The William Oliver Building: Atlanta's Classic of Art Deco Architecture


The William Oliver Building, Atlanta's first and most detailed Art Deco skyscraper, is located in downtown Atlanta on the famous Peachtree Street at Five Points, the original center of Atlanta commerce. It is located on the edge of the Fairlie Poplar Historic District, the oldest remaining part of Atlanta's central business district. The building was named for the grandsons, William and Oliver, of Atlanta real estate developer Thomas G. Healey. Nearby attractions include the Georgia State Capitol, Oakland Cemetery, Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, CNN Center and the Georgia Aquarium. The building can be reached from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station at Five Points. In addition, several bus routes serve the area.

Built in 1930, the 16-story William Oliver Building was the first large building in Atlanta to be built completely in the Art Deco style. The architects, Pringle and Smith, had worked in Atlanta throughout the 1920s, primarily in the Beaux Arts style. Robert Michael Craig, author of Atlanta Architecture: Art Deco to Modern Classic, 1929-1959, explains, "Art Deco's popular appeal was a product of its self-evident display of the art, rather than the science, of building. Deco was an art of sensual colorism, of decorative patterns, and of references to traditional ornamental forms.'' Deco details on the building's exterior include the "zigzag frieze ... interlaced among floral patterns,'' and "a jazzy syncopation of chevrons,'' according to Craig. The main doorway, on Peachtree Street, is decorated in bronze with a filigreed, repeating pattern. The author notes that Pringle and Smith were soon the city's premier Art Deco architects.

The William Oliver was completely renovated in 1996 as apartments for the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. In 2002, the 114 units were converted to condominiums. The building still has its "brass elevator doors and marble and terrazzo floors,'' according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, upgrades like high-speed Internet service have been added, as well as security measures and a 24-hour-a-day concierge staff. The building features a rooftop terrace with views of the Atlanta skyline. It also has a clubroom, fitness center and business center. The units range in size from a 465-square-foot studio to a 1310-square-foot penthouse. Most units are in the 600- to 900-square-foot range. The building also contains 5,000 square feet of retail and cafy space.

The best reviewers of the William Oliver Building are the ones who live there. One resident said in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "The building is so beautiful and has so much character. ... There's a lot of vibrancy in Atlanta now. ... I see it as an adventure." Residents enjoy the amenities of the building, especially the rooftop terrace and the concierge, luxuries that are rare in downtown Atlanta. One person raves, "The view from the roof is absolute AMAZING.'' Even so, many students are able to afford the condos. One student at Georgia State University, right around the corner, says it's "great to roll out of bed and walk to class.'' Some mention the hassle of panhandlers, but one young woman says, "I never feel unsafe.'' The William Oliver is a successful example of the city of Atlanta's ongoing efforts to revitalize their historic downtown.

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