152 Nassau Street in Atlanta was home to the first country music recording hit made before the genre even had a name
Country music has many origin stories. One of them occurred on or around June 19, 1923, when Fiddlin’ John Carson was tapped to record music at a pop-up studio at 152 Nassau Street in Atlanta for Okeh Music. His hit recording marked the first deliberate effort to market country music for a country audience.
Nashville may be the country music capital, but the industry for which it’s famous began in Atlanta. Now, a grassroots drive to preserve a historic downtown building is highlighting Atlanta’s somewhat forgotten role in early roots music.
Any day now, the city of Atlanta will approve the demolition permits for 141 Walton Street and 152 Nassau Street, home of the first-recorded country music song. This demolition is for the construction of a Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville Bar and Hotel.
The irony is that we are witnessing another large moment in Country music in Atlanta.
Local Atlanta area teenager Lil’ Nas X and his Country Trap song ‘Old Town Road’ has reached an internet zenith, and it is now crossing into mainstream media.
The new Margaritaville hotel and residences by Garvin Design Group are planned for a significant Atlanta site
Plans for a forthcoming Margaritaville Wyndham resort have been unveiled by Garvin Design Group, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to a wave of criticism. Per a recent permit filing, the resort is slated for Nassau Street in downtown Atlanta, and will be a 21-story tower. The plan would mean demolishing a building rooted in local history.
Filings indicate developers are inching closer to demolishing two historic buildings
In recent months, plans for a high-rise Margaritaville resort in downtown Atlanta have become more palpable, as developers Wyndham Destinations and Margaritaville Vacation Club filed permit requests to level a couple of historic buildings, potentially clearing a project site between Nassau and Walton streets.
The controversial resort proposal is expected to climb 21 stories and feature upwards of 200 “vacation ownership units”—urban timeshares—an 18th floor pool deck and spa, and a two-story, 14,000-square-foot Margaritaville restaurant.
And now, the project that threatens to replace what many believe to be the birthplace of country music appears to have a face.
A nondescript building in Atlanta, considered a birthplace of country music, may soon be demolished—and become a Margaritaville.
Tucked away on a side street street in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, it’s easy to overlook the two-story brick building at 152 Nassau Street NW.
A concert hall called the Tabernacle towers over it. So does one of the area’s newest tourist draws, a 20-story Ferris wheel. It hardly draws a second look from people headed for Centennial Olympic Park, CNN Center, or the gleaming new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the 2019 Super Bowl.
But nearly a century ago, 152 Nassau was where a talent scout from one of the first American record labels set up shop to put some of the sounds of the American South on disc. The result was what historians consider the first commercial country record, “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” by an Atlanta musician named Fiddlin’ John Carson.
On Thursday, an Atlanta zoning board delayed a vote to allow the preservation of two historic buildings in downtown Atlanta.
One of them is where country music’s first major hit record, Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” was recorded for OKeh Records in 1923.
Perhaps ironically, it’s developers of musician Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort who want to raze the structure. That’s despite Buffett’s significant Atlanta roots — his first live album was recorded at the Fox Theater. Atlanta is where Buffett fans founded the first Parrot Head club.
As Atlanta’s new developments take priority over its historic places, frustrations for city’s preservationists pop up almost daily. However, one particular plan has them fuming.
Plans for a two-story Margaritaville-branded restaurant and adjacent 21-story vacation club resort will demolish a small brick building at 152 Nassau Street, according to a change.org petition started by local architect and preservationist with advocacy group Historic Atlanta Kyle Kessler. The problem is that building is widely considered to be the birthplace of country music.
Country music’s first hit record was made in an unassuming office building in Downtown Atlanta, but proposed construction for a new Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville location could erase this bit of history forever.
The building, located at 152 Nassau St., currently houses a law firm but was once the location of a temporary recording studio set up by New York-based Okeh Records executive Ralph Peer. Plans for the development of a Downtown home for the Margaritaville restaurant chain, which boasts more than 30 outposts in the U.S. and abroad, were unveiled summer 2016. In response, Atlanta planning commissioner Tim Keane announced in May 2017 that the building and another structure on Walton were being nominated for historic designation to protect them from the threat of demolition by the proposed Margaritaville construction. The developer’s attorney contested the nomination which put it on hold. A demolition permit application was recently filed with the City of Atlanta associated with the construction of a Margaritaville restaurant and hotel.