The Candler Building: Atlanta's First Skyscraper


The Candler Building is an office building in the Central Business District of downtown Atlanta. It is easily accessible from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. The Candler Building is within walking distance or a very short drive of most of Atlanta's downtown attractions, including the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, Underground Atlanta, the CNN Center Studio Tour, the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena. In Atlanta, a city known for tearing itself down every few years and starting over, the Candler Building stands as an elegant, and still useful, emblem of the city's past.

Built in 1906, the building is a fine example of the Beaux Arts style of architecture, which was characterized by refined classicism mixed with showy, but tasteful, ornamentation. Indeed, the building boasts Tiffany glass, marble sculptures, and ornate brasswork as accents to the arches and pediments typical of classical architecture. At 17 stories tall, the Candler Building was the tallest building in Atlanta for over 20 years. The interior has been renovated and the plumbing, lighting and HVAC systems have been renewed recently. The building still functions as office space for some of Atlanta's most prominent law and real estate firms.

The building was commissioned by Asa Candler, a local druggist who bought the rights to a caramel-colored carbonated drink known as Coca-Cola. By the end of the nineteenth century, Candler had amassed a fortune, and he began to invest in real estate. The site of the building, once home to the first church in Atlanta, is on a ridge that runs through downtown, making it all the more visible. The building, although designed to be monumental in its scope, was also built to be functional. It contained floors specifically designed for dentists, for instance, and housed employee amenities like an onsite bank and barbershop, as well as luxurious bathrooms. The elevators and cooling system were state-of-the-art for their time.

One of the Candler Building's distinguishing features is its marble sculpture. Most people are not aware, however, that the carved panels on the fazade of the building are of real-life figures representing various branches of the arts and sciences. Some of the famous faces on the building include William Shakespeare, representing literature; Benjamin Franklin, portraying statesmanship and philosophy; Beethoven and Richard Wagner, for music; Michelangelo, illustrating art; Admiral George Dewey, demonstrating military glory; and William "Buffalo Bill'' Cody and Father Marquette, representing the pioneer life of the country.

In 2006, the Atlanta chapter of the American Institute of Architects selected the Candler Building as the city's "Building of Its Decade.'' The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. It has been designated a Landmark Building by the City of Atlanta, meaning that it is "of exceptional importance to the city'' and that its "demolition would represent an irreparable loss to the city.'' This designation was based on the building's historic, architectural and cultural significance. The Atlanta Preservation Center offers a guided walking tour that includes the Candler Building. Asa Candler hoped that the building would be a "monument that would last for centuries.'' Indeed, the building looks to be well on its way.

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