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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 and designs created with fine craftsmanship and abundant materials. The movement originated from the 1925 International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris, France. The Art Deco Era represented the excitement and avid interest in modern technology and glamour. 
There are still many legendary Art Deco Era buildings in excellent condition worldwide. Some of my favorite features of Art Deco Era buildings are the exuberant and intricate details included in the designs. Recently, I wanted to research and learn more about the few preserved Art Deco Era buildings in my native city of Atlanta. Located in downtown Atlanta, the William-Oliver and 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 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 and Smith architecture firm design portfolio included another notable Atlanta landmark. The Rhodes Haverty Building in downtown Atlanta, which is also on the U.S National Register of Historic Places list, was built by furniture businessmen A.G Rhodes of Rhodes furniture and 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 and Smith Architect Firm did not consider this building an Art Deco skyscraper. However, the building’s Romanesque designs resemble 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 common practice of demolishing historical places in good condition to build new open-concept buildings. The Rhodes-Harverty Building was converted from office space (its original use) to a Marriott Hotel Inn, but the hotel has now permanently closed. The interior of the Rhodes Haverty and William-Oliver buildings are stunning and reminiscent of the grand Romanesque-inspired Art Deco hotel era. I hope the Rhodes-Haverty building will continue to be preserved and used for modern services/business needs. The original designs of these historical Art Deco Era buildings have been well maintained and hopefully will continue to be. Unfortunately, some of Atlanta’s true Art Deco Era landmarks were demolished. However, another historic, well-preserved Art Deco Era Atlanta building includes the Southern Bell Telephone Company (now AT&T Communications Building).
Included are photos of the Rhodes-Haverty and William-Oliver buildings, which detail the grand  Jazz Age architecture and popular designs during the Art Deco period. A century later, they still stand out and are fascinating to observe. 


                       The William Oliver Building 

                   Rhodes-Haverty Building (below)



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