmark Building), the Kreigshaber House (1900, Landmark Building), and Rhodes Memorial Hall (1903, Landmark Building).
George W. Laine
George W. Laine is listed as an architect in the Atlanta City Directory from 1893 to 1909. For several years, Laine shared an address with Henrietta Dozier, Atlanta's first woman architect. Laine designed the Farlinger Building in 1898 and the Lowndes Building in 1897 (both demolished).
The following sources are on file at the Atlanta History Center Library and Archives:
Atlanta City Building Permits
Atlanta City Directories
Baylor Atlas, 1893
Concordia Association Organization File
Fulton County/Atlanta Joint Board of Tax Assessors Property Information Cards, 1954
Hotel Row Subject File
Lyon, Elizabeth, Atlanta Architecture--The Victorian Heritage, Atlanta, Atlanta Historical Society, 1976.
Mitchell Street Subject File
Prompt to Action: !00 Years of Organized Fire Protection, 1860-1960, Atlanta: Atlanta Firemen's Recreation Club, 1961.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Southern Architect, "The New Concordia Association Hall", September 1892, p. 264.
Terminal Hotel Subject File
Terminal Station Subject File
Garrett, Franklin M., Atlanta and Environs,
On file at the Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division:
National Register of Historic Places
Haddow, David F.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of Hotel Row District meets the above referenced criteria, as well as the minimum criteria, for a Landmark District as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.