152 Nassau Street is the rightmost of the three center buildings. Image via Google Maps.
As Atlanta’s new developments take priority over its historic places, frustrations for the city’s preservationists pop up almost daily. However, one particular plan has them fuming.
A small brick building located at 152 Nassau Street is set to be demolished to make way for a two-story, Margaritaville-branded restaurant and an adjacent 21-story “vacation club hotel” according to a Change.org petition started by Kyle Kessler, a local architect and preservationist with advocacy group Historic Atlanta. The problem is that unassuming brick building is widely considered to be the birthplace of country music.
“In June 1923, New York-based Okeh Records took their newly-invented portable recording equipment to Atlanta, Georgia,” according to Nassau Street Sessions, the website set up to educate the public about the structure’s importance and encourage advocacy on its behalf. “In an empty downtown warehouse on Nassau Street, they made American music history.”
The idea was to record music outside the permanent music studios in New York and Chicago, according to the website. This allowed Okeh to work with unknown talent in new musical genres. Most noteworthy, the Nassau Street sessions were the first recordings of what we know today as country music.
Songs from these sessions were released in internationally. Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” there, which later became country music’s first hit record, according to the petition. The sessions also included American blues musicians Lucille Bogan, Fannie Mae Goosby and Eddie Heywood along with local jazz bands and the Morehouse College Quartet.
In the petition’s frequently asked questions page, Kessler explained Atlanta was in the process of designating the building as a local landmark, but the developer threatened litigation. If the city denies the demolition, he says, it’s very likely they will be sued.
However, he offers a solution. The proposed hotel and restaurant could be built with the historic building still intact. “The area where the 152 Nassau building sits is proposed as an off-street loading and trash pick-up area,” Kessler wrote. “These activities can be accommodated on Nassau Street, Walton Street, or Centennial Olympic Park Drive or in the proposed through-block driveway.”