Fairlie-Poplar, Atlanta’s historic commercial center and part of Atlanta’s Downtown, saw significant growth following the Civil War. As Atlanta began its expansion and became more of a financial and office center, Fairlie-Poplar, located just north of the major railroad lines, was perfectly positioned, since development no longer depended on its proximity to rail.
Following the direction of other American cities at that time, Atlanta erected its first skyscraper, the Equitable Building (since demolished), of steel frame and reinforced concrete construction. Other skyscrapers during this time period included the Flatiron, Empire (C&S), and Grant Buildings and marked the movement of Atlanta’s commercial center north along Peachtree Street.
The Fairlie-Poplar District is filled with commercial buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that show a wide range of architectural styles. The styles reflect changing trends in commercial buildings and include Victorian Eclectic, Chicago, Georgian Revival, Renaissance Revival, Art Deco, Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, and early 20th century commercial vernacular. These local interpretations of national architectural styles were developed by prominent Atlanta architects, including Walter Thomas Downing, Alexander C. Bruce, Thomas H. Morgan, P. Thorton Marye, Neel Reid, Philip Schutze, Ernest Daniel (Ed) Ivey, and Lewis Crook.
The Fairlie-Poplar District is Atlanta’s best example of an intact historic center that boasts a variety of architectural styles, scales, and materials. Although the majority of structures are not that elaborate (most are three to six story and conservative in style) the area does offer a visual depiction of Atlanta’s transition from the Victorian to a more modern time period.
Over the past 15 years, more than 500 residential units have been created through historic conversions or new construction. Significant investments by Georgia State University in the neighborhood have combined with a growing arts district (including the first LEED certified theater in the U.S.) and contribute significantly to the revitalization of Downtown Atlanta.