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Historic Building Facing Demolition Renews Atlanta Preservation Debate

Located in Atlanta's Fairlie-Poplar district, the Forsyth-Walton building, dating back to the early 1900s, may face demolition.
Located in Atlanta's Fairlie-Poplar district, the Forsyth-Walton building, dating back to the early 1900s, may face demolition.
Credit Courtesy of ATL Urbanist

Another historic structure is facing demolition downtown. This time, it’s a small building at the intersection of Forsyth and Walton Street, which dates back more than 100 years.

Plans for it to be torn down were revealed earlier this month. A telecommunications company next door hopes to expand into the space.

An old neon sign still adorns the Forsyth-Walton building in downtown Atlanta. CREDIT HOUSE OF STONE / HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PEOPLE/HOUSEOFSTONE/

But the demolition notice has prompted an outcry among some Atlanta residents, who feel the city is losing its few historic buildings. In a similar case earlier this year, more than 2,000 people signed a petition to save downtown’s historic Bell Building from being torn down.

Curbed Atlanta editor Michael Kahn discussed why it might seem like local historic buildings have few protections.

While many buildings around Atlanta are on the National Register of Historic Places, he said, a structure is only really protected if it is nominated and designated by the city.

“In the metro area you have more than 300 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places,” Kahn said, “but within the city of Atlanta you only have 50 or 60 buildings on this preservation list.”

But Kahn said that recent social media campaigns, like the one to save the Bell Building, have helped let city officials know that Atlanta residents are interested in preserving local historic structures, or at the very least, in having a conversation about what should be preserved.

“Not every old building is historic and not every old building is worth saving,” he said. “But it’s important to establish a baseline and really examine what it is that we want to have in the future in the city to allow for a kind of diversity in architecture and a legibility of Atlanta’s history.”