Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
134 Peachtree St., N.W.
Constructed: 1929, alterations 1967 Architects: Pringle & Smith
Located on Peachtree Street opposite the Candler Building, the Rhodes-Haverty Building is a twenty-one story office building of steel-framed construction with a facade composed primarily of buff-colored brick trimmed in terra cotta. The three street facades of the building are each crowned in the top three stories by an arcade under a corbelled gable. In the 1960s, the original entrance canopies were removed and the ornate metal and plate-glass storefronts on the first two floors of the street facades covered by the existing granite veneer.
Developed by two of Atlanta's most prominent citizens in the early years of the twentieth century, the Rhodes-Haverty Building was, for a quarter century after its construction in 1929, the tallest building in Atlanta. Not only the height of the building, but its siting contribute to its visual prominence. The main facade faces Peachtree Street near the Houston Street intersection. The south facade can be viewed from Woodruff Park and the west (rear) facade faces Forsyth Street. Designed by the well-known architectural firm of Pringle & Smith, it represents an important transition in the city's skyscraper development on the eve of the Great Depression.
AMOS GILES RHODES
Born in 1850, in Henderson, Kentucky, Amos Giles Rhodes was of that generation of men who created the "New South" in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Arriving in Atlanta in 1875, he married Amanda Dougherty in 1876 and, living upstairs from his small store in Decatur Street, began in 1879 the furniture business that would make him rich. Credited with originating the installment plan of selling furniture, the bulk of his business was in medium-priced furniture for the middle class. In addition to the original firm of A. G. Rhodes & Son, he formed a partnership with J. J. Haverty in 1889. Headquartered in St. Louis beginning in 1891, the firm moved its headquarters back to Atlanta in 1893. Known as Rhodes-Snook-Haverty between 1894 and 1897, the furniture partnership with Haverty, which included a chain of seventeen stores, was amicably dissolved in 1908.
With men like Harry Collins in Miami, Rhodes formed partnerships that spread a chain of Rhodes-related furniture stores from Richmond to Miami to Little Rock. As was typical of the barons of the New South, Rhodes's business interests were diverse. In addition to his furniture businesses, he also served as president of several other companies, including Moncrief Realty Company in Jacksonville, Fla.; Lakewood Nurseries, Houston Land Company, Pittman Construction Company, Cherokee Slate Company, and the Rhodes-Haverty Investment Company in Atlanta.
Rhodes owned large amounts of property in Atlanta and Fulton County as well as in other cities across the Southeast. Included in these holdings was the 114-acre estate where he built Rhodes Hall in 1902-04, the site of the Chevrolet plant at Lakewood, the 150-acre site of Lakewood Nurseries on Pryor Rd., and several building on Marietta and Decatur Streets.
A generous man, Rhodes contributed heavily to both the old First Christian Church and the Peachtree Christian Church, being largely responsible for the latter. He donated land and funds to the Home for the Incurables, now the A. G. Rhodes Home in Grant Park, and the Home for Old Ladies, later called Eventide, in West End. Upon his death in July of 1928, he left substantial endowments to both Peachtree Christian Church and the Home for the Incurables.
JAMES JOSEPH HAVERTY
Born in Atlanta in 1858, J. J. Haverty was the son of two pioneer Atlantans, Thomas and Margaret Cannon Haverty. He went to work when he was fourteen, clerking for the local dry goods merchant John Ryan for ten years. After a year as manager of the carpet department of M. Rich & Bros., he quit Rich's in 1885, borrowed $600, and with his older brother Michael opened his own furniture store at 14 East Hunter Street.
Haverty and his brother managed the store jointly until 1889, when J. J. Haverty formed a partnership with A. G. Rhodes. That partnership, joined by Col. P. H. Snook between 1894-97, lasted until 1908, when it was dissolved and seventeen branch stores and nineteen or twenty other pieces of real estate were amicably divided. With Rhodes, he pioneered mass buying from the manufacturer and installment selling.
In 1909, he and his son Clarence established the Haverty Furniture Company with himself as president and later chairman. He was also president of the Haverty Realty and Investment Company and, after Rhodes's death, the Rhodes Haverty Investment Company which, as noted above, was responsible for construction of the Rhodes-Haverty Building in 1929.
Credited as being Atlanta's first serious art collector, Haverty housed one of the best and most extensive art collections in the city in his home. In 1924, 1925, and 1926, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, with Haverty as chairman of its Art Committee, sponsored exhibits by the Grand Central Art Galleries of New York. As the 1909 Music Festivals had sparked a local interest in grand opera and symphonies, so these exhibits stimulated the city's interest in the fine arts. Haverty was active in the Atlanta Art Association, which in 1926 secured the J. M. High house as its first museum. He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the High Museum of Art; chairman of the Art Commission of the City of Atlanta; and during the Depression, regional director of the Civil Works Art Project.
Haverty was a member of the Capital City, Piedmont Driving, and Athletic Clubs. A Roman Catholic, he was a generous supporter of St. Joseph's Infirmary in Atlanta and St. Joseph's Orphanage in Washington, Georgia. He died 18 October 1939.
Francis P. Smith, a student of the noted American architect Paul Cret (1876-1945), moved to Atlanta in 1909 to become chairman of the architecture department established at Georgia Tech in 1908. He worked in that capacity until 1922 when he returned to private practice. One of his first designs was for the building at 1035 Peachtree that now houses Brother Juniper's restaurant. The next year he formed a partnership with R. S. Pringle, an established Atlanta architect who had, with W. T. Downing, just completed the Bona Allen Building on Luckie Street.
The partnership lasted until 1934, during which time Pringle & Smith designed several important buildings in Atlanta. One of their earliest identified works was the Carlton Bachelor Apartments (1925) at 683 Peachtree Street. In 1926, they designed the ten-story Norris Building (demolished c. 1965). With their design for the Rhodes-Haverty Building in 1928, they began to break new ground with a design that was quite significantly different from the existing Beaux Arts- inspired skyscrapers. In the William-Oliver Building (1930) and the W. W. Orr Doctor's Building (1931), Pringle & Smith used the bands of low-relief, stylized geometric ornament that typified the Art Deco. These buildings represented the end of an era in the city's architectural history, for by the time construction of large buildings in Atlanta resumed following the Depression, a completely "modern" style had emerged.
The Rhodes-Haverty Investment Company had begun planning for a new office building as early as 1924, by which time they had assembled the property and asked for a survey for obtaining a loan "to erect on said premises a modern, up-to-date, fireproof office building; the cost of same to be seven hundred and fifty thousand ($750,000) dollars." An application for a building permit was made on 6 October 1928 by Southern Ferro Concrete Company and construction began shortly afterward.
Pringle & Smith's original design for the building called for the three gabled arcades at the top three floors to be defined by setbacks at each corner. Setbacks had begun to be used in other cities early in the century, in large measure due to public outcry at what taller and taller buildings were doing to the quality of life on the streets below. New York's landmark zoning ordinance of 1916 required certain setbacks that created an artificial "zoning envelope," that began to produce a ziggurat-like base and tower design, typical of "Modernist" architecture. The original design for the AT& T Communications Building (1929), which was never completed, is the best expression of this style in Atlanta.
An Article in the October 1928 issue of the City Builder states:
According to the architects, [the building] will be of distinct American design, one that will be an unusually handsome landmark for the upper Peachtree section. . . the very latest word in office building, and the first of its kind in the South. The ground floor on the street frontages will be devoted to store space. . . and an arcade is planned for the north side of the building.
In October 1928, as construction began on Atlanta's tallest building, J. J. Haverty stated that:
Beauty should be combined with utility, thereby developing standards of culture in architecture which will represent the energy, imagination, and aspirations of the American spirit. . . Atlanta is looked upon as the center of culture in the South, and in this new building is to be illustrated that spirit of culture which belongs to the South.
For unknown reasons the design was altered by the time construction began. Although the building was still planned for twenty-one stories, the setbacks at the corners were pulled forward to engage the gabled arcades fully. The original design had also called for the intersection of the gabled arcades to be topped by a pyramidal roof and cupola, but this, too, was eliminated. In addition, the building was originally described as faced in granite with terra cotta trim, but brick was used in place of granite. Nevertheless, the decorative treatment of the building was left unchanged and, whatever the reasons for the other changes, the building that was completed in 1929, at a cost of $723,812.60 for 134,648 square feet, lived up to most of its developers' claims. Until construction of the Fulton National Bank Building in 1954, the Rhodes-Haverty Building was Atlanta's tallest building and its oddly-gabled roof line remained a unique contribution to the aesthetics of Atlanta's skyline, at least until the gables, mansards, and cupolas of the recent "Post-Modern" architecture.
Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs, Vol. II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1954.
City Builder. Atlanta, April and October, 1928.
Lyon, Elizabeth Anne Mack. "Business Buildings in Atlanta : A Study in Urban Growth and Form." Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1970.
Marsh, Kermit B., ed. The American Institute of Architecture Guide to Atlanta. Atlanta, 1975.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. 1978.
Williford, William B. Peachtree Street, Atlanta. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of the Rhodes-Haverty 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.