Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
1516 Peachtree Street, N.W. Fronting 146' on Peachtree, 248.3' on South Rhodes Center, 135.5' on
Located just north of Pershing Point, Rhodes Hall is the last survivor of the colony of homes that grew up at Brookwood prior to the development of Ansley Park in 1904. Constructed of Stone Mountain granite in the style of the Romanesque Revival, it was designed by one of Atlanta's best architects for one of its richest men. Even in 1904, it was virtually one of a kind, at least for a private residence in Georgia, and is of state-wide significance for the quality and style of its architecture. One of a handful of early 20th-century mansions surviving on Peachtree (there is but one 19th century survivor) and little changed from its original appearance, Rhodes Hall is an urban landmark of the first order.
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 at 142 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, Rhodes formed a partnership with J. J. Haverty in 1889. The headquarters of Rhodes-Haverty was moved to St. Louis in 1891, the better to serve what Rhodes saw as a ripe market there for his brand of furniture merchandising. Atlanta was home, however, to both men and in 1893 the headquarters of Rhodes-Haverty returned to Atlanta. Known as Rhodes-Snook-Haverty between 1894 and 1897, the partnership with Haverty was amicably dissolved in 1908 and the assets of the seventeen stores in their chain pided.
With men like J. Harry Collins in Miami, Rhodes formed other 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' business interests were perse. 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, and Cherokee Slate Company, in Atlanta. In the early 1920s, Rhodes and J. J. Haverty formed the Rhodes-Haverty Investment Company which was responsible for construction of the Rhodes-Haverty Building in 1928-29.
Rhodes also had extensive real estate investments not only in Georgia, but also in Florida and South Carolina. Locally, his holdings included about half of the buildings and property on Decatur Street between Courtland and Piedmont, 150 acres off South Pryor Road where he maintained the Lakewood Nurseries, a parcel of land on McDonough Boulevard at Sawtell Avenue that in 1928 became the site of the new Chevrolet plant at Lakewood, as well as the 101 Marietta Street block and the eight-story Rhodes Building (1910) at 78 Marietta Street.
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. He died in 1928, leaving substantial endowments to both Peachtree Christian Church and the Home for the Incurables.
The architect of Rhodes Hall was Willis F. Denny II (1874-1905), a native of Louisville, Georgia, who had first come to Atlanta in the late 1880s to attend private school. While studying architecture at Cornell in 1892, Denny designed his first building, the Louisville (Ga.) Baptist Church. After a brief period in Macon, he moved to Atlanta in 1894 and worked as a draftsman with the prominent Atlanta firm of Bruce and Morgan. The following year he married and in 1897 launched his formal career with offices in Atlanta, Macon, and briefly in Augusta. About that time he built his own house on Moreland Avenue and four or five houses in Inman Park, as well as the Inman Park Methodist Church (1897). Perhaps his most well-known house, besides Rhodes Hall, is the Kriegshaber house (1900) at 292 Moreland Avenue. In 1902, he drew up plans for Rhodes' castle on Peachtree.
Denny was responsible for a number of important buildings during his brief 8-year career, including the Bass Dry Goods Store (1899), the Kriegshaber house (1900), the Hebrew Synagogue (1901, demolished), St. Mark's Methodist Church (1902-03), the First Methodist Church (1903), the Piedmont Hotel (1902, demolished 1966), the Majestic Hotel (1900, demolished 1928), and the Dubignon/King house (1900, demolished 1954). Called the "leading residential architect" of turn-of-the-century Atlanta, he also designed two apartment buildings in the Fairlie-Poplar district, neither of which survives. He designed a number of buildings in other parts of this state, Alabama, and Tennessee, including the Jefferson County Courthouse in his hometown of Louisville. Considered one of the finest architects of the period, Denny trained several young architects, including Neel Reid in 1904, before his untimely death in 1905 at the age of 31.
RHODES MEMORIAL HALL
Between 1901 and 1906, Rhodes assembled an estate of 114 acres on Peachtree at Brookwood, stretching across Tanyard Creek from Peachtree and including most of the present Brookwood Interchange of I-75/85. There, in early 1902, he began construction of his great granite castle. By the summer of 1904, the house was complete and the Rhodes moved from the old house (c.1890) on S. Pryor Street to the house they called "La Reve".
Generally described as Romanesque Revival in style, Rhodes Hall is virtually unparalled in Georgia. Very few residential structures were ever built in Romanesque architecture and Rhodes Hall is this state's best example. The sheer expense of construction that required massive amounts of masonry usually limited the Romanesque styles to ecclesiastical, civic, or commercial buildings. Moreover, by the time Rhodes demanded of Denny a Rhineland castle on Peachtree, inspired by Rhodes' trip to Europe in the late 1890s, the style was already out of fashion. Rather than copying the Richardsonian Romanesque of the 1880s, however, Denny and Rhodes created a special example of the Victorian Romanesque Revival, taken from original medieval Romanesque sources and adapted for use as an early 20th century house. Out of fashion or not, Rhodes' new house was an instant success in the Atlanta papers and social scene. In fact, one author has said that "in the war of wealth and opulence waged along Peachtree Street at the time, it can probably be said that Amos Rhodes' fortress won hands down."
The interior of Rhodes Hall is one of the finest intact expressions of late Victorian architectural design in the city. The grandest feature of the interior was, until their removal to the Archives Building in 1965, a magnificent series of stained and painted glass windows above a carved mahogany staircase. Executed by Von Gerichten Art Glass Company, winners of four gold medals at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, the series depicts the rise and fall of the Confederacy, from Fort Sumter to Appomattox, and includes medallion portraits of over a dozen Confederate heroes. Certainly one of the most unusual Confederate memorials anywhere, its inclusion in the residence of a pillar of the New South in Atlanta shows the depth of feeling for the "Lost Cause" as the old heroes passed on.
Wired for electricity when it was built, Rhodes Hall is a prime exhibit of the fascination that new technology held for Atlantans at the turn of the century. Over 300 light bulbs lit the house, producing a blaze of light that must have been astounding in 1904. The house also included electric call buttons in most rooms as well as a security system.
Following the deaths of Mrs. Rhodes in 1927 and A. G. Rhodes in 1928, their two children, J. D. Rhodes and Mrs. L. O. Bricker, deeded the house and just under an acre of the original estate to the State of Georgia. Included in the deed was a restriction that the property could only be used for "historical purposes." In 1930 the building opened as the home of the State Archives and continued as such until completion of the present Archives on Capitol Avenue in 1965, when Rhodes Memorial Hall was designated the Peachtree Branch of the Archives.
In 1983, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, a non-profit organization, began a long-term lease of Rhodes Hall with the State. Serving as headquarters for the Georgia Trust, it is now undergoing a complete restoration. The State is funding restoration of the exterior and the mechanical and electrical systems in the building while the Trust is raising private funds for restoration of the interior. The focal point of the restoration of the interior will be the return of the original main staircase and stained glass windows to the building.
PERIOD AND SETTING
An extremely significant example of the Romanesque Revival in Atlanta and the state, Rhodes Hall is an outstanding survivor from Peachtree Street's heyday as Atlanta's prime residential thoroughfare. One of the most eccentric architectural creations in an age known for its eccentricities, Rhodes Hall in many ways defines "la belle epoque" in Atlanta.
Rhodes situated his castle for maximum visibility on a slight rise at a prominent curve in Peachtree Street. Although subsequent development, especially of Rhodes Center in the late 1930s has lessened the impact of that siting and severely reduced the size of the original estate, the imprint of the original landscaping is intact and has the potential of becoming an outstanding example of early twentieth century residential landscaping. The ongoing restoration of this building and its grounds is a perfect counterpoint to Midtown's high-rise skyline.
Askins, Norman Davenport. Research Study: Rhodes Memorial Hall Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta, 1980.
Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs, Vol. II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1954.
Marsh, Kermit B. (editor). The American Institute of Architects Guide to Atlanta. Atlanta, 1975.
Morgan, Thomas M. "Reminiscences of the Architecture and Architects of Atlanta, " The Atlanta Historical Bulletin, VIII, no. 10, July 1937.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. 1974.
Niles, Andrea. "Willis Franklin Denny II, " unpublished manuscript in files of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, 1980.
Sawyer, Elizabeth and Jane Foster Matthews. The Old In New Atlanta. Atlanta: JEMS Publications, 1976.
Williford, William B. Peachtree Street, Atlanta. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962.
lliam B. Peachtree Street, Atlanta. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1962.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of Rhodes Memorial Hall 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.