Sunday, April 6, 2014

Touring Atlanta: The Wonderful Georgian Terrace Hotel Part Two

If you missed Part One of my post on the Georgian Terrace Hotel please click the link HERE. When I ended Part One we were in the swing of things, with the hotel at the height of its popularity at the beginning of the 1940s. Gone With the Wind had just premiered at Loews Grand Atlanta with the cast enjoying their stay, reception at the hotel.

You might even be asking yourself, "What more needs to be said about this hotel after the GWTW premier?" Well, let me tell you.

Seven years after GWTW had its premier where the streets were blocked off for the throws of fans hoping to get a glimpse of Gable, Leigh and de Havilland, Atlanta would roll out the carpet once again for Walt Disney.  It was 1946 and Walt would return for the long waited but controversial premier of Song of the South. This time the Fox Theater, directly across the street from the Georgian Terrace would host the event. And once again, Walt would stay at the grand hotel, enjoying its world class amenities.  

Walt Disney arrives in Atlanta to throngs of fans.

Just a year before, the Georgian Terrace had been transformed into residential hotel, installing air conditioning and full kitchens into each unit. Now the upper class could stay long term, enjoying first class service 365 days a year. 

Perhaps Walt admired the wrap around balconies as he entered the front lobby, lit by their ornate Italian bronze and crystal chandeliers. 

Perhaps he enjoyed a meal or two in the hotel restaurant as we did during our stay.

We were celebrating a trip to Atlanta and getting to tour the Fox Theater after hours but I wonder if Walt was also celebrating his long awaited release of Song of the South?

Hopefully, Walt enjoyed some time on one of the tiled wrap balconies while there.

Of course, Walt and the cast of GWTW  weren't the only notable guests throughout the years. Elvis Presley, Tallulah Bankhead, Rudolph Valentino, Helen Keller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Lindbergh not to mention presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding enjoyed stays at the hotel. 

Yes, the 20s throughout the 40s were a majestic time for the towering hotel in the center of downtown Atlanta. But like most things, affected by economic downturns and war, the hotel would find itself going through changes and not for the better as the 50s approached.

Long gone was the ladies carriage entrance on the Ponce de Leon side of the hotel, along with the vivid green awnings that protected guests from the blazing Atlanta sun. No, it was a new era with the public staying at home and entertaining themselves in front of the television or radio. Welcome technology which transported everyone to another place, still grandiose and wonderful.

With Atlanta enjoying all that the 50s offered, there was a need to utilize areas of the hotel, not only to make some money but to draw new guests and visitors to the hotel. That opportunity presented itself when WAKE-AM radio, formerly radio station WBGE rented out part of the first floor of the hotel.

The WAGE-AM radio entrance of the hotel which faces Ponce de Leon. c. 1956

It would appear the butter brick needs a good steam cleaning and the carriage entrances have long since been replaced with wrought iron barred windows. Also gone is the early downtown trolley line which delivered visitors to the hotel's front doors.

The same entrance and stairs during my visit and pictured above during the days of WAKE-AM.

Another view of the WAKE-AM radio entrances and the Georgian Terrace, now a residential hotel.

Looking at the same side of the hotel and how it appears today.

The WAKE radio station would remain at The Georgian Terrace until the early 1960s and the hotel would still attract guests, goers of the Atlanta Opera but the grand dame was badly in need of renovations.  Newer hotels with modern amenities were being built in downtown Atlanta to attract tourists, meet the demands of new commerce, leaving The Georgian Terrace behind. Sure, guests wanted to stay where Clark Gable once slept and it was a just a stones throw away from the popular Fox Theater. 

As the years went by, the debilitated hotel, no longer able to attract long term guests, spiraled into a financial decline. By 1981 the inevitable would happen. For the first time in 70 years, the once opulent, Georgian Terrace would close its doors.  

Sadly, all during the 80s, the high rise would remain boarded up, only attracting the homeless looking for a warm place to stay or a great place for vandals to strip anything they could find to sell from the intricate tile to the hand forged wall sconces and light fixtures. Just an eye sore for Atlanta residents and a major thorn in the side for city officials and rescue workers as they were called out on a daily basis to put out fires, run off thieves at the white elephant. 

The now vacant hotel, home only to vagrants and rats, during the 80s.

The eloquent ballroom where Arthur Murray first taught dance so many years ago and the cast of GWTW had their reception. Ruined by years of neglect.

How in the world would it ever find its way back to this?

It must have been gut wrenching to know all of the original fixtures were being pillaged, all but forgotten.

By 1989, Atlanta had, had enough and with much contention and vocal opposition it was decided that The Georgian Terrace would be torn down, making way for new development.  The hotel clearly needed saving, a last reprieve but who would step in to save it?

The citizens of Atlanta and the Historical Society would save it! YAY for loud voices and those working tirelessly to protect the history of our cities. In 1989 The Georgian Terrace Hotel was deemed a historical landmark where it remains as part of the Fox Theatre District on the National Register of Historical Places.

The property quickly found a buyer and the new owners got to work turning the high rise into luxury apartments. With renovations a new 19 story wing was erected, with its glass spiral entrance, proudly greeting guests on the southeast side of the hotel, still facing Peachtree. A spectacular rooftop pool was also built, with red brick balconies facing Ponce where guests could enjoy a growing Atlanta skyline and breathtaking views.

The newly renovated hotel with its 19 story wing and glass tower. The Fox Theater directly across the street and the Ponce de Leon luxury apartments pictured to the right. 

A closeup of the glass tower and new wing during my stay. 

From inside the new addition to the hotel, looking up from the glass spiral towards the marble spiral staircases. (original to the hotel.)

The new entrance during my stay from the ramp which takes you to the Livingston Mim restaurant which is now where the old hotel entrance was until the mid 80s. 

It was December when I visited Atlanta, quiet cold and rainy but I did get myself up to the rooftop to see the views and pool area. I can picture it during the summer with bathing beauties and guests enjoying a cocktail on the upper balconies.

The new owners spared no expense when it came to renovations and the private residents would enjoy these amenities until 1997 when they were forced to move to make way for the re-grand opening of The Georgian Terrace Hotel. Within the hotel you'll find the Livington Mims restaurant where you can enjoy fine dining. A concierge who is there to guide you in all Atlanta has to offer and answer all your questions about the history of the hotel. (Thank you so much, Brent!) The friendliest doormen, parking attendants and bellhops I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. 

My very comfortable two bedroom, two bath suite with a full kitchen and living area. 

Beautiful ladies by the bed.

Splendid views from every room.

But lets go back downstairs because I want to talk about the layout of the hotel and some of the architecture, original to the hotel. When it was first built in 1919, as you walked through the main lobby, you found yourself in an open courtyard with topiaries and potted shrubs. There were wrought iron chairs and tables for guests to mingle and enjoy a private outdoor seating area within the hotel walls. I found this interesting and also hilarious. You see, now that the new lobby and wing have been built, that original courtyard is now enclosed and it's used for seating, the concierge area. When you walk in and look up from each floor you see the other side and into the windows of other rooms. My first thought was, this is right out of Rear Window. Where's Jimmy Stewart with his camera? Confusing? Allow me to show you.

As you enter the new, glass enclosed lobby and look up you see the old part of the hotel which used to be in the shape of a U. What was once an enclosed courtyard. 

Inside, as I exited the elevator to go to my room on the 6th floor, I looked across at the other old wing of the hotel and Rear Window came to mind immediately. Anyone else see it? And no, in case you were curious, I didn't witness any foul play or murder while there. Just fun, loads of fun while touring Atlanta.

Old meets new! The main landing as it joins the original courtyard to the new wing. Marble staircases and floors greet you as you make your way down to the basement and more ballrooms, conference rooms. I actually love that they didn't cover the inner room windows with fake facades and that they left the original part of the hotel intact, restored it as close as possible to how it looked during its heyday. 

The new addition on the basement level. Beautifully matched tile to the original wing.

Lots of tile in the basement as find your way to the new Margaret Mitchell Ballroom.

I got lost several times wandering around the basement level looking for the Mitchell Ballroom but I did find some interesting rooms, sitting areas and the original back entrance to the hotel where the staff and ladies once entered. 

At last! I finally found the Margaret Mitchell Ballroom although it took the concierge, Brent practically holding my hand and leading the way. It's very well hidden in the new wing of the hotel. Lots of weddings are held in this room. 

The Mitchell Ballroom gives you perfect views of one of the original courtyards with concrete benches and wonderful shade trees. 

Back to the new lobby with its wrap around, green velvet couches and more marble tile.

They've really done a wonderful job combining the new wing (left) with the original wing from 1919 (right)

Beautifully decorated for the holidays.

The new lobby looking towards the original U shaped courtyard, now enclosed. So much Atlanta history in this hotel.

The delightful, Brent! The Georgian Terrace Hotel's concierge. He was so very helpful in filling in the blanks as far as the hotel history, who stayed when and I can't wait to return so I can see him again and get even more details on Atlanta and its history. 

One last view!

I hope you enjoyed my tour of The Georgian Terrace Hotel and for more photos of the hotel interiors and exteriors now and when it was first built along with more history on it,  please check out Part One. (link included above.) And if you find yourself in downtown Atlanta I do hope you'll take a tour or even spend a night or two there. 

I'll be writing about the Fabulous Fox Theater, my after hours tour and the Margaret Mitchell house but first I'm going to do Part 4 of my Mary Astor bio. One of my loyal readers, Errol in Ireland reminded me that I still haven't finished it so it's on my agenda. (Thanks for being so patient with me, Errol!)

See you soon!


  1. As you said, there is so much history in this hotel! If I was a girl in Atlanta in the late 1980s, I'd be so sad with the idea of destroying this beautiful hotel. But I'm very glad the people voiced against this greedy decision.
    I loved this report on your trip to Atlanta. Amazing!

    1. Hiya, Le!
      So glad you enjoyed part two. Sorry it took so long to get it up.
      Atlanta and any fan of historical places, important landmarks certainly did get lucky with the decision to make the hotel a historical landmark. I forgot to mention that it's gone through two more remodels since the 90s and its been sold a couple more times. While I was talking with the concierge a new buyer was touring the place. It was up for sell again. If only I had the spare millions to purchase it.
      See ya around, Doll!

  2. Again, I found this tour fascinating.

    I wonder what gems can be found in our own backyards.

    1. Hi, CW,
      I'm a big fan of architecture and I've been glad to see the majority of OKCs old hotels, art deco buildings around town getting restored.
      A funny story. A few years ago, the lovely Skirvin Hotel was restored and renovated downtown here. It's a nice hotel, very art deco. Anyway, when NBA teams come to OKC to play the Thunder, they stay at the Skirvin. Well, it has been reported by a few players that they were kept up all hours of the night by ghosts. Weird noses, lights turning off and on, kids crying. lol If a team loses to the Thunder a player on occasion will blame the ghosts and being kept up all night.
      Thanks for joining me for Part 2.
      All the best!

  3. Fascinating stuff here Page, especially the pictures showing the mixing of the two hotels. I really must make it to Atlanta someday.

    1. Hi, Kev!
      I regret that I didn't take better photos and more photos. I thought I had taken quite a few but just not enough in and around the hotel to get a real feel for the original design.
      I appreciate you taking the time to come back for Part Two.
      See ya soon!