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1960s elementary school designed by John Portman makes ‘Places in Peril’ list

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Latest designation for 10 endangered Georgia properties also includes Atlanta’s historic Fountain Hall

The dingy courtyard of a 1960s elementary school.
The Doraville school’s courtyard shows signs of deferred maintenance.
School photos courtesy of The Georgia Trust

It’s a dubious shortlist no architect would want their work to make, but for the third consecutive year, two metro Atlanta buildings are on it.

For the 15th year running, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has released their “Places in Peril” list today, spotlight 10 historically signifiant Georgia properties and places in danger of being lost.

On this year’s list is an early work from a world-famous Atlanta architect and an iconic, historic, but shuttered landmark that’s been emblematic of higher education for the city’s African-American communities for a century and a half.

Lists in recent years have included irreplaceable Atlanta structures—and an entire neighborhood—with ties to names like Marcel Breuer, Frederick Law Olmsted, and W.E.B. DuBois.

Atlanta’s 2020 sites share a commonality in that advocates are lined up with the will to rescue them—but action thus far hasn’t been enough, per the Georgia Trust.

Cary Reynolds Elementary School

Just west of Spaghetti Junction in Doraville, Cary Reynolds Elementary School (original name: Sequoyah Elementary School) is an early design by Atlanta’s most influential architect and developer, the late John Portman.

The school opened in 1961 with a variety of Portman’s signatures, including light wells above windows, central green spaces, and other motifs. The Georgia Tech graduate would go on to design and build Atlanta high-rise landmarks such as Hyatt Regency and Peachtree Center—and leave an imprint on skylines around the world.

But according to Georgia Trust, deferred maintenance meant for years to be handled by SPLOST funding hasn’t happened, and significant cash is needed to upgrade the building’s performance for faculty and students who report there each day.

“Advocates fear that the school, without the promised interventions, will be abandoned and demolished, despite its historic significance,” Georgia Trust leaders wrote in today’s announcement. “[But] a recently formed community support team hopes to stave off such an outcome, seeking ways to repair and rehabilitate the building and grounds to ensure its continued use.”

The exterior of a 1960s school of brick designed by famous architect John Portman.
Cary Reynolds Elementary School today.
A courtyard at a 1960s school that’s unused.
A dark interior hallway with glass and brick walls in the school.

Fountain Hall

Meanwhile, in the shadow of downtown Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the National Historic Landmark that is Fountain Hall remains empty, boarded-up, and rotting, as it has been since 2003.

A large brick building with a pointed clock tower that’s boarded up.
Fountain Hall’s recognizable clock tower.
Remaining photos: Lord Aeck Sargent

Originally part of Atlanta University—founded for newly emancipated African-Americans just after the Civil War—Fountain Hall was built on a hill in 1882 as the campus’s most prominent structure, punctuated with an iconic clock tower.

The building (original name: Stone Hall) was transferred to Morris Brown College in the early 1930s and renamed for Bishop William A. Fountain, a former college president, according to the Georgia Trust.

Since its shuttering 16 years ago, however, vandalism, lack of upkeep, and the elements have taken a increasingly severe toll.

“Left unattended, the building could face a similar fate to its historic neighbors, Gaines Hall and Furber Cottage, both severely damaged by fire in recent years,” wrote Georgia Trust officials. “And yet, many alumni, preservationists and individuals are committed to preserving this historic building. With recent momentum and attention, the time for action is now.”

A drone photo of an old brick building and abandoned football stadium in the distance.
The hall’s broader, underused context, just west of downtown Atlanta.