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Historic Hotels of Atlanta Hold Interesting Pieces of City’s Past
August 7, 2023, Atlanta, GA--

With its standing as a major epicenter for American history and a modern culture hub—most notably the American Civil Rights Movement as well as the city’s iconic music scene—Atlanta was established in 1837 as the end to the Western & Atlantic railroad line, solidifying the city as a transportation hub in to the present.

Today, Atlanta is home to close to 800 hotels, including four Historic Hotels of America members: The Georgian Terrace Hotel, the Ellis Hotel Atlanta, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel by Marriott, Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown and The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton.

For a hotel to be considered for membership into Historic Hotels of America—a group under the umbrella of the National Trust for Historic Preservation—the hotel must meet several criteria, said Larry Horowitz, Executive Vice President for the preservation group. The hotel’s building must be at least 50 years old; either listed in the National Register of Historic Places, designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior or be displaying a National Register plaque; in or near an historic district; an interesting, historical, architectural or eventful history and/or the home of a famous person or location of an event in history; and a dedication to historical commemoration, preservation and presentation.

For Horowitz, two of the city’s hotels stand out as jewels of Atlanta’s historic hotels: the Georgian Terrace and the Candler Hotel.

Built in 1911, the Georgian Terrace on Peachtree Street in Atlanta’s Fox Theatre District (also called Midtown) was constructed to look “like a Parisian hotel out of a noted boulevard,” Horowitz said. The hotel went on to become known as the Grand Dame of Atlanta, and the “Grand Old Lady of Peachtree,” Horowitz added with an affectionate laugh.

The architecture of the building is a combination of Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Revival architectural styles, popular at the time, and is built heavily with brick and marble. Throughout its more than 100year history, the Georgian Terrace has hosted several celebrities and prominent public figures, including movie stars from the 1940s and 1950s such as Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, author F. Scott Fitzgerald, U.S. presidents including Calvin Coolidge, and many more.

When a pair of club promoters dubbed the Georgian Terrace’s Grand Ballroom the Electric Ballroom in the 1970s, saw an influx of new energy into the historic hotel, with performances by Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith the Ramones, Billy Joel and many more. But just a short decade later, revenue had declined, forcing the hotel to close for a period of time. By the 1990s, a new era for the Georgian Terrace began, bringing the addition of a new 19-story wing. And in 2000 and 2009, the hotel received a luxurious renovation.

“Over the years, it was the centerpiece for people in the ’30s and ’40s and the ’50s,” said Horowitz. “It’s a favorite hotel.”

In contrast, the Candler Hotel with its opulent and ornate facade offinely carved marble statues was originally built as an office building for prominent business, banks and trusts by Coca-Cola emperor Asa Candler in 1904.

“He really was building intending it to be financial headquarters for Atlanta,” Horowitz explained. “Whereas the owners of the Georgian Terrace were really building it to be the hotel that everyone would want to be in.”

At the time it was built, the Candler was the tallest building in Atlanta, Horowitz said, with an impressive 17 stories. He also estimates that—if there were a way to measure the weight of a building—the Candler would be the heaviest building in Atlanta. The American Bridge Company used more than 3,000 tons of steel and iron to build the Candler, and Amicolola marble carved into lions, pillars and busts of historical intellectuals such as William Shakespeare and Michelangelo line the exterior. The interior is filled with white marble floors and red mahogany woodwork. Former tenants include the Central Bank & Trust Corporation, a predecessor of Bank of America.

Currently, there are no hotels pending membership with Historic Hotels of America, Horowitz said. However, three hotels are eligible for induction including the Hotel Clermont Atlanta, the Glenn Hotel Autograph Collection and the Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta.