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Atlanta preservationists mourn loss of Terminal Station Interlocking Tower

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Railroad company Norfolk Southern demolished the historic structure to prepare for the sale of the Gulch

A photo of the rubble that used to be the Interlocking Tower
The red-roofed tower facility that used to stand here helped move train cars through busy junctions.
Kyle Kessler, Historic Atlanta

The Interlocking Tower for Atlanta’s Terminal Station, built in 1905, was used to move trains through key junctions for nearly seven decades.

Visible from the Mitchell Street bridge that hangs over the railroad tracks, the Interlocking Tower was designed with a red-tile roof and an arched doorway—the “Renaissance Revival” style of Terminal Station, which was unfortunately razed in 1971 to make way for the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, according to the Atlanta Preservation Center.

As of last week, the two-story downtown building is nothing more than a mess of debris, following demolition by its owner, railway company Norfolk Southern.

At the end of the day, the Terminal Station Interlocking Tower had been reduced to an insignificant pile of rubble...

Posted by Historic Atlanta on Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Norfolk Southern is clearing out the site before the impending sale of “The Gulch,” a neighboring parcel of undeveloped downtown land that’s being eyed for a number of possible revitalization projects—maybe Amazon’s HQ2, maybe a sports-focused mixed-use build, maybe something else.

But some intown preservationists aren’t happy the company was able to proceed with demo plans, unencumbered. (Railroads encounter very few regulations when it comes to controlling their corridors’ land.)

“We at Historic Atlanta are frustrated by the shortsightedness of Norfolk Southern’s decision to demolish this significant piece of Atlanta’s railroad history and wish that they would have reached out to us, another preservation group, the city, or just about anyone to discuss their options,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.

Historic Atlanta said it appreciates that the tower structure was falling apart, but said it was also acting as a sort of placeholder for a roadway that will need to be built to maintain access to the railroad tracks.

Lessons learned from the loss of the Terminal Station Interlocking Tower: The building was demolished yesterday by...

Posted by Historic Atlanta on Thursday, June 21, 2018

In Norfolk Southern’s defense, the company did look into renovating or possibly relocating the building, but found such options weren’t feasible, according to the post.

The Interlocking Tower, however, is not the last bastion of Atlanta’s historic railroad architecture in the area, Historic Atlanta noted on Facebook.

“The Nelson Street Viaduct is now owned by the developers of the former Norfolk Southern offices on Spring Street (CIM Group). We must advocate for its protection and designation,” the post says.

Preservation advocates, Historic Atlanta said, can reach out to the city’s Urban Design Commission and suggest the Nelson Street Viaduct be nominated as a “Landmark Structure,” meaning it’s deemed “one of exceptional importance to the city, state, or nation, and whose demolition would represent an irreparable loss to the city,” according to the UDC.

The late Terminal Station, in all its glory.
Courtesy of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Atlanta Preservation Center

327 Saint Paul Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30312 (404) 688-3353