Preserving Atlanta

I’ve written fairly often about the ecology of Atlanta, specifically the city’s drive to bulldoze downtown buildings and thereby erase much of its own past. This erasure of a city’s past is certainly not unique to Atlanta (as Mike Davis’s amazing City of Quartz illustrates), but because I’ve called it home for so much of my life, Atlanta’s problems are particulalry interesting for me. Via Jen, I’ve just come across the collectively-authored Bloglanta, which addresses many of these issues.

Of particular interest to me: Robert’s entry on five destroyed and five endangered Atlanta buildings. Robert alludes to the work being done by the Atlanta Preservation Society, but notes that they have little power against some of the city’s real estate giants. I was intrigued to learn that some of the threatened buildings include the Winecoff Hotel (1913), the site of America’s deadliest hotel fire, and the Crawford and Company Building, I. M. Pei’s first commercial project.

6 Comments »

  1. Henry Said,

    October 1, 2004 @ 12:15 pm

    While Atlanta has made great strides in preserving its past, it still has a ways to go. I am glad the days of losing landmarks and accepting such losses as a given are largely over. We have lost a lot, but we still have a great deal left and I hope we gain an appreciation of that fact.

    It mystifies me that something wonderful can’t be done with the Winecoff downtown. I envision the structure with its ground floor exterior beautifully restored (it once boasted a second floor balcony which projected over the sidewalk). If not as a boutique hotel, the structure could certainly be utilized as dorm space for GSU or SCAD, if the latter decides to relocate to the old Macy’s building.

    Besides razing its past, Atlanta has another cavelier approach to its past: renaming of landmarks. This approach seems to be practiced most by the local civil rights community. Whenever this or that civil rights “hero” requires a tribute, it seems that an old place name must be lain aside to accomplish the tribute. There never seems to be any inclination to create something new and creative or to add anything without erasing something else. To hell with anyone else’s tribute – just stick a new name on something. They argue for such changes on the basis that it honors “today’s heroes”, who may someday be as irrelevant the “yesterday’s heroes” they seek to replace.

    The proposed replacement of the sculpture at Walton Spring downtown is an example where the razing/renaming approaches intersect. In order to provide a tribute to Andrew Young, it has been suggested that the site-specific, Olympic-era sculpture which honors Walton Spring as the city’s first water source be displaced. I have no problem with a Young tribute, but it makes no sense that we can’t have both which add to Atlanta’s historical tapestry.

  2. chuck Said,

    October 1, 2004 @ 7:24 pm

    Henry, you bring up some great points here, especially regarding Atlanta’s bizarre convention of renaming landmarks, which has the effect of erasing the past. I’d agree that there are plenty of ways to honor the important work of Atlanta’s Civil Rights heroes (a word I don’t use lightly) than to “forget” other aspects of the city’s history.

  3. Scott Long Said,

    November 29, 2004 @ 11:36 am

    Hi regarding Winecoff Hotel Fire — my friend Allen wrote a book about the tragedy some time ago. An atlanta journalist is now looking for some folks that worked there at the time of the fire as he believes they may have a compelling story — if anyone knows Alice Edmonds or Rozena Neal who worked at the Winecoff at the time of the fire, could you contact or ask them to contact Harold Lamar — his contact info is at http://www.winecoff.org thanks so much!

  4. Donald Pruitt Said,

    December 15, 2004 @ 3:49 am

    Hi, regarding the story about the burning of the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta in 1946, I wish to add a bit of information I received several years ago. Ray Maddux(sp), worked for the Georgia Bldg Authority in 1981 while I was employed as a Security Policeman for the Authority. I spoke to Mr. Maddux many times during 1981 and he told me many stories about his years in the “Georgia Mafia”. Mr. Maddux was partners in crime with a Roy McCullough, aka, “The Candy Kid”. Some of the conversations lasted for an hour or more, and Maddux told me that McCullough had indeed started the fire in the Winecoff Hotel to revenge an incident which had happened at the Ben Hill Prison barracks. I was fascinated by the many accounts of the crime sprees, which Maddux and McCullough lived out. I also remember that Madsdux told me that in one trial, both he and McCullough had been sentenced by a Judge Johnson (a one armed Judge) to terms of 166 years in Reidville Prison in Tatnall County, Georgia. I also remember that he told me that McCullough had been murdered in Reidville Prison and is buried in the prison cemetary. I’m not sure what became of Mr. Maddux. I bought and read his book and also attended a church service that year to hear his testimony about his conversion to Christianity. Sincerely, Donald Pruitt, Master Sergeant, US Army, Retired.

  5. Michael Winecoff Said,

    July 3, 2006 @ 11:50 am

    My father, Joseph Lustrat Winecoff, was William F. Winecoff’s son. After my father’s death, my mother gave me the engagement ring my father had given my mother. This ring a 2 carrot diamond, was passed down through William’s wife, who got it from the Winecoff (Flemings) of Vichy, France. The story of this ring, is that my great grandmother dropped it (with all of her jewelry – in a jewelry box) out of their penthouse window, the night they died in the fire. My father and mother both told me many times the story about how my father got a call over a year later, when the jewelry box was found on an awning that was being removed from the burnt out building. The foreman called my father as his name was written down on a slip of paper in the jewelry box, and the ring was retrieved. This ring and a Canary diamond ring (which my neice now owns), among other items, were recovered. I am attempting to discover more about the history of this ring, and would be happy to share what I know if you are interested…

  6. Chuck Said,

    July 3, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

    Michael, thanks for this story. I think this entry has become a place where people can post forgotten or little-known narratives about the Winecoff fire. Anything you wish to add would be welcome.

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