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American Lives

Atlanta Hotels & Motels: Americana Motor Hotel (Georgia)

by Laurie Stevens, 6 August 2021

 

Americana Motor Hotel, postcard, Atlanta, GA
Photo © The History Files Collection

The Americana Motor Hotel, which dentist/orthodontist brothers Drs Marvin and Irving Goldstein first opened at 160 Spring Street in 1962, is Atlanta's longest continuously operating hotel.

Born in Atlanta, the Goldstein brothers were the children of Jewish immigrants from Russian Poland (see links, below), and their experiences with discrimination and integration had deeply affected them.

After serving in the Army Air Corps in Europe during the Second World War, Marvin Goldstein returned to Atlanta and started an orthodontist practice which was the first in the south-east USA to take black patients in an integrated office.

See more: Motor Hotel Postcards of Atlanta.

The American Motor Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © Laurie Stevens

Goldstein treated the children and family of Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr, as well as the families of other civil rights leaders.

The Goldsteins started investing in Atlanta real estate in 1946 when they purchased an apartment building in Midtown and later converted it into Atlanta's first integrated hotel, the Peachtree Manor Hotel.

The American Motor Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © Atlanta History Center

The Americana Motor Hotel was the first new hotel in the city in decades, built at a cost of $3 million. The hotel boasted fine restaurants, a swimming pool, and a garden setting, but lacked drinking fountains since a city ordinance required that these be segregated.

Mayor Ivan Allen Jr had requested the integration of the Americana in an effort to court Major League Baseball into the city.

The American Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © The Atlanta Constitution, October 9, 1981

The hotel is cited as being a linchpin in the decision of the Milwaukee Braves, with Hank Aaron on the team, to relocate to Atlanta in 1966, as Major League Baseball required cities to have integrated accommodation for traveling teams.

Martin Luther King Jr stayed at the hotel, and many civil rights meetings and conventions were held there. The brothers received threats because of their actions, and the Ku Klux Klan demonstrated outside the hotel during the grand opening ball, but to no avail.

This 1981 photo comes with the caption: 'Atlanta, area near bus stations. High crime area. International Boulevard and Spring Street'.

The American Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © Laurie Stevens

In the 1970s and 1980s, International Boulevard, now Andrew Young International Boulevard, was the location of both major bus terminals, Greyhound and Trailways. These locations were a block away from the Americana and the area became problematic due to the 'street slicks' who would haunt the boulevard, hassling and even robbing the visiting populace two or three times a day.

The push came to relocate those terminals to secure the valuable convention and tourist areas.

In the 1970s, a lawsuit from a hotel in Miami which also had the 'Americana' name forced the Goldsteins to switch names to the American Hotel. The hotel was acquired from the Goldsteins in 1997 and underwent renovation work in an effort to create a close-in four-star hotel downtown.

The American Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © Laurie Stevens

In 2016 the hotel underwent a $12 million overhaul to refurbish and restore it to its original retro style as an homage to its history and contribution to the civil rights movement, and that is how it remains today.

The smooth clean lines of the hotel's exterior have largely disappeared under the clunky renovations of the past, but the bones are still there. Flagged under many hotel brands through the years, early on it was a Best Western, and later a Marriott and a Wyndham; the 312 hotel is now a Doubletree by Hilton which, with the renovation, has honored the site's past with a historical gallery.

The American Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia
Photo © Laurie Stevens

The largest conference room has been renamed the 'Marvin Boardroom' in honor of Goldstein. The hotel symbolized positive interaction between Jews and African Americans - with the actions of white politicians and business people seeking to build a stronger Atlanta - and the interaction between sports and social justice.

Main Sources

Saporta Report: May 2, 2016

Atlanta Jewish Times: August 22, 2017

The Atlanta Constitution: November 27, 1985

The Atlanta Constitution, October 9, 1981 (photo and caption)

Atlanta Curbed: October 4, 2017

Georgia State University

Atlanta Tomorrow's News Today: September 29, 2017

Atlanta History Center

 

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