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Art Deco Era Legacy: Atlanta’s Historic Jazz Age Buildings

Tanzy Ward


The Art Deco Era (c.1920-c.1939) is a period known for its unique architecture & designs created with fine craftsmanship & opulent materials. The movement originated from the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris, France. The Art Deco Era represented an excitement & avid interest in modern technology and glamour. 

Currently, there are still many legendary Art Deco Era buildings in excellent condition all around the world. Some of my favorite features of Art Deco Era buildings are the exuberant and intricate details included within the designs. Recently, I wanted to research & learn more about the few preserved Art Deco Era buildings in my native city of Atlanta. Located in downtown Atlanta, the William-Oliver & Haverty-Rhodes buildings are interesting historical landmarks from the era that are still well preserved.

The William-Oliver Building was created in 1930, a part of the Five Points downtown district of Atlanta, and was actually the city’s first completed official Art Deco skyscraper. It is included on the U.S National Register of Historic Places List. Architect Francis Palmer Smith, of Pringle & Smith architecture firm, design portfolio included another notable Atlanta landmark as well. The Rhodes Haverty Building in downtown Atlanta, which is also on the U.S National Register of Historic Places list, was actually built by furniture businessmen A.G Rhodes of Rhodes furniture & J.J Haverty of Haverty’s. The building was not named after the  Rhodes-Haverty Furniture Company (1889-1908), which had dissolved before the skyscraper was created in 1929. Pringle & Smith Architect Firm did not consider this building an Art Deco skyscraper, however the building’s Romanesque designs are similar to many of the era’s popular characteristics. The Rhodes-Haverty building was Atlanta’s tallest landmark until 1954. 

The William-Oliver Building is currently being used for 115 apartments. I appreciate how the William-Oliver landmark was refurbished for modern residential services instead of the unfortunate common practice of demolishing historic places in good condition to build new open concept buildings. The Rhodes-Harverty Building was converted from office space (it’s original use) to a Marriott Hotel Inn, but the hotel has now permanently closed. The interior of the Rhodes Haverty & William-Oliver buildings are truly beautiful & reminiscent of the grand Romanesque-inspired Art Deco hotel era. I hope the Rhodes-Haverty building will continue to be preserved & used for modern services/business needs. The original designs of these historical Art Deco Era buildings have been well preserved & hopefully they will continue to be. Unfortunately, some of Atlanta’s original Art Deco Era landmarks were demolished. However, another historic well preserved Art Deco Era Atlanta buildings includes the Southern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T Communications Building).

Included are photos of the Rhodes-Haverty & William-Oliver buildings, which details the grand  Jazz Age architecture & designs that were popular during Art Deco period. A century later, they still stand out & are interesting to observe. 


                       The William Oliver Building 

                   Rhodes-Haverty Building (below)



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