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Things that make you go .. huh? The building that was chopped in half

This lovely building is a Georgia Power substation built to service the streetcars of Atlanta back in the day.

This lovely building is a Georgia Power substation built to service the streetcars of Atlanta back in the day.

Every other Tuesday I join AM 1690 host Larry Larson during his show Morning Ride, to talk about celebrities visiting Atlanta and movies being filmed here. The station is located in a pretty generic looking building on Spring Street near 14th Street that also houses Westwood College and the offices of assorted other firms.

The building next door has always intrigued me. It sort of looks like it has been chopped in half, doesn’t it?

It was.

After a mere two years of wondering about it I tracked down its history. It is a Georgia Power substation begun in 1925 and completed in 1926.

It looks so weird from the back. If it looks like it was chopped in half, that's because it was.

It looks so weird from the back. If it looks like it was chopped in half, that's because it was.

It was the first entirely automated substation in Atlanta – indeed, the entire South – and was originally built to service the streetcars that traveled Atlanta streets back then. Today it serves 3,000 customers.

Because that area of town was an elegant residential neighborhood in those days, the building was designed to fit in. The grounds were nicely landscaped to resemble an upscale front lawn, and the building itself is far more lovely than it really needed to be to house a bunch of equipment.

Amusingly, it is now just about the only structure in that area that still looks like a residence. Sandwiched in between the generic office building and a dusty gravel parking lot, it now

faces a low-slung strip of mostly vacant offices and sits around the corner from a Shell station and numerous high-rises including the Four Seasons Hotel.

The Troy Peerless Building. Photo from http://atlantacityhomes.com.

The Troy Peerless Building. Photo from http://atlantacityhomes.com.

The architect who designed the substation was Isaac Moscovitz. I was unable to find out much on Mr. Moscovitz, but he is also credited with the design of the Troy Peerless Laundry Building at 650 Glen Iris Dr. NE according to this very fine Power Point presentation on historic buildings in Atlanta by Robert Craig. The Peerless Building dates to 1929 and now houses lofts.

The substation building was scheduled for demolition in 1987, a wrecking ball-happy era in Atlanta (only a little over a decade before had the Fox Theatre been spared). But the building made its way onto something called the Urban Design Commission’s Inventory of Historic Properties, so Georgia Power rethought its demolition plans somewhat.

In a nifty bit of engineering Georgia Power had the building only partially taken down, then bricked up in back. The building sits on just 1.72 acres so it took some deft maneuvering to get all the equipment necessary for the partial demolition in and out of there.

The substation was built to fit into what was once an elegant residential area. Here's what sits across the street today.

The substation was built to fit into what was once an elegant residential area. Here's what sits across the street today.

Today the front part still faces Spring Street, still looking sort of like a residence on a street that in no way still looks residential.

Are there other unique structures in Atlanta you’re wondering about? Let me know and I’ll see what I can find out.

(Thanks to Georgia Power spokeswoman Konswello Monroe for providing background on this one!)

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

5 comments Add your comment

Nina

January 12th, 2012
2:44 pm

Love this…great research. Yeah, I’ve wondered about that building too.

Boyd Leake

January 12th, 2012
3:09 pm

Thanks for the article Jennifer, I too have always thought it to be an elegant little building and wondered what its story is.

How about some info on the old State Archives building. What’s its story? Now that the Archives have moved what is planned for the building?

Jennifer Brett

January 12th, 2012
3:15 pm

Great idea! I will add that to my list.

Jennifer

AM

January 13th, 2012
9:56 am

I have always wondered: What is the large, cube-shaped windowless building next to Corey Tower (the smokestack) off the eastside of the Connector?

Grant Parker

January 17th, 2012
2:17 pm

I have admired the old Southern Dairies building in the Glen Iris section of Atlanta. It has been converted to condos, I think. I would love to know more about that structure.