Designated: Historic Building Exterior
750 Glenwood Avenue, S.E.
Constructed: 1896, major additions 1905, 1910, 1913-16
The Atlanta Stockade is located adjacent to the historic Grant Park neighborhood. The Grant Park Elementary School sits immediately in front of the original entrance to the property. Travelers on I-20 are fascinated by the glimpse they get of the crenellated roofline of the building over the treetops.
The Atlanta Stockade, or the Atlanta city jail or prison, has evolved into its current configuration from a building begun on this site in 1896. A 147 acre site was purchased originally from the estate of Joshua B. Badger on May 15, 1863, by the City of Atlanta for roughly 100 dollars an acre. It was purchased to be a city cemetery, but those plans changed. The site was used for a pest house, or hospital, for a number of years before it was designated as the site for the new city prison, which was then moved here.
The original complex on this site was primarily of wood, and included a prison, a stable and a blacksmith shop. The entire tract included a prison farm and rock quarry. Water was first run to the site in 1895 and at the same time the first modern sanitary and plumbing facilities were installed to replace the outhouses and wells. Electricity was run to the site in 1896.
Most prisoners were incarcerated for petty crimes and misdemeanors, with the average stockade sentence being 15 to 20 days. The original prison housed both sexes and races, as well as children. The prisoners were used for physical labor within the city. The women and children were used for cooking and cleaning in the prison and to work the stockade's farm and rock quarry, both on the premises. When the men worked, they were forced to wear chains while on the street repair team (or chain gangs) or at the rock quarry. Stone in the quarry was broken up by the prisoners to be used for "macadam" or the material from which streets were then made. Religious services were held in the prison on Sundays with ministers from the various churches officiating on alternating Sundays.
When first established as a prison site, the stockade was on the edge of the city limits, although the Grant Park neighborhood was growing up nearby in the late 1890s. The stockade was overseen by two city council committees, those of Public Works and Prisons. The Prison Committee was concerned with maintenance and administration of the prison, and the health and welfare of the prisoners. The Public Works Committee maintained the city stable and blacksmith shop on the site, and planned and administered the prisoners' work on the city streets.
After a $3,500 appropriation was secured in 1895, the oldest part of the present building was built to house a daily population of 90. The promised new prison was completed in 1897 and cost $3,053. This oldest remaining stockade structure was two-story, 26 by 73 feet. It was described in the Committee of Prisons Annual Report as "two stories high, and built of stone; the walls being two feet thick. With steel beams, concrete roof, and cement floors, the building is fire-proof." The upper level was used for dormitory space, with the lower level being offices, kitchens, and storerooms. It was made of cast concrete block. It included flush toilets and showers. The prisoner capacity of this new structure was 225. The prisoners' daily diet consisted of corn bread, bacon and molasses, supplemented by vegetables grown on the adjacent prison farm.
The number of prisoners rose steadily, so that by 1900 there were on the average 190 prisoners a day. During that year the first segregation of prisoners began, keeping with other Southern efforts that began to separate the races. Women were then confined downtown at the Atlanta Police Station. The prison stables contained 64 mules and other city transportation equipment. The stockade farm produced onions, potatoes, corn, peas, turnips, cabbage, pork, and fodder. In 1901, a reassessment of the management of the stockade resulted in some changes, including a new heating system, and doubling the sleeping capacity by installing bunk beds. The Prison Committee also realized the need for more prisoner space due to the desire to segregate the prisoners.
The impetus to expand and improve the city's prison facility came after a meeting in Atlanta in May 1903 of the National Conference of Charities and Correction. They called the 1896 stockade a "disgrace to the city." Thus, within a year, it was announced in March 1904, that a major "addition," practically an entire new prison, would be built. This "addition" included the large, four-story Gothic towers, wings and the front entrance colonnade. This new addition enclosed the original building on three sides and added a third story. It cost only $9000 because it was built with prison labor -- in other words "they built their own home." The guard towers gave the prison its distinctive silhouette and the front columns were the official entrance.
Announcements of the building of the new prison or addition included the statement that "the new stockade prison will be the finest prison building in the south, with the exception of the new Federal prison (also being built) near Atlanta." The prison committee incorporated the latest ideas in prison construction and management, and visited the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta before the final plans were drawn, modeling the Atlanta stockade after it in many ways.
The plans for the new prison "addition" were drawn by Henry L. Collier, the city's Public Works Commissioner. He described the new building to be roughly 130 by 120 feet, three stories over a basement, that would be "one-piece" or "seamless," so that no prisoner could ever dig his way out of the facility's 22-inch thick walls. Most important, it was to be concrete, and it is said to be the first building in Atlanta to be built solely out of concrete. Even the columns and the roof were to be out of this material. Collier, in selecting concrete for the prison, was following a growing trend in American buildings. The prison was thus built on the forefront of a new building trend, and is probably the oldest concrete building still standing in Atlanta. Collier had two good examples of nationally-significant concrete works right at his doorstep: the Terminal Station and the L & N Railroad Warehouses, both now demolished, were under construction in 1904 in Atlanta and progress on their construction was being observed in national magazines.
During 1903 there were more changes, including the construction of a new, modern stable for about $5,000, completed in 1905, and designed by the Atlanta architectural firm of Butt and Morris. From 1905-1907, a three-story dormitory addition was under construction on the prison's northeast side that cost $9,500. With a purely functional design, it was built of unadorned steel reinforced concrete. During the end of that decade, 1907-1910, efforts continued to upgrade the prison dormitory area. The cost of maintaining a prisoner had leveled off at 11 cents a day over the past decade. In 1909 a county Grand Jury was called to investigate charges of poor sanitary conditions and cruel prisoner treatment, and the City Council immediately appropriated money to alleviate the situation.
In 1911, the mayor first recommended the sale of this structure and the relocation of the city prison to another site. A committee of city council members proposed, in 1912, a site on Fort Street in Atlanta, but that was opposed by neighbors. Another committee in 1917 was formed to decide on a new use for the old stockade/prison, and if it was going to be sold, when, once again, it was put on hold. By 1920, the city council was fairly certain they needed to move the prisoners, and again proposed a sale. A feasibility study ensued, demonstrating that the city had other needs for which a vast parcel of land, such as the prison tract, could possibly be used: parks, tennis and golf. Thus in 1920, the majority of the stockade land become the James L. Key Golf Course. Plans for the golf course even suggested that the prison become the clubhouse and the blacksmith shop the locker room.
While the mayor began his campaign to move the prison and sell the stockade site, the increase in prisoners had forced further expansion of the stockade prison. In 1913 the last expansion of the stockade was begun and it was not finished until 1916. This wing, on the southeast side, was built of stone quarried from the city rock quarry and erected by the inmates.
An agreement in October 1922 divided the management of the stockade tract between the Parks and Prison Boards, giving the golf course to parks. It was decided in November 1922, that the property would be transferred to the Board of Education and that Girls High School, which had been downtown on the future site of City Hall would be located in a new school to be built on Rosalia Street, on the then-stockade property. Residents of the nearby expanding Grant Park neighborhood welcomed the school, for it meant that the stockade and its prisoners would certainly be relocated. It also meant an end to the quarry noise, which had long been an nuisance for them.
In 1924 the stockade, or city jail, was formally closed by the city and the prisoners eventually moved to the new facility. A school system funded study in 1925 indicated that it was not feasible to try and turn the vacant building into a school, although some had proposed that Tech High School be placed within the building. Therefore, a new school facility was built in front of the stockade and opened in 1928 as the Grant Park Elementary School. (It is not on the nominated property.) The Board studied the feasibility of demolishing the Stockade, but decided against it because that cost too much.
In 1927 the Atlanta Public Schools moved their service center into the stockade and it served as the maintenance and repair facility for the system until 1938. From 1938 until 1962, the stockade was used as a furniture warehouse by the school system, until it too was moved to a new location. After 1962, the stockade was barely utilized, although part of it was used to store school records. The stables were remodeled in 1962 as a warehouse for the school system, and the blacksmith shop was used as a garage for the service center until 1938, after which time it has not been used.
The Atlanta Stockade was sold in 1983 by the Board of Education to new owners. The facility was donated to a local urban ministry which has renamed the stockade, 'Glencastle.' It will be used as an apartment complex and community center for the city's working poor.
"New City Stockade Prison..." The Atlanta Constitution, March 12, 1904.
"New City Prison Will Be Ready..." The Atlanta Journal, November 29, 1904.
Various Articles about division stockade property. The Atlanta Journal. October 5, November 17, November 20, and November 21, 1922.
"Map of City Stockade Property, May 13, 1920, with annotation for division in September, 1922; located in Atlanta City Council minutes for October 2, 1922, Volume 27, page 710, line 30, (in packets accompanying the minutes), The Atlanta Historical Society.
Zion, David L. and Chris Brinkley. "Atlanta Stockade Preservation and Conservation Plan." Student Project, Georgia Tech Preservation Studio, June 6, 1981. Copy located at the Historic Preservation Section.
Zion, David L. "The Atlanta Stockade." Historic Property Information Form, March 15, 1982. On file at the Historic Preservation Section, Department of Natural Resources, Atlanta, Georgia.
"Started for Hollywood...," The Atlanta Journal (Magazine) October 19, 1924. (Includes photograph of front facade.)
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of the Atlanta Stockade meets the above-referenced criteria for an Historic Building or Site as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.