A Peachtree Road commercial building dating to 1929 is on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2018 “Places in Peril” list of threatened historic sites due to possible demolition.
Currently home to Peachtree Battle Antiques & Interiors, the building at 2395 Peachtree Road was built as the National Library Bindery, a book-maker, and later housed the iconic shop Oxford Books. The developer of a planned apartment tower behind the store says it will save the building’s historic façade, but the Georgia Trust says that isn’t certain.
“Everybody takes this building for granted,” said Laura Dobson, a Peachtree Hills resident who nominated the building. “All buildings don’t need to be the Fox [Theatre] to be important and worth saving.”
Mark McDonald, executive director of the Georgia Trust, said in an interview that the building is unique.
“It represents a different type of building and the old Buckhead,” McDonald said.
He said the organization hopes to work with the developers to ensure the building survives.
The building’s owner, Branch Properties, received a permit last year from the city of Atlanta to demolish the building and construct a new apartment building. That’s the reason the Georgia Trust fears for the building and placed it on the list.
The developer says it is dedicated to preserving part of the building, but its possession of a demolition permit caused preservationists to fear for the building’s future. “While Branch Properties later agreed to save an undetermined amount of the façade, nothing is certain at this point,” the Georgia Trust said in a press release.
The building was designed by A. Ten Eyck Brown and Alfredo Barili, Jr., two prominent Atlanta architects, McDonald said. Brown is known for designing the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building and the Fulton County Courthouse.
McDonald said the awareness created by past “Places in Peril” lists has helped save several buildings, but he acknowledged the bindery may prove hard to save because it sits on high-value land. “It would encourage the developer to build something [that] it can make more money off of,” he said.
The developer that owns the property, Branch Properties, agreed in 2016 to save the building’s front section and use it for shops or restaurant space in the proposed mixed-use apartment development.
Richard Lee, Branch’s executive vice president, said Branch at one point had considered abandoning that original plan, but has returned to it and will move forward with it.
“Branch has gone to great lengths and expense in the design of the project to preserve the front Tudor Revival part of the National [Library] Bindery building facing Peachtree Road,” Lee said in an email. “Although we looked at the possibility of a retail project as an alternative, we are not now pursuing that use.”
Branch is not planning to save any part of the back of the building, which was added to the original building in the 1950s or 1960s, Lee said.
Carl Freggens, a staff member at Peachtree Battle Antiques who moved to Atlanta from Pittsburgh last year, said he was surprised by the lack of historic buildings in the Atlanta.
“I think it’s rather sad they don’t save more historic buildings in this city,” Freggens said.
No one at the store had heard that the property was put on the list, but they were happy to hear the organization is advocating for its preservation.
Donna Corrales, who operates a booth at the store, said she is happy it has been placed on the list “if it is going to help it be preserved.”
Corrales said she was born and raised nearby on West Wesley Road, and often took her son to Oxford Books, which used to be in building. She doesn’t want to see one of the last historic buildings on Peachtree Road be lost, she said.
“That building needs to be preserved. It is part of Buckhead’s history and it is doesn’t need to be lost or changed,” she said. “If everything is torn down we won’t have anything left to look back on.”
Ray Magola, also a dealer at the store, said if the building was demolished, the owners of the antique business likely could not find a building as perfect for an antique store again in Atlanta.
“It’s sort of quirky. The wood floorboards creak, and the windows provide the perfect lighting. It’s just pretty,” Magola said. “I think it’s one of the last places that’s going to have this much character.”
Wright Mitchell, founder of the Buckhead Heritage Society, a preservation organization, said the group supports the efforts of the Georgia Trust and is determining how it can help save the building.
“It’s a historically significant building and it’s important to the fabric of the neighborhood,” said Mitchell, who now serves as an emeritus board member.
The group is also having to determine how to help during a time when it has no executive director.
Carmie McDonald, the previous director who was hired in 2016, resigned in September to take a job as a preservation consultant.
“Obviously, in a perfect world, we would have an executive director in place, but these things happen,” Mitchell said.