Castleberry Hill Historic District

National Register listed: 1984.

Credits

Castleberryhill Neighborhood Association -www.castleberryhill.org
Castleberry Hill Chronicle - http://www.mindspring.com/~fxfloyd/chindex.html

United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Inventory

-Nomination Form

Castleberry Hill Historic District is located in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia at the southwestern edge of the Atlanta Central Business District. It is bounded generally by the Southern Railroad and Central of Georgia Railroad tracks on the east, McDaniel Street on the south, Peters and Walker Streets on the west, and Nelson Street on the north.

1-Description

Describe the present and original (if known) physical appearance

Castleberry Hill is a densely developed commercial district adjacent to one of Atlanta's main rail lines and consisting of one-to-three-story brick buildings historically used for retailing wholesaling, and light industry. It is an irregularly shaped, elongated (about 6 times as long as its width), commercial nucleation of approximately 40 acres and 108 buildings. Peters, Nelson and Walker Streets, the principal thoroughfares serving the district, and the long curve of the Central of Georgia/ Southern Railroad tracks reflect the organic development nature of Atlanta's settlement (Terminus) and frontier village (Marthasville) eras. A spur of the Southern Railroad, constructed between 1913 and 1915, enters the district from the north in a reverse curve that has had a profound effect on the form of buildings facing on Nelson and Walker Streets and gives the northerly half of the district a unique character. The southerly section of the area also is distinctive in form because of the sharply acute angle of intersection formed by Walker and Peters Streets. Within the organic pattern of principal streets and rail lines, buildings are placed against property lines of facing and abutting streets and against each other, forming a continuous wall of highly similar facades. The buildings fronting on Nelson and Walker back up against the undulating curves of the rail spur easement to form an almost medieval setting on the interior of the blocks north of Fair Street. Between these buildings and Peters Street is an open area intersected by several narrow streets and containing a scattering of buildings and parking lots. The topographic prominence that was Castleberry Hill is still apparent within the district. The high point of the hill, about 1086 feet, lies adjacent to Walker Street about halfway between the Stonewall/Walker and Fair Street/Walker intersections.

Peters Street, running the length of the district, is lined on its west side and, toward the south end, on its' east side with retail/commercial building dating from the 1890s to the 1930s. These are predominantly one-and two-story brick commercial buildings with modest late Victorian and Early 2Oth Century Commercial-style detailing. They have flat roofs and high parapets. All originally had street level "storefronts" set between brick piers, but many of these first floors have been altered. They are detailed with corbeled cornices, segmental and round-arched windows, cast stone sills and in some of the later buildings decorated spandrel panels and stepped parapets. There are two unusual buildings within the district. One is a late 1880's brick freight depot with a two- story flat-roofed front section and a long bracketed, gable-roofed, one-story rear section with platforms. The other is an elaborately detailed, two-story bank building at 315 Peters Street built in 1900. It is faced, on its front facade, with stone and has classical detailing.

Situated along Nelson and Walker Streets are almost solid rows of two-and three story warehouses, the majority built in the 1920s. These are Early Twentieth Century Commercial-style structures with flat facades and very modest amounts of detailing. Industrial sash windows and track loading doors are almost ubiquitous. Exteriors are detailed with cast-stone sills and copings, spandrel panels decorated with terra-cotta insets and fancy brickwork, stepped parapets, and door surrounds highlighted by name plaques, cast-stone surrounds, and entablatures.

More than 60 percent of the principal buildings within the proposed district are "Standard Mill Construction" having a minimum of 12-inch thick brick bearing walls rising from brick or stone foundations; minimum of 8-inch x 8-inch timber posts and 3-inch x 8-inch wood plank tongue-and-groove or splined decking. The primary members of the system are bolted and spiked together through cast iron or steel post caps, plates, and straps. Planks are nailed at beams. Two variants of the "Standard Mill" system are present within the district: one that uses steel rolled beams instead of timber, and the second that uses wood joists, secured to wood or steel beams and set into pockets formed in masonry walls, and conventional wood flooring (finished flooring over a one inch thick subfloor) for decking instead of planks. The latter case results in a floor system of less loading capacity and is most prevalent in commercial buildings. Practically all the one-story structures and many (about 30 percent) of two-story buildings originally intended for mercantile occupancies use the latter system. Steel framed and reinforced concrete framed buildings occur in the district in large, multibay structures erected after 1920.

The interiors of buildings within the district have been randomly surveyed and fall into two general patterns. The interiors of commercial buildings typically are finished as follows: walls are plastered; wooden floors generally are covered with composition tile, and in some cases with ceramic tile or terrazzo; columns, plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems are furred in; and dropped ceilings are finished with acoustical tile. Two-tube, suspended fluorescent lighting fixtures are predominant in retail shops along Peters Street. The interiors of manufacturing lofts and warehouses tend to retain almost all their original functional materials and finishes. Almost all these buildings within the proposed district are sprinklered, reflecting changes in the fire-safety requirements of building codes that allowed construction materials to remain exposed provided sprinkler systems were installed. These buildings have exposed brick walls, occasionally painted or plastered; exposed wood columns, beams and undersides of floor and roof systems; and unfinished wood flooring, sometimes overlaid with protective coverings in high-traffic corridors and equipment paths. Most buildings of this type have shafts for freight elevators and lifts and a small area of two partitioned off for supervisory offices, toilet rooms, tool rooms, secure-storage areas, or equipment servicing and repair bays. Partitions generally are wooden high-rail of the most functional type and, as appropriate, chain-link fencing All have freight shipping and receiving doors, generally placed at dock level, and some have trucking bays set into the building perimeter. All electrical distribution systems, mechanical systems and other building equipment systems are exposed throughout the building. Lighting fixtures range from the exposed incandescent bulb suspended by its cord from all overhead box to fluorescent fixtures in strips depending on current or previous occupant's needs.

The overall character of landscaping in the district is the lack of any plant materials except volunteer growth in side and rear yards. Street paving and sidewalk paving materials are cast-in-place concrete separated by granite curbs. Parking lots are covered with asphaltic concrete or plain concrete, and undeveloped building lots, if not used for spontaneous parking, are left open and cleared of all but volunteer vegetation. Topographic differences are accommodated in many places by rough-cut granite walls and at other locations by steeply graded, unplanted banks. The landscape impression is of a densely packed, low-height industrial area strongly tied to the street system and the railroad. The most dramatic characteristic of the area is its visual proximity to downtown Atlanta and the impact of the city's tallest, flashiest buildings. At its north end is a 1920 viaduct widened in the 1930s, which carries Peters Street over the railroad track. It replaces an earlier 1904, wooden viaduct.

Boundary: The boundary of the district, outlined with a heavy black line on the enclosed maps, encompasses the intact and contiguous commercial properties associated with the area known as Castleberry Hill. The area surrounding the district differs in character and use from that of the district itself. To the east are multiple railroad tracks; to the south is an area developed with public housing. To the west is a largely residential area consisting primarily of single-family wood-framed houses. Along the west side of Walker Street are a few commercial building that have been isolated from the district due to recent alterations and demolitions. To the north is an area characterized by surface parking lots and small rundown buildings scattered among vacant lots.

 

Statement of Significance (in one paragraph)

Specific Dates : 1890-1935

Builder/Architect : Multiple

Castleberry Hill's primary significance lies with its collection of early 20th century warehouses, the only such collection remaining in the city to document an important aspect of Atlanta's railroad-related commercial history. In terms of community planning and development and transportation the district is significant for illustrating how its overall character has been shaped by its proximity to one of the city's earliest rail lines. The historic function and design of many of its buildings and to a certain extent its street pattern have been influenced by the railroad. Architecturally, the district is significant for containing a representative collection of modest late 19th- and early 20th-century commercial structures in Atlanta. These are of a type once common in the city but now increasingly rare. The large grouping of Early 20th Century Commercial-style warehouses is of particular interest. In terms of commerce, the district is significant as a retail/ commercial center that served railroad - related businesses and neighboring residential areas and, more importantly, as a major warehouse district that documents Atlanta's is important railroad-related commercial development. These areas of significance support National Register eligibility under National Register criteria A and C.

Community Planning and Development and Transportation

The railroad line that forms the east boundary of the district is as old as Atlanta itself; it is one of the three original rail lines that brought the city into being. The areas' street pattern remains from Atlanta's earliest days. Its street names honor many of the city's prominent early settlers. Its early development reflects its proximity to the heart of downtown' and to the railroad. The district began as a residential area occupied by a mixture of working class and managerial-class persons. From early on Peters Street grew as a trade and commercial strip, a support center for railroad and railroad-related businesses and a shopping area for the adjacent residential areas. By 1878, one of the city's first mule-drawn trolley lines was routed along Peters Street. In the 1880s a new freight depot and several spur lines were built between the east side of Peters Street and the main tracks, rapidly increasing the pace of commercialization and industrialization along Peters Street at the end of the 19th century. Elsewhere in the district, residential areas remained intact.

Atlanta was transformed during the first three decades of the 20th century from a modest-size city into an industrial metropolis serving the Southeast as a rail transportation and commodities distribution center and a financial/business center, and serving the state as a center for education and government. Real estate development activities were formidable and extended into all sections of the city. The impact of this transformation on the Castleberry Hill district was dramatic. The transition of the district from a predominantly residential area into a commercial/ industrial precinct serving local and regional markets, begun in the 1880s, was complete by about 1930.

Many of the district's earliest extant buildings were erected during the period from about 1895 to around 1910, a period of frequent annexations and dramatic population growth in the city. The new buildings dating from this era in the district were built on both sides of Peters Street and tended to be larger, more elaborate replacements of earlier structures. Several major public improvements within the district contributed heavily to the Peters Street building boom. The Peters Street Citizens Committee successfully lobbied city government to widen the street to 50 feet, pave it and build a bridge over the railroad tracks. Both projects were completed quickly, the widening and paving in 1903 and the first Peters Street Bridge in 1904.

Substantial change in the character and occupancy of the district occurred during the period between 1911 and the early years of the Great Depression. The Nelson/ Walker Street residential area north of Fair Street was totally replaced by warehouses and light manufacturing buildings following the construction in 1912-1915 of a spur line east of and parallel to Nelson and Walker Streets. By 1927, nearly all extant buildings in this stretch were built. The new structures on Nelson and Walker were occupied by wholesale/ distribution companies representing a wide-range of products such as business machines, chemical products, bottled soft drinks, paints, food products, brokerage houses, plumbing supplies, tires, farm implements and machine parts. The Peters Street commercial sector, mainly the buildings on the west side of the street north from Walker and both sides of Peters south of Walker, continued to function as a neighborhood retail/service center, but weakened as the Depression took hold.

Clearly, the district's development and historic character were shaped by its proximity to one of the city's major rail lines. Its significance in terms of community planning and development and transportation derives from the important link between the railroad and the historic function and design of many of the buildings in the neighborhood. Transportation shaped not only the streets, but the building relationships to those streets and to the rail lines, the land uses in the district, and devices and finishings in the land and buildings as well. Transportation modes and functions are still reflected in the structures, in the sitting and grading of the land, the roadways, driveways, and staging areas, garage access, loading docks and doors, and in the bridges at either end of the proposed historic district area. Some early forms of Atlanta's distinctive viaducting over the railroad tracks were constructed in and near Castleberry Hill district. Although the current Peters Street viaduct is a 1920s structure, it replaces a 1904 bridge. Bridges over the railroad at Nelson Street and McDaniel Street respectively just to the north and south of the district, are non-historic replacements of important early railroad crossing.

Architecture

Architecturally, the district is significant for providing good representative examples of two important types of late 19th and early 20th-century commercial architecture in Atlanta. The retail/commercial structures located along Peters Street in the district are modest late Victorian and Early 20th Century Commercial style buildings of a type once common in Atlanta but now increasingly rare. These one- and two-story brick buildings are modestly detailed with such typical features as corbeled cornices, string courses, segmental and round arched window openings, cast-stone sills and, in the later buildings, decorated spandrel panels and stepped parapets. Of note are an 1880s brick freight depot, one of Atlanta's oldest remaining railroad-related structures, and a finely detailed bank building with a stone-sheathed front facade.

Of particular importance in the district are the large group of early 20th-century warehouses lining Walker and Nelson Streets and scattered along the east side of Peters Street. This collection of warehouses is Atlanta's most intact group of this early 20th century building type. These buildings illustrate the evolution in warehouse construction from load-bearing brick to steel-framed and reinforced concrete construction. Their flat brick facades, industrial sash windows, track loading doors, and minimum of Early 20th Century Commercial-style detailing including decorative spandrel panels, cast-stone door surrounds and other trim, terra-cotta panels, decorative brickwork and stepped parapets provide excellent examples in Atlanta of this nationally prevalent building type.

Commerce

Castleberry Hill constitutes what is probably the last best-concentrated remnant of railroad service and distribution buildings in downtown Atlanta. These buildings were not created as essential parts of the railroad systems themselves, though the area did house several railroad sheds, offices, and one freight depot; rather, these were the support buildings and services for the railroad, housing functions which kept the railroads running, providing transport goods and fuels (coal, wood) for the lines. In addition, Castleberry Hill was the particular distribution point locally for certain commodities and trade items, chiefly wood products (barrels, excelsior, sashes and doors) and meats. (What were cattle and stockyards in the Hill's early history become meat packing houses in its later heyday). Although there was some minor manufacturing in Castleberry Hill, this area was never as important an area for factory development as the areas lying further south along Peters/Lee/Main Streets all the way into East Point. Its chief significance lay in being a warehouse locale for certain products and a railroad service area. It is also significant as a small satellite retail/commercial center that developed along Peters Street to serve railroad interests but also the residential neighborhood that existed, until the 1920s, along Walker and Nelson Streets.

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