The original Equitable Building, Atlanta’s first skyscraper, was not torn in 1971 for the Trust Company of Georgia (now Suntrust) tower that we have today. It was torn down for its adjacent banking lobby.
The Equitable Building was financed by Joel Hurt (the developer of Inman Park) and designed by the architectural firm of Burnham and Root. It was completed in 1892 and commanded the corner of Park Place (then Pryor Street) and Edgewood Avenue, the latter street being another one of Hurt’s creations. B&R are better known for their pioneering of early skyscraper design in Chicago, including the Rookery and Monadnock Buildings.
In many ways the Equitable Building was everything a tall building shouldn’t be, at least according to later architects. It was ponderous and heavy, and the entrance looked like the mouth of a cave, but God I wish it was still around. This was a fascinating era in design, when new forms were coming into being but ornament wasn’t considered anathema. Even architects who shunned embellishment in theory were known to throw in a carving here or some gilding there.
The banking lobby that took its place offers little of interest to passerby; even though it has plenty of windows, the shades are invariably drawn. The eastern side of Woodruff Park is a cold, uninviting plaza that one walks through with a feeling of alienation, even with the addition of a fancifully painted fiberglass cow. It’s apparent from the top picture in this set that it didn’t have to be that way. Trust Company could have gotten its shiny new building and the Equitable Building could have been preserved, but it was decided that the Equitable blocked the sight lines of the new tower. Aw.
Like Atlanta’s old library, the Equitable Building was preserved in fragments. The massive marble columns in front of the Suntrust building and the “new” Equitable Building on Peachtree come from this structure. A rectangular piece that announces “Trust Company of Georgia” is displayed on the sidewalk along Edgewood next to the banking lobby looking like some kind of consolation prize. Too little, too late.