Ten Park Place Building: One of Atlanta's Modernist Masterpieces


Ten Park Place, or the Thornton Building, as it was formerly known, is one of the few large-scale Modernist buildings in Atlanta. It is located in the heart of the Central Business District of downtown Atlanta. It can be easily accessed from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector and from Interstate 20. The building is near many of Atlanta's downtown points of interest, including the Georgia Capitol, Underground Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, Philips Arena, the Georgia Dome, Turner Field, and Centennial Olympic Park. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has two train stations within walking distance of the building.

Ten Park Place was built in 1932 on land belonging to the Thorntons, one of Atlanta's oldest families. The Thorntons had owned land in that area for generations. Albert E. Thornton commissioned the construction, replacing a block of commercial buildings put up by his grandfather 50 years earlier. The Thornton Building, as it was known then, was one of the last commercial buildings in downtown Atlanta to be constructed before first the Great Depression, and then World War II, brought a temporary halt to Atlanta's growth. It is a rare example in the city of the Modernist style of architecture. Modernism never caught on in Atlanta, and most of the buildings in that style have already been demolished. For that reason, the exterior of Ten Park Place has been designated a Landmark Building by the City of Atlanta, meaning that its destruction "would be an irreparable loss to the city.''

One of the "ultra modern'' features of Ten Park Place, according to the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce newsletter, City Builder, was the fact that the interior office space could be configured to each tenant's needs. The 1932 issue says that "a large amount of office space is available and may be sub-divided ... to scientifically and efficiently arrange floor space.'' This is, of course, commonplace in office construction today, but it was a new concept in the 1930s. Other Modernist features of the building include its smooth, straight lines, the relative lack of ornamentation, and the large, first-floor display windows. A few Beaux Arts architectural details decorate the building, including an elaborately carved marble doorframe and pediment.

The building was designed by Anthony Ten Eyck Brown, one of Atlanta's leading architects of public buildings in the first decades of the twentieth century. Ten Eyck Brown has several existing buildings in the city, but the most prominent are both within walking distance of Ten Park Place - the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Building (originally the Post Office Annex), built in 1933, and the Fulton County Courthouse, built in 1914. Together these three buildings show Ten Eyck Brown's evolution from the neoclassical Beaux Arts style to the elegant, understated Modernism of nearly 20 years later.

Today, Ten Park Place is still a functioning office building. (Note that its interior space has been reconfigured many times!) Visitors may walk into its public spaces, which retain their historic character. Most of the offices in the building are private business concerns, however, and are off-limits to the public.

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