Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
23 Peachtree Street, N.E.
The Olympia Building, a Five Points landmark, is defined by the intersection of Edgewood Avenue, Decatur and Peachtree Streets. Anchoring the south end of Woodruff Park (formerly Central City Park), this two-story building signifies one of Atlanta's most noted street corners. In years gone by, it was one of Atlanta's favorite meeting places, a place to "hang-out," gossip, grab a magazine and a "coke", or a ride home on a passing streetcar. As the automobile became popular and Five-Points became the center of Atlanta's growing metropolis, people stopped loitering at this corner and started driving by it. Tom Pitts, owner of the popular soda fountain located at the site of the Olympia Building, stated to the Atlanta Constitution when closing his store in the mid-1920s after almost three decades of operation, "Hundreds used to stop; now thousands pass." What had once been a stopping place in a pedestrian-oriented downtown, was now an automotive reckoning point in the heart of Atlanta: Five Points. While Tom Pitts' building made way for the Olympia Building in 1935-1936, the new structure maintained the site orientation and scale of the previous buildings.
One of a handful of Depression Era buildings in Atlanta, the Olympia has become reminiscent of an earlier time. The Olympia's low scale in contrast to the surrounding high rises is a reminder of a 19th century building in a 20th century world. Although only two stories high in comparison to the ten and twenty story surrounding buildings, the Olympia has maximum visibility from almost any direction. The placement of the building allows it to be seen while traveling south on Peachtree, west on Marietta, southwest on Edgewood and west on Decatur. The view from the building includes Woodruff Park and Underground Atlanta. Today, as in the past, it is a recognized landmark to those who come downtown.
In the mid-1840s, Atlanta's first post office and general store were located in a wood structure on the Olympia site, run by George Washington Collier, the city's first postmaster.
Collier built on the site three times. In the 1900s, the ground floor of the Collier Building was taken up by Tom Pitt's Soda Fountain. Mr. Pitts not only served milkshakes and a lemonade- lime drink, but a popular new drink called Coca-Cola.
The current structure was built in 1935-36 by Frank Hawkins, who founded the Third National Bank. Hawkins, a native of Carroll County Mississippi, moved to Atlanta from Memphis in 1895. He founded and became president of the Third C & S Bank of Savannah in 1919. Mr. Hawkins later made money on investments in Olympia Beach, Florida, hence the name, Olympia Building. Few structures had been built during the depression, consequently construction of the Olympia was taken as a signal of the beginning of new commercial growth and development in Atlanta.
THE OLYMPIA BUILDING
The Olympia Building was designed in the modern style by the firm of Ivey and Crook. The two story structure has display windows on the first level and large rectangular windows on the second level. The smooth stone facades have minimal detailing. The decoration primarily consists of rectangular blocks of Greek fretwork, stars, a band featuring a wave scroff motif and a simple cornice. The style of the structure reflects a period of transition between the more traditional revival style structures of the past decades and the approaching International Style glass and metal structures.
The architectural firm of Ivey & Crook was created in 1923 by two graduates of Georgia Tech who met while working at Hentz, Reid and Adler, the Atlanta architectural firm that produced some of this city's finest architecture in the 1920s. Ernest Daniel Ivey (1887-1966) had been in the first graduating class from Tech's new school of architecture in 1911; Lewis Edmund Crook (1898-1967) graduated from Tech in 1919. Upon graduation, Crook went to work as a draftsman under the celebrated Neel Reid at Hentz, Reid and Adler. There he met Ivey and in May of 1923 they resigned their jobs and formed a partnership that would last until their deaths, months apart in the winter of 1966-67. They produced a diversity of building types throughout Georgia and the Southeast, dividing the labor so that Crook created the designs and drawings while Ivey developed the specifications and acted as superintendent of the actual construction.
Among their first projects, and one that showed the influence of the sketching trip to Italy that Crook had taken with Neel Reid in 1922, was the fine Italianate villa that was built on Ponce de Leon at Clifton for Fenn O. Stone in 1923. Although Stone's "Paradiso" is gone, Walter T. Candler's "Lullwater" (1925) on Clifton Road and a number of other residences, most in what has come to be termed "Traditional" style, remain of the some 150 that they designed.
They also produced nearly 50 churches as well as a number of other industrial, collegiate, civic and commercial designs. Among the better known are Emory University's Candler Library (1924), Dining Hall (1926), and Chemistry Building (1926); Druid Hills High School (1928); the Callaway Memorial Clock Tower (1929); a number of other projects in LaGrange; Clark Howell Homes (1939); the First Baptist Church in Decatur (1951); as well as several more buildings at Emory after World War II.
Atlanta City Directories. 1900-1980.
Berkeley, Bill. "The Old Makes Way for the New," Atlanta Journal, August 14, 1980, Section 1-B.
Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs, Volume II., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1954.
Mitchell, William R. Lewis Edmund Crook, Jr. 1898-1967 "A Twentieth Century Traditionalist in the Deep South." Atlanta, Georgia 1984.
Oney, Steve. "The Atlanta Weekly," Atlanta Journal and Constitution.
Sanborn Maps, Volume I.
Saporta, Maria. "Olympia Building Returns to Original Purpose," Atlanta Constitution, November 19, 1981.
"The Olympia Building Sold", Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Dec. 10, 1981, pg 2-C.
"Vanishing Atlanta," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, August 18, 1980.
Who's Who in the South, Marquis Who's Who Inc., 1973, p.195.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of the Olympia Building 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.