Normally I write about somewhere I’ve been to recently maybe for some event but this post is about an event upcoming and about a place that features in daily life here at Rhodes Hall.
Preservationists may be unaware of the cool inter-city urban performance art hijinks that are taking place next door to us this weekend at the Old Rhodes Theatre on the south side of Rhodes Hall, in the only remaining building of the Rhodes Center. We don’t often associate ourselves with the happening art scene (or they with us, hello) even though both the arts and us historic preservationists (and bikers, alt transit proponents, urban explorers, planners, foodies and farmers, etc) share a common goal of revitalizing our streets, our neighborhoods, and buildings. Preservationists support the Beltline yes, and Ponce City Market (good job guys) but when it comes to festivals like Streets Alive or art events like Living Walls, communication fails to connect these 2 entities. There may even be strife between them if, for instance, a historic building is painted by a revered graffiti artist. Peachtree’s Streets Alive this summer stopped just short of Rhodes Hall, and this weekend a Living Walls event is happening RIGHT NEXT DOOR with the expressed purpose (according to this CL article) of not just having public performance art but of “resuscitating a beloved Atlanta landmark” the Rhodes Theatre, a remnant of the 1930s shopping center that once surrounded Rhodes Hall.
“Perhaps most intriguing of all, gloATL and Living Wills will finish their fall Traveling Show right on Atlanta’s doorstep. When they’re not on the road, the busy groups are in the process of resuscitating a beloved Atlanta landmark, the Rhodes Theatre just off Peachtree Street near Rhodes Hall. The historic theatre, closed and empty since 1985, will be reopened for a weekend of performances, November 8-10.”
Many questions arise namely, huh? no one said anything to us about “resuscitating” our neighbor, is this for real or just a flippant use of language for an article, hopeful? has anyone actually made steps? talked to the owner? My assumption is that there are no true plans for revitalization of this building but it is exciting that the owner is letting it be used for community events like this in the interim.
Honestly, last we heard there was going to be a giant tower to forever overshadow us and block our incredible view of midtown. Just waiting on the economy.
The Rhodes Center was sold in 1985 to developer Scott Hudgins, the Theatre closed in December of 1985. The matching Rhodes Center building on the north side of Rhodes Hall was later developed for office space (Equifax building) and while the south side building with the theatre was gutted, it has not been demolished, yet. Anyway, I just went across the street to take a few pictures and the theatre was open! With images of 1980s mod carpet and panelling on the lobby walls, I peered into the darkness, of course it was empty. The gutted building has a dirt floor surrounded by a concrete pad. J and J were sweeping and painting what floor remains, the plan they say is to install grass in the center for a sort of indoor outdoor stage for gloATL performers.
The above image from the GSU archives looks down the street between Rhodes Hall and the Theatre when it was still operating (and Rhodes Hall served as home of the State Archives). The best history of the Rhodes Theatre (and mental image of Atlanta in the 1940s) I’ve ever seen was written by Tommy Jones here.
Lastly, word is there are NO plans for Living Walls to paint anything (except for the floor). So ardent preservationists can be relieved.