Column: Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to restore Rhodes Hall
By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on January 31, 2014
The Georgia Trust is launching the public phase of a $1.7 million campaign to fund the green rehabilitation and restoration of Rhodes Hall. It already has secured more than $1.5 million in grants and pledges.
Rhodes Hall is one of the last remaining grand mansions that used to line Peachtree Street at the turn of the last century.
It was built by Amos Giles Rhodes, the founder of Rhodes Furniture Co., in 1904 and served as his residence until his death in 1928. His heirs deeded the building to the state of Georgia subject to the condition that the property “be used by the State of Georgia for historical, as distinguished from ordinary business, purposes.”
Starting in 1930, Rhodes Hall contained the Archives for the State of Georgia until they were moved downtown in 1965.
By 1983 Rhodes Hall was in derelict condition. Massive granite blocks were in danger of falling from the exterior walls, which were covered in vines. Plaster was falling and water damage was evident throughout the interior. The magnificent stained glass windows and mahogany staircase had been removed from the building.
In 1983 the Georgia Trust, then a 10-year-old nonprofit, moved into “the Castle on Peachtree” located at 1516 Peachtree St. Restoration work on Rhodes Hall began soon after.
Since 1985 all of the public spaces on the main floor have been meticulously restored, including the stained glass windows, mahogany woodwork, hand-painted walls, parquet flooring and many other architectural features.
The Trust plans to implement a sustainable rehabilitation of Rhodes Hall that will feature energy-efficient, state-of-the-art HVAC and insulation systems and many other innovations. This will be achieved alongside a sensitive historic restoration, providing a modern model for the stewardship of historic buildings.
Salvation Army event
Among the dignitaries who came to Atlanta for the meeting were Elizabeth Koch, who serves on the national advisory board and is a member of the Koch family, which owns Georgia-Pacific.
“I haven’t gotten up for a 7:30 a.m. business breakfast in 20 years,” Mrs. Koch said after walking through the breakfast buffet line. (See Page 8A for photos from the event.)
In his opening comments, Hannan highlighted the work of the Salvation Army — providing critical social services to nearly 47,000 men, women and children; helping more than 2,700 households with energy assistance; 23,000 families with groceries; and 1,200 people with rent or mortgage assistance.
The Salvation Army also distributes more than 97,000 toys and gifts to children and the elderly for Christmas. The Army also provides services for the homeless — including meals and nights off the street for men, women and children.
B. Franklin Skinner, a life member of the Metro Atlanta Advisory Board who has been a great supporter of the organization for decades, also attended the breakfast. Most influential.
One good turn deserves another
Just as the winter storm was hitting Atlanta, Gov. Nathan Deal was paying it forward. Last year, Deal had been named Georgian of the Year by Georgia Trend Magazine. The person who introduced him at the lunch was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. But in 2014, it was Reed’s turn to be named Georgian of the Year. And Deal said it was his honor to be able to return the favor.
Deal said it may be difficult for some to see how a mayor, albeit the mayor of the state’s largest city and its capitol city, can be the Georgian of the Year because a mayor represents a limited geographic area. But Reed’s achievements “far expands beyond the city limits of Atlanta,” Deal said.
As an example, he mentioned the announcement of the new Carter’s Inc. building that will be adding 200 new jobs to the local economy.
“Jason, that’s not you I’m talking about,” Deal said laughingly, referring to Sen. Jason Carter, who is running for governor as a Democrat and likely will be facing Deal in the general election.
Deal went on to describe the special partnership he shares with Reed, who works the White House while the governor works the State House, on special projects such as the deepening of the Savannah Port. “On a personal level, I appreciate his friendship,” Deal said. “And I appreciate his can-do spirit.”
Reed clearly was touched, saying he was “a little emotional today” and that he was “genuinely happy.” (Of course, this was before the storm had brought the city to a standstill.)
“This room speaks to choosing cooperation over conflict,” Reed said of the people gathered for the 100 Most Influential luncheon at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. “I can easily say I love Georgia, I love Atlanta.”
Storm freezes events
The winter storm on Jan. 28 caused major business events to be canceled.
The Atlanta Business League postponed its board installation ceremony scheduled for the evening of Jan. 28. The Georgia Research Alliance canceled its quarterly board meeting scheduled for the morning of Jan. 29.
And the Buckhead Coalition called off its annual luncheon on Jan. 29 where Hala Moddelmog, the new president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, was to speak. Central Atlanta Progress and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District canceled its town hall meeting planned for the morning of Jan. 30.
The organizations will reschedule these events in the near future.