Photo Essay

The Sleeping Monster that is City Hall East

City Hall East

City Hall East lays claim as the largest commercial building in Georgia, weighing in at a massive 2,000,000 square feet. What once was a distribution center for Sears, Roebuck & Company built in 1926, has transitioned into City Hall East and will slowly change once more.

In Atlanta, on Ponce de Leon Avenue, the massive structure dominates the cityscape and you would be hard-pressed to miss it. With the building now under plans to be "rehabilitated" into the new Ponce Park by the Morsberger Group, I entered the building along with members of a local UrbEx group, to capture a piece of Atlanta history. The location will soon serve as a foundation for new business, lofts, retail, as well as a think-tank called the Medici Center at Ponce Park.

Future development aside, what is left behind is a partially occupied building containing some of the Atlanta Police Department, their 911 Communication Center, and a very large, awe-inspiring time capsule of a once activity laden distribution center now collecting dust. It was a beautiful place to photograph.

Of particular interest was a story we were told during our visit. Prior to Sears, Roebuck & Company creating this giant landmark, there was a natural fountain believed to provide fertility and youth to those who would come drink from the fountain. Sears built over the fountain in the early part of the 1900's and the water is not something today that would be best consumed. As such, there are large pumps directing the water back into the Atlanta sewer system.

The bowels of the building feature a duct and piping system dripping with stench and standing water that begs for explorers not to continue. The old features of the building and items left behind, take you back in time and one cannot help but wonder what it would have been like to see the building in full operation in its prime.

Walking around the exterior of the building and to the rear (near North Avenue), much of the manmade constructions have lost their battle with nature. Areas are extremely overgrown leaving a minimal trace of what used to be, as if Mother Nature was reclaiming her territory. What new traces of mankind could be found were extensive and disgusting debris and garbage left behind by the large homeless population which uses the nearby area for whatever purposes they see fit.

All that aside, the building is a marvel and wonder to behold.

The area was previously divided due to race. Boulevard changes to Monroe at Ponce de Leon, and at the start of our tour of City Hall East, we were informed that this was because the affluent residents at the time did not want to say they lived on the same street as African Americans. The new developer hopes to change all of that and create a location that not only spans across much of the area, but also across racial lines.

This building represents much of the past and also much of the future. I was happy to have the opportunity to travel and see it before it changed any further as it is truly a one of a kind place to visit.

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