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American Lives

Postcards of Atlanta (Georgia)

by Laurie Stevens & Peter Kessler, 9 October 2021


Skyline, empire city of the south, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Skyline, empire city of the south: Atlanta, Georgia, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'Atlanta's magnificent stadium, extraordinary freeway complex, and the fabulous Atlanta skyline. The empire city of the south emerged from ashes of total destruction by the forces of General Sherman in 1864 to become the foremost city in the south-eastern United States and, truly, a great national city. Atlanta offers every convenience to its citizens and guests while maintaining the traditional hospitality and casual atmosphere of southern living.'

Photo by Jim Doane. Postcard by Dexter Press, West Nyack, New York

The multi-purpose stadium was built in 1965 to be the home of the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons. Having served its purposed it was demolished in 1997 to be replaced by the (Ted) Turner Field. When the Braves moved out in 2017, the new stadium was sold to Georgia State University to be repurposed for football use.

See more here: Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.

Atlanta History Center Cyclorama Building, postcard, Atlanta GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Atlanta History Center Cyclorama Building at Grant Park, postcard, Atlanta GA.

'The Cyclorama painting of the Battle of Atlanta, housed in this building, is the largest painting in the world, being fifty feet high [fifteen meters], 400 feet around [122 meters], and weighing 18,000 pounds [8,165 kilos].'

Genuine Curteich-Chicago 'C T Art-Colortone' postcard, R & R News Co, Atlanta, GA.

More accurately termed the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum Building, construction was completed in 1921. This building was a new, fireproof, classically-insipred structure which ultimately proved to be too small for the Cyclorama painting which was moved to the Atlanta History Center in 2017.

Its former home was incorporated into Zoo Atlanta as an event space, rechristened 'Savanna Hall'. It includes viewing galleries of the new African Savanna area of the zoo.

See more here: Battle of Atlanta 1864.

Dogwood trees in bloom, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Dogwood trees in bloom, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'Many of Atlanta's 1,050 miles of streets [1,690 kilometers] are planted with dogwood. These delicately beautiful flowering trees make a picturesque setting for Atlanta's stately residences, and for several weeks of the beautiful southern spring delight the tourist and native alike.'

Tichnor quality views. R & R News Co, Atlanta, GA.

This 1940s-era postcard captures two iconic aspects of life in Atlanta, the car and the 'Flowering Dogwood'. The dogwood is native to eastern North America and northern Mexico, and the bark and roots historically have been used by native Americans. The natural and most common color for tree 'flowers' (actually bracts) is pale ivory, although rose pink to near red can be seen.

Blooming in the spring in great profusion, the charm and beauty of these trees as seen throughout Atlanta cannot be overstated. The Atlanta Dogwood Festival, an arts and crafts event, has been held during early April in Piedmont Park since 1933. The gently curving street as depicted here is typical of some of the loveliest aspects of living in the rolling Piedmont region, as early twentieth century development considered the new-found joy of motoring.

Governor's mansion, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Governor's mansion, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'Patterned after stately manors of Georgia's past, the new governor's mansion is a red brick structure graced by the traditional white columns of a southern plantation standing on a gently rising landscape. The mansion is located on West Paces Ferry, one of Atlanta's most beautiful residential sections.'

Photo by Jim Doane. Aerial Photography Service Inc, 2511 South Tryon, Charlotte, NC.

The mansion was built on eighteen acres (7.3 hectares) of a formerly larger estate called Woodhaven. It was completed in 1968 in the Greek Revival style with thirty Doric columns and covering 24,000 square feet (2,230 square meters).

This executive mansion is fourth in a line of various residences since the first, in 1838, and has housed nine governors. The second to live here was Jimmy Carter, from 1971-1975, who left to successfully run for the office of president in 1976. In general times, the house is open to the public three days a week, while the house and grounds staff are serving convicts.

Post Office, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Post Office, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

Printed early in the twentieth century, this postcard is undated and unused, with no description on the reverse.

The 'United States Post Office and Courthouse' building is located at 56 Forsyth Street in the beautiful and historic Fairlie-Poplar section of Atlanta. The building was erected between 1906 and 1911 in the Second Renaissance Revival style, designed by John Knox Taylor, supervising architect for the Treasury Department.

Taking up an entire city block in the center of Downtown, the U-shaped building has a massive granite exterior along with buff-colored brick in the courtyard area, and is one of the most architecturally important and distinguished buildings still standing in Downtown Atlanta.

The main courtrooms are the most significant spaces on the third floor. The most impressive is the two-story en banc courtroom which is designed for all of the appellate judges to meet to hear a case. Walls are covered with elaborately-carved stained oak paneling which is decorated with garlands, scrolled brackets, and molding. Large, round-arch windows are balanced with recessed arched bays on the opposite walls. Bronze grilles are located throughout. The maple floor is laid in a herringbone pattern, while an elaborate, plaster, coffered ceiling with rosettes tops the room.

Another appellate courtroom, although slightly smaller in scale, is equally impressive. Similar finishes are used on the walls and floor, and a gallery of oak benches provides seating for observers.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1974 it was designated a National Historic Landmark due to its role as the courthouse in which many of the key cases of the Civil Rights Movement were first heard. In 1931, major postal services were moved nearby to what is now the Martin Luther King Jr Federal Building, more modern at the time, transferring mail via tunnels directly to and from the adjacent Terminal (rail) station (see below).

In 1981, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was established and has since been housed in the building to hear federal cases from the jurisdiction of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, including Bush v Gore during the hotly-contested 2000 presidential election.

Renamed in 1989 to honor a federal judge, it is now known as the Elbert Parr Tuttle US Court of Appeals Building. He was known for issuing decisions which served to advance the civil rights of African-Americans. The building is not currently open to the public.

Capitol building, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Georgia capitol building, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'The capitol of the state of Georgia with Atlanta's magnificent skyline in the background.'

Photo by Don Ceppi. Scenic South Card Co, Bessemer, Alabama.

Situated on property which was designated in 1879 as the site of the Capitol, the land was donated by Atlanta and had been the location of Atlanta's City Hall. This donation was in an effort to move the legislature from a rural area into Atlanta, a rapidly growing and more industrialized city; Atlanta is in fact the fifth location of the Georgia State Capitol.

The building was constructed between 1884 and 1889 and is the perfect expression of 'The New South', as Atlanta considered herself to be after 'Reconstruction'.

The building, Neo-Classical in form with a gilded dome, follows architectural precedents which were established by the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. All of the primary offices of Georgia's government, along with a museum and visitor galleries, are housed within, with other state office buildings close by.

In 1958 the original tin cladding on the dome had deteriorated and needed to be re-done; gold leaf was chosen as the new material. The gold was donated by the citizens of the city of Dahlonega in north Georgia, and the surrounding Lumpkin County as a whole, the location of the nation's first gold rush in 1829, which was brought down in seven mule-drawn covered wagons traveling three miles a day. Once it reached its destination it was ceremonially presented to the governor.

A statue twenty-two feet tall (6.71 meters) of a woman with a torch in one hand and a sword in the other sits atop the dome; she is referred to as 'Miss Liberty', although who she is and what she represents is somewhat of a mystery.

On the grounds are plaques and statues which honor figures who are associated with the Confederacy, two being former governors. There are ongoing calls for their removal.

The Omni, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

The Omni, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'The Omni provides Atlantans with one of the most versatile entertainment centers in the nation. This 17,000 seat spectacle is the home of Atlanta's professional basketball and ice hockey teams and is the setting of renowned live entertainment. In the skyline are the seventy-three-storey Peachtree Plaza Hotel and the Omni International Complex [CNN's world headquarters since 1989].'

Photo by Jim Doane. Aerial Photography Services Inc, 1977. Dexter Press, West Nyack, New York.

Formally known as the Omni Coliseum, from 1972 to its demolition in 1997, the $17 million arena was the primary venue in Atlanta for large-scale music concerts, basketball (Atlanta Hawks), indoor soccer, and professional wrestling, along with hosting the 1988 Democratic National Convention. It could seat 15,278 for hockey matches and more for concerts.

Built on top of a former rail yard, it was adjacent to a related fourteen-story 'total urban environment complex... city-within-a-city... first of its kind in the US' building known as Omni International. This was a trend in the 1970s, an effort to shut out the urban streetscape, which had become problematic.

The coliseum had a distinctive space frame roof and was clad in Cor-Ten weathering steel which, as it rusted, was intended to create a protected solid steel exterior; the innovative design and unique name given to the complex were quite controversial in the Atlanta of the early 1970s.

Not long into its life, the building continued to rust beyond projections in Atlanta's humid environment. It also settled significantly into its foundations, and the roof began to leak, all design elements which clearly failed. Also, newer, larger, and more prestigious arenas were built to accommodate various sports teams.

These factors all spelled doom for the location, although it is very fondly remembered in Atlanta by those of a certain age. It was demolished just days before the Fulton County Stadium in 1997 (see above), and replaced on the same site by the Philips Arena, now the State Farm Arena.

See more here: Buildings of Atlanta: State Farm Arena.

The Sign of the Wren's Nest / Uncle Remus' Home, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

The Sign of the Wren's Nest, also known as Uncle Remus' Home, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'Joel Chandler Harris' home in West End, where 'Uncle Remus' drollery and philosophy were written.'

C T Photochrom. I F Co Inc, Atlanta, GA.

Built in 1870 by George Muse (of Muse's Clothing Store, an Atlanta institution for more than a hundred years), as a simple one-story frame farmhouse, it was originally known as the Broomhead Tract, then as Snap Bean Farm, and later as The Wren's Nest, inspired by the instance of a wren building its nest in the mailbox.

It is located in the area of Atlanta called West End, a very old, originally separate village connected by mule and later streetcar. In 1884 the home was remodeled into the American Queen Anne Style, with intricate fretwork, trim, gables, and latticework by the owner who had taken residence in 1881: Joel Chandler Harris.

The author set up home here after experiencing phenomenal success with a collection of stories written originally as a newspaper column for The Atlanta Constitution. These stories feature an invented character, 'Uncle Remus', an aged African-American. They framed the old traditional slave stories, filled with Native American and African-American themes, rich with a folksy, plantation setting.

Brer Rabbit and the infamous Tar Baby were the also featured characters in the book, entitled, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings - The Folklore of the Old Plantation, published in 1880.

Modern debate surrounds Harris, a white man, appropriating and profiting from the African-American oral tradition, and using terms which are now regarded as racist and bigoted.

Today the Wren's Nest promotes itself as the birthplace of the American illustrated storybook, as a cultural center which promotes literacy, while celebrating the heritage of African and indigenous folklore through the art of storytelling in all of its contemporary forms.

Terminal Station, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Terminal Station, postcard, Atlanta, GA, posted 26 January 1916.

CT Photochrom. Published by IFP Co, Atlanta, GA.

Atlanta's Terminal Station opened at 75 Spring Street NW in May 1905. As stated on the postcard, it served four main rail lines: Southern Railway, Seaboard Air Line, Central of Georgia, and the Atlanta and West Point.

Built in the Spanish Cathedral style, the architect was P Thornton Marye, who had also designed Atlanta's Fox Theatre and The Capital City Club, along with other structures in the south-east.

The station boasted one of the largest train sheds in the US. Two cathedral-like towers figured prominently in the front facade of the structure until 1940 when they were chopped off to deter lightning strikes (see next postcard).

In a city founded as a rail terminus, it was the larger of the two passenger terminals, the other being Union Station which was very close by.

During the heyday of passenger services in 1945, traffic peaked at 162 trains and 30,000 passengers daily. Atlanta was the rail gateway to the south, to sunny, newly-burgeoning Florida and to the Gulf of Mexico for passengers traveling from the north; this traffic would be serviced by trains bearing the names 'Nancy Hanks' (Nancy Hanks was the mother of Abraham Lincoln), the 'Southern Crescent', the 'Ponce de Leon', and the 'Silver Comet', among others.

In 1970, the Southern Railway system closed and America's passenger rail system in general was in steep decline, being taken over by the quasi-governmental corporation, Amtrak, which was founded in 1971.

Continued below.

Terminal Station, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

Terminal Station, postcard, Atlanta, GA.

'The Atlanta Terminal Station is one of the most attractive and best equipped passenger depots in the South. It is served by approximately 100 passenger trains daily, operated by four railroad companies - Southern Railway, Central of Georgia, Atlanta & West Point Railroad and Seaboard Air Line. Trains over other roads enter the Union Station.'

Genuine Curteich-Chicago 'CT Art-Colortone'. R & R News Co, Atlanta GA.

Details continued from above.

In 1970, along with the Southern, Terminal Station also closed, with the last remaining service, the 'Southern Crescent', leaving the station and being moved to Peachtree station, also known as Brookwood station.

This smaller, Italian Renaissance-designed station had been built as a commuter hub in 1918, and lay about four miles away (6.4 kilometers). For a time it became the city's main suburban commuter hub, although a true, modern Downtown hub location is still being sought into 2021.

Union Station closed in 1971. The Peachtree station remains Atlanta's only passenger rail terminal, and now Amtrak's simplified 'The Crescent' runs daily from New York to New Orleans.

Terminal Station was demolished in 1972, being considered somewhat of a tax burden to the Southern Railway Company, and the Richard B Russell Federal Building was constructed on the site in 1979.

The last remnants of the station were an interlocking tower (a signal box to UK ears) which boasted a commanding view of the tracks which led into the station, and a portion of one of the station platforms which was retained by the Southern. The tower had brick and terracotta roof tiles which matched those of the station building itself. The former was demolished in June 2018, and the latter in November 2019.

Main Sources

Atlanta History Center

City of Atlanta

Other Sources

Atlanta Intown Paper - February 5, 2020

The Tree Center website

Georgia Government website

Atlanta Journal Constitution - October 12, 1972

History Atlanta, December 11, 2013 - Conor Lee

Bloomberg CityLab - April 24, 2015 - Mark Byrnes

The Wren's Nest website

New Georgia Encyclopedia, July 28, 2005 - Edwin L Jackson

US National Park Service

US General Services Administration

Atlanta Journal Constitution - September 22, 1985

Atlanta Underground: History From Below, Jeff Morrison (Globe Pequot Press, 2012)


Images and text copyright © P L Kessler & Laurie Stevens except where stated. An original feature for the History Files: American Lives.