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Interview With Architect Cecil Alexander

Background on the original construction . . .

 Below is information collected in an interview with the original building architect, Cecil Alexander. The interview by Rocky Rothschild took place Saturday April 7, 2001.

The interview lasted approximately two hours. Mr. Alexander was overjoyed at the fact that residents were attempting historical preservation especially since many of his buildings have been bulldozed. He sent his daughter and husband the next day to tour the lofts and they mentioned how pleased Mr. Alexander was that residents were taking such a personal interest in the building. Mr. Alexander also believes the building is the only surviving Bauhaus style left in Atlanta.

Bauhaus architecture developed in pre-Nazi Germany and is characterized as:
1) Shunning ornamentation and favoring functionality
2) Using asymmetry and regularity versus symmetry
3) Grasping architecture in terms of space versus mass

Bauhaus buildings are usually cubic, favor right angles, and have smooth facades and an open floor plan.  It was concerned with the social aspects of design and with the creation of a new form of social housing for workers. It came about in part because of new engineering developments that allowed the walls to be built around steel or iron frames. This meant that walls no longer had to support the structure, but only enveloped it – from the outside.

  • The developer of the building was Ben Massell who was one of the most prolific developers in Atlanta after World War II. Originally the first tallest building to be constructed outside the city of Atlanta was 800 Peachtree, but due to its questionable strength and stability (especially its flooring), Mr. Massell requested a more sturdy building. Thus the Peachtree and 7th Building (Peachtree Lofts' original name) was commissioned. Additionally the 'PS' that hung in the south stairwell helped to identify our building in Midtown.
  • It was the first major commission for Rothschild and Alexander and was known as project #4901. Their first project had been a private residence in Atlanta. The house that stood on the site prior to construction was known as the Newcomb-Boyd house. At the time of completion of our building, it was the largest building in Midtown.
  • The main entrance to the building was originally the Utrecht storefront. An open plaza ran the length of the building to the south, glass stairwell where you entered the building. It was built at approximately $5.00 a square foot and leased to the U.S. Government for approximately $1.13 a square foot.
  • There was very little landscaping to mention, but the planter next to Utrecht held Weeping Cherry trees that shaded the plaza entrance.
  • Shortly after the building was completed, it was featured in Architectural Record.

     

The south side sunshades were white and no mention of steel or aluminum. Mr. Alexander did comment that after looking at them this time they appeared to be a little too short to serve their purpose. On the east and west sides of the building, the windows had aluminum louvers (screens that covered the windows). Both architects felt like the window frame/casings had never been painted were either steel or aluminum.

The original company that manufactured the windows is still in existence today in Decatur. The name is Southern G.F. Mr. Alexander thought residents might possibly be able to use the same windows just replace with insulated glass.

The basement was for parking and the pool area was additional parking and the loading dock. The building's original plans called for five elevators, but Mr. Massell did not want the additional cost.

Unofficially, after the building was completed, Eleanor Massell, Charles Massell, Cecil Alexander and a few others had a small celebratory picnic on the rooftop.

Interesting sidenote: Supposedly Doris Day put up some of the money to complete the building of a hotel that stood across the street where Spire Condominiums is today.

The building was occupied for Federal use from approximately 1952 to 1978. From approximately 1982 to 1991 the building housed the Department of Human Resources for the State of Georgia. A former employee of the state worked in our building from 1983-1991 and commented that she was very familiar with our south stairwell because of the numerous bomb threats and that was their evacuation route.

Novare Group purchased the building somewhere between 1994 and 1995 for renovation to lofts.

Mr. Alexander felt that it would be fitting for us to have the 'new' Georgia State flag flying over our building (especially since he is our architect as well as the flag designer). He gave the name of a Atlas Flags as a point of contact to help with repairs of the flagpole and to obtain a new flag.

Mr. Alexander also designed the Coca-Cola Corporate Headquarters and the BellSouth building.

 
 
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Peachtree Lofts 878 Peachtree Street, NE Atlanta GA 30309 404.815.0101 www.peachtreelofts.com