All of our talk last week about Ponce City Market got us thinking about other Atlanta historic sites. Taking old things and making them new again is something us Atlantans have gotten really good at (with the exception of “New Coke”, of course). Atlanta has no shortage of historically significant buildings, even with General Sherman burning the whole thing down a few years back, and many Atlanta landmarks have had interesting incarnations over the years. Think of it like the Sarah MacLachlan ASPCA commercial...but for buildings. Here are 4 Atlanta landmarks that got a cool second life.
The Flatiron Building (pictured above)
No, not that Flatiron Building. Atlanta has our very own Flatiron and, fun fact, ours was here first. Built in 1897, the Atlanta Flatiron building was originally called the English-American Building and is the oldest standing skyscraper here (hey, 11 stories was pretty impressive for the 19th century). The building is currently being renovated to be an “innovation center” by Microsoft and will be marketed as a next generation entrepreneurship hub - with Microsoft providing tenants with mentoring, grants, guest speakers, events, and state of the art technology.
If you mention Underground Atlanta to a native Atlantan, you’re bound to get a wide range of reactions. Sometimes revered, often reviled, Underground Atlanta has a long, tumultuous, and legendary history. Remember that whole Sherman thing? Underground Atlanta’s construction dates between 1861 and 1877--making it the oldest buildings still standing--and being indeed under ground probably saved it from the cruel fate that befell the rest of Atlanta during the Civil War. Underground had a bad reputation, housing speakeasies and other gambling ventures during prohibition. It converted into a restaurant district and then became a shopping mall. It has since become a nightclub district again. Now under new ownership, the future is still up in the air for this Atlanta staple and, love it or hate it, it never stops kicking. And that’s got to count for something.
Sweet Auburn Curb Market
The Sweet Auburn district of Atlanta was an important area for the local civil rights movement in the 1960s. Built in 1918 after the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 (Atlanta was a big fan of getting burned down, apparently), the market started as a large tent and became instantly successful, bringing fresh produce to Atlanta’s urban dwellers. Sweet Auburn was the heart of the African-American commercial district - and is also home to the MLK Historic site. After an update in the 1990s thanks to the Atlanta Olympics, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market is better than ever, housing some of Atlanta’s best food finds and bringing business to one of Atlanta’s most historically significant neighborhoods.
Few Atlanta spaces have had the real underdog story that the Tabernacle has had. Built in 1910 as the Third Baptist Tabernacle, it housed nearly 4000 churchgoers well into the 1950s. After membership dwindled, the building was abandoned in the 80s and was in terrible shape for the better part of a decade. Enter the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Not wanting an abandoned eyesore near the newly constructed multi-million dollar Centennial Park (and who could blame them) the building was converted into a House of Blues venue for the Olympics. Renamed “The Tabernacle,” it’s now one of the nation’s best concert venues according to Rolling Stone and Paste Magazine - and the balconies still have the original pews as an homage to the building’s former life.
Ponce City Market isn’t the only Atlanta building given a second chance in the 21st century. We encourage you to explore the historic places you live in and embrace the idea of making old things new again. You never know, they might be the next big things 50 years from now.
Christine Adams is a really awesome person, copywriter, and lover of all things Atlanta. You can find her other work around the internets without too much trouble.