Saturday, September 30, 2006

Street Orphans

I woke up to the sound of a building collapsing today. Needless to say, the reality doesn't live up to the image. An old (well, 1950s-vintage) bank building was demolished, presumably for more high-end apartments. The building itself was pretty non-descript -- I've presumably seen it thousands of times, but I can't picture it at all.

Perhaps inspired by the odd beginning to the day (half-asleep, I initially thought it was a bomb) got me to go out and see something I've been meaning to for a while -- a little remnant of old Atlanta.

A while back, I was chattering about old street names in Atlanta, and mentioned that Andrew Young International Boulevard had taken over the old-timey Cain Street downtown.

Well... not completely.

A one-block stretch of Cain Street remains, for reasons unknown. It runs from Boulevard to Jackson -- two rather run-down streets. East of Boulevard, what used to be Cain later (apparently - I'm relying on a 1951 map that I'm not sure is totally accurate) became part of Houston Street (now John Wesley Dobbs). West of Jackson, no street remains -- it appears to be apartment complex parking lots now (what was Cain resumes at the interstate, and that's where Andrew Young International Boulevard begins).

I've driven past this little forgotten chunk of Cain plenty of times, mostly just noting its presence, and a rather odd building there. Today, I finally drove on over.

I'd like to say it was the land that time forgot -- "everyone was dressed like it was 1926, flappers and shit! It was free love and free beer! People were riding unicorns around!" but, uh, no. It's basically empty, a street forgotten except for those who want to get from Boulevard to Jackson. There's that one odd building on the whole block, and a section of Freedom Park, on the north side -- private empty lots on the south.

The building, though, is quite interesting:

No signs, no indication of what it is. A residence? Rather odd area for one. The surrounding neighborhood is so completely disused -- there's nothing there -- that I would presume it was just a defunct building that has escaped the wrecking ball, but it's very well kept-up. A fence around the back kept me from getting a close-up look on that side, and the front offered up no clues.

A search on the address (442 Cain St.) turns up one reference -- a notice about the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, referring to our building thus:

"442 CAIN STREET, 1929. A one-story, trapezoid-shaped, brick service station with a shed roof, stepped parapet, and skylight. Facade features a single service bay with double, cross-braced doors and a three-bay office."

That's it. A service station (presumably modified considerably), dating to 1929. Another building for the oddball unknown file. And a cool one -- the last holder of the Cain Street legacy.


Sort of s.a. said...

What a unique and interesting design. Especially in the second photo, the glass in particular stands out.

I know that where I live, I've seen a few old garages/service stations transformed into apartments and offices at some point. You can always spot them because of the big bay doors. To me, that's what your building looks like.

Anonymous said...

i've walked around the perimeter of this thing and it is definitely someone's home. it is a virtual fortress but its lonely standing allows it to have the best view of atlanta possible (if thats something you're into).

gsdgsd13 said...

That is true -- it does give a pretty good view of Atlanta. Didn't consider that.

sort of s.a. -- there are a few other shots that make it look even more interesting. I've seen the building from a different angle, driving into work, and that's where it initially caught my eye. Never really seen anything like it.

bookishredhead said...

It's a private home. I used to know the daughter of the woman who lives there. She's (the occupant-not the daughter) an odd bodkin, but an interesting character. She does not often leave her house and I'm told she has a fairly substantial modern art collection.

Anonymous said...

The fulton county records of this property show the original building (circa 1988) that appears to be the bottom floor of this one. It also refers to it as a multifamily residence. I don't know about the architect or owner of the building, but it certainly has the best view of Atlanta from it's front yard, and a view of the MLK statue in its back.

Sherman Clarke said...

This house caught my eye last week when I was in Atlanta for a conference of art librarians. We were on our way from the hotel to Rathbun's. I love the villa-ness of the building, and the rather gentle deconstructivism. It doesn't surprise me much that the owner has a sizable art collection.

a said...

It is a house. I met the owner yesterday. The owner's brother is the architect.

Que Lindos said...

On a visit to Atlanta and the Martin Luther King Historic District I came across this fantasy home adjacent to the Freedom Park Trail. Thanks for your observations on the street Orphans post and the comments of your readers.