City Hall: Atlanta's Historic Seat of Government



Atlanta City Hall, the seat of the city government, is a monumental Deco-Gothic tower built in 1930. The building is located in downtown Atlanta directly across the street from the Georgia Capitol. Nearby attractions include Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, CNN Center and Oakland Cemetery. City Hall is accessible from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has two train stations within four blocks, and several bus lines serve the area.

The current City Hall building is the fourth for Atlanta. In 1925, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce started the "Forward Atlanta'' campaign, conceived to position the city as the leader of the "New South.'' Soon after came calls for a new City Hall, one "which could become a monument to the city's advancement and position as the leader of a New South,'' according to Robert Michael Craig, author of Atlanta Architecture: Art Deco to Modern Classic, 1929-1959. The building was designed by G. Lloyd Preacher, a prominent Atlanta architect. Preacher designed hundreds of buildings in the Southeast. Some of his other Atlanta projects include the Carnegie Building, the Medical Arts Building and the Briarcliff Apartments, but, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, "it may be the exotic exuberance and lavish detail of Atlanta City Hall that most endears Preacher to architectural devotees.''

The eleven-story tower has a three-story base with the remaining stories set back. The style is Art Deco with Gothic touches, although it is often referred to as Neo-Gothic. Craig calls it "a masterpiece of Deco skyscraper architecture,'' putting together "a Gothic verticality, a Sullivanesque organization of ornament, and setback forms inspired by 1916 New York zoning legislation.'' The building is constructed almost completely from materials from Georgia. The exterior is cream-colored terra cotta ornamented with olive terra cotta spandrels. Gothic touches include pointed arches, a cathedral-style porch and elaborate stone tracery. The interior public spaces feature two marble staircases, with "its floors and walls in polished marble and ornate gilded-wood ceiling, entrance and elevator doors in heavy bronze, and brass fixtures,'' according to the AIA Guide to the Architecture of Atlanta. In 1989, an addition was built onto City Hall. At the same time, the 1930 building was restored.

Atlanta City Hall has been the site of much history. Three mayors in particular have shaped Atlanta's history from their office in the building:

William B. Hartsfield. Hartsfield was instrumental in building Atlanta into the aviation hub of the South and, ultimately, of the country. He oversaw the peaceful integration of Atlanta schools in 1961 and called on the state legislature to integrate all of the state's schools.

Ivan Allen Jr. Allen oversaw much of the city's desegregation in the mid-1960s. He also brought two professional sports teams to the city and encouraged the growth of civic and arts organizations.

Maynard Jackson. Jackson was the first African-American elected mayor of a major Southern city. He upgraded Atlanta's airport, to which his name was later added, to international standards. Jackson also oversaw the opening of the city's rapid transit system and its Olympic bid.

Robert Michael Craig says in his book, "Atlanta City Hall was intended to embody in its vertical forms the energetic aspirations of a competitive city.'' Atlanta still has "energetic aspirations,'' and City Hall still stands as one of the city's symbols.

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