APC purchases lot to return Grant Mansion property to 1906 boundaries
Historic capitals from the 1902 Carnegie Library and 1892 Equitable Building have been installed as a permanent display on lot
In 1989 the owner of the historic Grant Mansion sold a 60 x 70 foot parcel of the back yard to his neighbor at 320 Orleans Street. In January 2007 the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) bought the parcel back for $52,000, thus returning the property to its 1906 boundaries, and has started a permanent display of historic artifacts.
The APC purchased the Grant Mansion in 2001 and is completing Phase I of the restoration of the building as its headquarters and a preservation resource center. The 1857 structure is one of only two antebellum houses left within the city limits.
Through the generosity of APC board members, staff and friends and a $10,000 gift from The David, Helen and Marian Woodward Fund, the center was able to buy the land debt-free. Its purchase provides protection from future development in the APC’s backyard and additional parking, which could be required when the Grant house is restored.
Coincidentally with the addition of the lot, Randy Roark offered the APC a capital from Atlanta’s 1902 Carnegie Library façade as a donation. The library was torn down for the Marcel Breuer-designed building, which opened in 1980. Roark very generously paid for its installation by crane on the landscaped portion of the new property.
At the turn of the last century, Andrew Carnegie offered $100,000 to build a free public library in Atlanta if the city provided a site and agreed to maintain it at a cost of less than $5,000 per year. Margaret Mitchell’s father, Stephens Mitchell, was an early advocate for a free library and assisted in securing the Carnegie gift. The Beaux Arts Classical Revival building opened on March 3, 1902. This was Carnegie’s ninth library given to an American city.
While the APC was planning a permanent display of historic artifacts from Atlanta’s lost landmarks, its second artifact arrived much sooner than anticipated. Chuck Clark called the APC about the availability of a capital and sections of columns from the 19th century Equitable Building, which was torn down in the late 1960s for the SunTrust Bank annex. The APC purchased all of the stonework that a crane could move to its property.
Completed in 1892, the eight-story Equitable Building was Atlanta’s first skyscraper. It was built by the East Atlanta Land Company, headed by Joel Hurt, and financed by the Equitable Life Assurance Society. It was originally called “Hurt’s Folly,” because it was way ahead of its time; however, it soon became the headquarters for business firms looking for a southern location. Designed by the architectural firm of Burnham and Root of Chicago (John Wellborn Root grew up in Atlanta before the Civil War), it was Atlanta’s only pure Chicago School skyscraper with wrought-iron elevator doors, eight-story stairway, and an innovative steel and glass skylight
covering the banking room in the courtyard. The Trust Company of Georgia (now SunTrust Bank) occupied the ground floor, purchasing the building in 1903 and putting the bank’s name on it in 1913. After demolishing the building to make room for an annex to its new 26-story tower, the Trust Company saved and currently displays ornamental parts of the building: three of the columns can be seen in front of building on the plaza and the ornately carved façade from the old entrance can be found in the corridor connecting the bank and the annex.
“We are thrilled to have these two pieces of Atlanta history. They give visitors a tangible way to discover the city’s lost landmarks and maintain neighborhood green space,” said APC Executive Directory Boyd Coons.
“We are asking if anyone knows of other artifacts, to please call the office at 404-688-3353.”