The Galloway School's historic Gresham Building -- the former Fulton County Almshouse -- in a photo from a 2013 application for the National Register of Historic Places.

Buckhead’s The Galloway School is proposing a campus renovation that could spell changes to — maybe even the end of — its historic, trademark Gresham Building.

The private school has been based in the 112-year-old former Fulton County Almshouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, since its founding in 1969. Preliminary documents filed with the City this month call for a new building and propose demolition of the Upper Learning building, which is the Gresham’s main educational use. But the school says no specific decision has yet been made pending a formal announcement expected in mid-November.

“We are still in the planning stages of what the outcome of the Gresham Building will be,” said school spokesperson Meghan Stauts in an email. “We have filed paperwork to allow us several options, and we continue to work with our architects, our construction firm, and our Board of Trustees to decide the best course of action. However, the scope of the project has not been relayed yet.”

A campus map from The Galloway School’s website, with the Gresham Building marked as number 1.

The school is located at 215 Chastain Park Ave. on an 8.2-acre campus nestled within the City’s Chastain Park. The street address was West Wieuca Road until a 2019 name change, but the expansion-related filings in the City system continue to use the old name. It currently enrolls 750 students in grades pre-K through 12. The Gresham Building — a brick, column-fronted Neoclassical Revival structure — is its main entrance and also the administrative center.

Stauts said the concept of campus changes comes from lengthy discussions. 

“During the pandemic, we quickly realized how limited we were by our existing buildings and our 8.2-acre campus footprint,” she said. “Post-pandemic, we began having several internal conversations about how we can provide the best education environment for our 750 students, particularly our Upper Learning students (roughly 330 students). We quickly identified the need for an upgraded space for our largest learners, who are currently housed in our smallest space (The Gresham Building), as well as updates to existing facilities, such as playgrounds and dining spaces, that will serve our entire school community.”

A side view of the Gresham Building from the National Register of Historic Places file.

On Oct. 3, the school filed several planning documents with the City. They include a rezoning application to allow a “new building” and a revision of a special use permit for a “new site plan.” Another application is for a meeting with the City’s Concept Review Committee, in which the concept is described as “proposed demolition of existing upper learning building and development of new upper learning building and associated hardscape amenity area on site.”

Demolition or other major change would be significant to local and Fulton County history, with the Gresham Building just placed on the National Register in 2014 in an application championed by the school and partly written by its head librarian.

The Atlanta Preservation Center, a nonprofit preservationist organization, declined comment. Officials with the Buckhead Heritage Society and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation could not immediately be reached for comment.

Laura Dobson, a preservation advocate who won a Buckhead Heritage award in 2021 for helping to save a historic book bindery and bookstore on Peachtree Road, said she hopes the Gresham Building will remain.

“I have always admired The Galloway School and hope they will commit to renovation or continued adaptive reuse of the iconic National Register [listed] Gresham Building,” she said. “It would be a tremendous loss to the City of Atlanta as well as historic preservation if such an important part of Atlanta’s history was destroyed. The building was listed by the school itself less than 10 years ago.”

Opening in 1911, today’s Gresham building at the time was one of two neighboring almshouses, meaning institutional homes for poor people, typically seniors or people with disabilities. Because of Jim Crow racial segregation, there were two almshouses to keep people racially separated. The Gresham building was for white residents, while the other almshouse at 135 Chastain Park Ave. was for African-American residents. That neighboring almshouse also survives and is now used by the Chastain Arts Center. 

The white almshouse was designed by the prominent architecture firm Morgan and Dillon and operated until 1963. The National Register file says it is significant in terms of social history, architecture and women’s history. The latter category refers to Jessie Clark Boynton, who served as superintendent from 1932 to 1963, a role that the file says was “unheard of for a woman at that time.” 

After it closed in 1963, the building served as an annex for Tuxedo Elementary School until 1967, according to the National Register filing. It also served as set storage for Chastain Park’s Theater Under the Stars and was home to Atlanta Civic Ballet dance classes. It was condemned in 1968.

Then along came John Elliott Galloway, a teacher and coach from Buckhead’s Westminster Schools and Sandy Springs’ Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. He established The Galloway School in the building in 1969 and maintained an office there until his death in 2008. 

The National Register file says the school made few alterations to the historic building internally, and the exterior is largely original. “The former almshouse has been preserved and rehabilitated, and thus retains most of its historic character-defining features, along with excellent integrity of design, workmanship, and materials,” it says.

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15 Comments

  1. This would be an historic tragedy. Why must much of American history be demolished for new & modern, while Europe manages to preserve AND modernize?
    Surely the Galloway School can build a classroom building and still retain the Gresham building, even as an important museum?

  2. The historic Gresham building is a tribute to founder Elliott Galloway. Demolishing the building not only destroys the original dream and philosophy of the founder, but does away with his legacy.

    Growth and modernization is important for the school and the students, but it should be done by being mindful of the history and legacy of Elliott Galloway.

  3. Demolishing the Gresham Building would be a tragedy. It epitomizes Elliot Galloway’s dream of 54 years ago. I would be devastated to see this historic building come down as would all who worked and studied there.

  4. Has anyone asked the head of school? Last year when he discussed Galloway’s construction, he said he thought the exterior of Gresham would be preserved and only the interior would change to be made accessible for early learning. I hope and trust this is true.

  5. Please be aware of Mr. Galloway ,and his mission to make Galloway school what it is and what it was

    My children attended Galloway, and I was a teacher for over twenty years.

  6. What a shame it would be to tear down the main building. It is a beautiful piece of architecture which is and has been the heart of Galloway. Atlanta has lost too many gorgeous landmarks as it is.

  7. Destroying this is a testament to the history of Atlanta being destroyed bit by not in the name of progress. There will be no replacement of the history , the lives changed forever and the vision of such an incredible leader. Those of us who were fortunate to have been students here are sickened by the loss of respect for a historic piece of educational and Atlanta history. Those halls and the courtyard hold the birth of a vision brought to light and should stay as a testimony and a showcase of how a dream for a better way started. In the words of Elliott “ Man’s inhumanity to man” is ours to change. Sometimes “progress” is not progress. ‘76

  8. This is the building that housed the love that taught me how to teach myself.
    This is the building where I had my first full time job, where I was shown patience and direction.
    This is the building with the front steps where I was married by Elliot Galloway.
    This is the building that is so much more than a building.

  9. As an alumni (class of 1972) of Galloway School and a veteran of the construction industry, I emphatically object to the destruction of the original structure. I have no idea if you are correct that the building was originally used as an Alms House at the dawn of the 20th century. But, when I was a student at Galloway (1970 – 1972), we were told that the building had originally been a hospital, in use during the Civil War. It certainly could have served both functions. It is a dignified, stately building that is an aesthetic jewel in Atlanta.

  10. I went to school in the NE corner of the building when it was Tuxedo Annex for kindergarten and first grade. I also attended school when the building was The Galloway School. I have so many fond memories walking through the condemned part of Tuxedo Annex when I was a little girl. I also was a student at the Galloway School. Every room I can see in my mind and remember the wonderful experiences. I just loved the courtyard while attending Tuxedo Annex and Galloway. It would be a shame to lose this fine building.

  11. I, too, am an alumnus of the Galloway School. I was one of the many students who moved with Elliott Galloway from Holy Innocents in 1969 and was present on the first day when all gathered on the front steps of this building to start a wonderful and meaningful new educational model in the Atlanta independent school system. My parents spent countless hours the first year preparing the west wing of the building for occupancy. As my others have commented I returned as a member of the faculty and have served on many committees, task forces, a Head of School search and have continued to support the school.

    I note, with sadness, that the current composition of the school’s board, as it has historically, lacks any meaningful alumni representation. We were thrilled when one of our own served as chair several years ago, but unlike the majority of other schools, Galloway has relied on parents for board expertise. This deficiency has had an obvious impact in the decision presented by the proposal to remove the iconic and historically meaningful Gresham Building. Having met Mr. Gresham and knowing the influence he had on Elliott Galloway, I am sure that there are some sad faces in company of saints that is comprised of those who dedicated years of service to this school.

  12. As a former student at Galloway (’76) and lifelong advocate and professional in design, architecture, preservation and construction, I find it unconscionable that action to demolish this building has gained such momentum. This decision is short-sighted and the loss is irreversible. I urge another look at the implementation of adaptive re-use for the sake of architectural preservation and local historic, cultural value.

  13. I am an alum of The Galloway School and started my studies there in its first year in 1969. I was shocked and appalled to hear about the possible demolition of this beautiful, historically-significant Gresham Building. It is the iconic symbol of The Galloway School and Mr. Galloway himself. It’s good to note that the building was saved from demolition when Mr. Galloway stepped in.

    Atlanta has a troubling history of demolishing significant buildings. Our history in our great city is important and the Gresham Building is the face of Galloway School. At the very least, save the main part of the building and incorporate it into a more contemporary new structure. I hope the Board takes a closer look at how that might work and allows an inclusive conversation with those who may have differing opinions.

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