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Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta celebrates 50 years, changing city

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Since opening in 1967, the Hyatt on Peachtree has gone from towering icon to part of a bustling neighborhood

Black and white photo looking up through the atrium, with glass elevator.
Inside the Hyatt soon after its 1967 opening.
Portman Archives

One of Atlanta’s most iconic hotels, designed by one of the city’s most prolific architects, is celebrating a major milestone.

The Hyatt Regency on Peachtree Street opened 50 years ago this year. To mark the occasion, the John Portman-designed hotel hosted events on Monday and Tuesday that drew dignitaries from Andrew Young to Xerona Clayton, and quite a few Atlanta mayoral candidates.

Heralded as one of the city’s top buildings by many design professionals, and coming in as one of the most Instagrammed spots in Atlanta, the hotel continues to captivate those who enter it five decades on.

When built, the blue dome of Polaris was one of the tallest things in the neighborhood, and according to many who spoke at the events on Monday and Tuesday, the opening of the building attracted folks from across the Southeast. Lines snaked around the building as visitors waited to ride the glass elevators. Even rock legend Jim Morrison of The Doors was blown away, telling an interviewer in 1970, “Atlanta has the most amazing hotel you've ever seen.”

The hotel, standing above its surroundings soon after opening.
© Clyde May, 1967, courtesy The Portman Archives, LLC

Now dwarfed by surrounding highrises—many of which were designed by John Portman, including the Westin Peachtree Plaza, which celebrated its 40th birthday last year—the Hyatt Regency still makes a statement with its blue-domed Polaris and soaring open atrium.

Once feared to be merely a “concrete monster,” according to President of Hyatt’s American division Peter Sears, the building turned out to be a major success.

Andrew Young noted that “John Portman found the soul of the city” in creating the building, which celebrated social interactions and removed people from cramped corridors traditionally found in hotels.

President of Central Atlanta Progress A.J. Robinson went so far as to say Portman’s “legacy is the legacy of Atlanta,” noting that the hotel was a major stepping stone in launching Portman’s career, which has spanned continents and decades.

A bar in the lobby when the hotel first opened.
Portman Archives

In celebration of the hotel’s first 50 years, expect to see a range of special events throughout 2017.