For two hundred years people have dwelt, worked, walked, traveled, shopped and gazed at the northwest corner of 17th and Peachtree in Midtown (it wasn't always an actual city street but an Indian Trail.) There are lots of ghostly voices from the distant past and the recent past who compete for our attention in 21st century Midtown.
Right now in the pie-shaped wedge on the map that is bounded by 17th, West Peachtree and Peachtree where they merge at Pershing Point, there stands an 8-story brown polished granite building, a large swath of green grass, an old-growth copse of hardwoods, a giant billboard, a pocket park, a MARTA bus stop and a small, dilapidated, old, nearly invisible, boarded-up building decorated with grafitti.
By the early 20th century, at 1420 Peachtree stood the Pershing Point Apartments and Hotel, "Atlanta's own version of the Chelsea Hotel, ...home to a spectrum of artistes, actors, musicians, gays, punks and freaks," according to Scott Henry in the June 2, 2002 edition of Creative Loafing. I'm sorry I don't have a photo of that old building but I do remember the intown community being insensed when Post Properties' John Williams bought it and tore it down. Preservationists called it "the city's worst architectural loss in a decade," again quoting Scott Henry.
The venerable old red brick apartment building was designed by prominent local architect G. Lloyd Preacher, who moved to Atlanta from Augusta, Georgia in 1922, and designed Atlanta City Hall, the Wynne-Claughton (Carnegie) Building, the Medical Arts Building, and the McGlawn-Bowan (Standard) Building.
Some famous people lived there as I am sure some of the readers of this piece will be able to recount. In any case John Williams did not build a Post Apartment community and the site was subsequently sold to National Service Industries who built their headquarters and then moved to New York. Now a large law firm, Jones Day, and a fabulous real estate company - Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Midtown - operate there looking out on Midtown across the sparkling fountain and the green grass. Behind the building in the tiny wedge that completes the merger of Peachtree and West Peachtree is a beautiful shady park where building tenants have ice cream parties and sit on benches reading during their lunch hours.
The grass and old oaks at 1400 Peachtree are another story. As Doug Sams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle describes the chain of events in July 2011
"An affiliate of Dewberry Capital Corp., bought the nearly 1.7-acre site for $6 million, according to Fulton County records. The transaction closed June 27, 2011. The seller was United Community Bank, which had foreclosed on the property in January for $12 million, according to Databank Inc. The site fetched $17.7 million in 2006.
Atlanta-based developer Shailendra Group LLC and the New York office of architect Skidmore Ownings & Merrill LLP had reached the design phase on 1400 Peachtree at Peachtree and 17th streets. One concept had 1400 Peachtree eclipsing the 55-floor Bank of America Plaza as the tallest building in Atlanta. Another resembled the dual-towered Time Warner Center. That was September 2008. Soon after came the financial meltdown."
At Keller Williams we have been watching that park for six years now wanting it to be developed into something special but also wanting it to stay green. it's a beautiful corner - except for the derelict old building. 14 17th Street was in operation up until a few years ago and after the tenants moved out the back parking lot was used by monthly parkers and also by visitors to the music venue, Center Stage, across West Peachtree St. Too many "loiterers" later, and after the sale to Dewberry, the 17th Street site is chainlinked and the grafitti artists have arrived.
A little research showed that the most recent tenants of the little old building were lawyers and therapists but I was not able to find out who originally built it and for what purpose. Anybody know?
The ghosts go way back but their voices are loudest in the very recent past - mid-80's - when the block changed dramatically with the demise of the apartments. These days, the northwest corner of 17th and Peachtree is thriving and the future is more promising still as the northern edge of Midtown.