Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
1580 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Located at a prominent bend of Peachtree Street in the city's Midtown section, Peachtree Christian Church is a Gothic Revival edifice constructed of stone, concrete and an outer surface of red brick and concrete. Its most conspicuous feature is a bell tower topped by squared turrets on all four corners and visible for a number of blocks in either direction. Just north of the bell tower is the church's rectangular sanctuary, extending in a southwesterly direction from its Peachtree Street frontage. Like the tower, the sanctuary is highlighted by limestone quoining at all corners, and both sections are replete with limestone molded frames around Gothic windows.
The front elevation also contains the 1949 Annie Laurie Warren Chapel, constructed in a simplified Gothic form at the west side of the entrance. The second and latest addition to the church is an L-shaped education wing constructed in 1964, connecting the meeting and dining areas behind the nave with the chapel.
Peachtree Christian Church is primarily significant for its historical, architectural and cultural contributions to the city. It is closely associated with the life of famed Atlanta business leader Amos Giles Rhodes (1850-1928). The Church is a distinctive example of the 1920s Gothic Revival mode and of the work of the regionally important architect Charles H. Hopson (1865- 1941). Its aesthetic hallmark is a large and especially fine collection of stained glass windows. Though the church represents one of the smaller denominations within Georgia, it is culturally significant within the metropolitan community. It has achieved a wide reputation for its original and longstanding emphasis on interdenominational good will and its well-known radio exposure.
The Christian Church or Disciples of Christ denomination, of which Peachtree Christian is a part, had its beginnings in the early 1800s. It spread throughout the country, but primarily in the South, largely through the missionary efforts of its founders, Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son Alexander (1788-1866). Its first Atlanta congregation began in 1853. First Christian, as it was known, was the sole Disciples church in the city for 70 years.
By the early 1900s, many of First Christian's congregants had begun to move to the city's newly expanding northern half. Among them was the famed Atlanta furniture dealer Amos Giles Rhodes. The mansion he built in 1904, Rhodes Hall, still stands just one block south of Peachtree Christian. Along with others, Rhodes continued to attend the downtown church, where his son-in-law, the Reverend Luther O. Bricker, was pastor from 1915-1925.
In the early 1920s, however, the pressure for a new church in the city's northern reaches produced the congregation of Peachtree Christian. Its first official service was held at the Atlanta Woman's Club on Mother's Day (May 10) 1925. In 1924 it had received the first of two gifts of land; both donations came from the vast landholdings of Amos Rhodes to the west of Peachtree Street near Brookwood.
The first section of the church to be finished and used was a school assembly room, in 1926, after which construction was briefly stopped due to a lack of funds. At that point, Mr. Rhodes offered to pay for the entire church building if the congregants paid for its furnishings and educational facilities. His initial gift of $150,000 was later supplemented. In his last years he would say that "(o)f all the many things God has helped me to do, none has given me so much joy as the building of the sanctuary of our church." He died in 1928, shortly before the church's dedication in October of that year.
Peachtree Christian Church exemplifies the strong Gothic Revival preferences of its era. Reverend Bricker, the church's first spiritual leader, called the Gothic Style "the only architecture which Christianity ever evolved." Seeking a specific Gothic model for the new edifice, he toured England and Scotland, choosing Scotland's Melrose Abbey, a celebrated creation of the 15th century, made more fascinating in its ruined state. The center of the Church's facade is modeled after an elevation of the Abbey.
The Reverend's pronounced spiritual and aesthetic feelings closely reflect those of the leading exponent of the America's Gothic Revival - the architect Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942), represented in Georgia by a fine, small church at Americus, Calvary Episcopal. Cram's popular text, The Ruined Abbeys of Great Britain, reprinted in 1927, may serve as an appropriate backdrop for the final form of Peachtree Christian. In one of its several chapters, it highlights Melrose, which Cram celebrates for its "spontaneous originality" and "poignant personality greater, perhaps, than .... in any other single piece of monastic architecture in all Great Britain."
The English born Charles Hopson, Peachtree Christian's architect, made a name for himself throughout the South, especially in ecclesiastical architecture. After emigrating to America in the 1890s, he practiced in Selma, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. He was based in Atlanta from 1915 on. His greatest strength as an architect was his ability to fashion diverse appearances for the many churches he designed, in accordance with their various settings. In Atlanta, these churches include Ponce de Leon Methodist Episcopal, built on Ponce de Leon in 1915 and recently noted for its re-use as the Abbey Restaurant, and Rock Springs Presbyterian, erected in 1922 in the Jacobean Revival style.
The Church's level of artistic excellence is crowned by that of its windows. William Glasby, the Englishman who created the majority of them, was directly involved not only in their design but their construction as well. His emphasis on personal fabrication of glass came out of his artistic maturation under Great Britain's Arts and Crafts movement, with the high value it placed on hand-made creation, and his apprenticeship under one of its major leaders, the famed William Morris.
The sanctuary's windows are often claimed to constitute the largest single collection of English stained glass windows outside of England. More important than any quantitative valuation is the fact that so much of it was produced by one studio in a coherent program. Virginia Raguin, a director of The Census of Stained Glass in America, has stated that the Church has "a unity of style and subject matter in its glass that many larger places (including most European cathedrals) do not have."
Within its first two decades of worship, Peachtree Christian Church was seen as one of the two leading churches of its faith within the entire state. Even before it opened, it positioned itself for greatness within the larger community. In 1926, it was one of the first area churches to participate in religious broadcasts on the pioneering radio station WSB. Also in that year, this largely white church hosted the choir of one of the city's major black congregations - Big Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Both of these events presaged later outreach efforts. From 1932 to 1970, WSB aired a live program, "The Call to Worship," each Sunday morning from the church. In its emphasis on interdenominational harmony, Peachtree Christian also formed a close relationship with The Temple, the city's oldest Jewish congregation, based across the street since 1930. This bond is shown by a small Jewish star of granite embedded in the church's altar.
At the church's dedication in 1928, it pronounced itself ". . . a Cathedral for the City," offering ". . . itself to the people of Atlanta in a spirit of unselfish service." Since then, its interdenominational activities and other good works, and its more recent proximity to two major interstate roadways, have maintained its standing as a "crossroads for Atlanta."
Cram, Ralph Adams. The Ruined Abbeys of Great Britain. Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1927 (reprint of original 1905 edition).
Moseley, J. Edward. Disciples of Christ in Georgia. St. Louis: The Bethany Press, 1954.
Murray, Alice. "A Cadillac of a Church /Pastor Wants to Save Gothic Structure." The Atlanta Journal /Constitution, Dec. 31, 1977, 6B.
Peachtree Christian Church. "The New Portrait of Mr. A.G. Rhodes. " Article in program for Sunday Service, July 30, 1939.
Raguin, Virginia C. (Director, The Census of Stained Glass Windows in America). Letter to Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr. (see Thomas, Kenneth H., Jr), Nov. 8, 1983. "Stained Glass Topical File, " Historic Preservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Thomas, Kenneth H., Jr. (Historian, Historic Preservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.) National Register Of Historic Places Nomination Form for Peachtree Christian Church (including its bibliography), March 26, 1984.
Vickers, Edward D. "Historic Churches in Atlanta." Georgia Journal, August/September, 1982, 20-26.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of Peachtree Christian Church 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.