The Nassau Street sessions tell a multifaceted story of intersecting histories of the film and music business. Since its construction in 1920, the 152 Nassau building has served a variety of functions in Atlanta’s “Film Row” – the central distribution point for films and soundtrack records across the southeastern United States.
Most significantly, in June 1923 representatives from New York-based Okeh Records set up a temporary “remote laboratory” in the building to record blues, jazz, gospel, and country music.
152 Nassau is unique in its connection to American music history as the location of the first commercial music recordings in the South. The significance of Okeh’s Nassau Street recording sessions is recognized worldwide.
“…the field-recording expeditions by A&R [artist & repertoire] men to recruit and record local performers were enormously important in the stylistic and commercial development of American roots music. Ralph Peer’s experimental OKeh sessions in Atlanta in 1923, at which Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded his—and, arguably, hillbilly music’s—first successful disc, established the basic form. It also established the regular practice of recording roots-based artists on location in hotel rooms, warehouses, radio stations, and other temporary facilities located far away from the permanent northern studios of most record companies.”
– A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music
Lodowick J. Hill, Jr. constructs a “two-story + basement brick business house” at what was then known as 24 Nassau Street. Hill is the building’s owner, architect, and engineer. (He previously helped design and construct the Candler Building.) Construction – costing $12,000 – is complete in just three months.
Pyrene Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of fire extinguishers, moves into the newest building on “Film Row.” Nitrate-based film is highly flammable so Pyrene’s choice of location is very strategic. Pyrene outgrows the building and relocates to nearby Spring Street.
New York-based Okeh Records takes their newly-invented portable recording equipment to Atlanta. They set up a “recording laboratory” at temporarily-vacant 24 Nassau. This is the first time musicians have ever been recorded in the South.
Graphic Films Corporation – producer of industrial, commercial, and educational films – moves into the building.
The City of Atlanta renumbers street addresses. 24 Nassau Street becomes 152 Nassau Street NW.
Warren Webster & Co. acquires the building. Various manufacturers’ representatives occupy the building through the 1950s.
A variety of building engineers and contractors use the building as offices through the 1970s.
Herb Bridges, known for having the world’s largest collection of Gone with the Wind memorabilia, opens a museum in the building with a restaurant on the second floor.
Attorneys such as Atlanta Lawyers for the Arts use the building for offices. The building is still occupied by a law practice.
A developer’s proposed Margaritaville restaurant threatens to demolish the 152 Nassau building and Atlanta’s last remaining film exchange located at 141 Walton Street. In May, the City of Atlanta starts to designate the building as a local historic landmark. The developer’s attorney threatens legal action, so the City suspends the designation process in November.
December 19, 2018
The Margaritaville developers applied for a demolition permit.
July 12, 2019
The City of Atlanta issues a demolition permit for 152 Nassau.
July 30, 2019
August 8, 2019
The City of Atlanta issues a Stop Work Order in response to a Temporary Restraining Order granted by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua.
September 12, 2019
A hearing (originally scheduled for August 29th) was held for Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams to consider Historic Atlanta’s request for a permanent injunction against the City of Atlanta. The Margaritaville developer – ATL Capital (GA), LLC – was allowed to intervene and subsequently filed a “counterclaim for damages due to wrongful restraint” against Historic Atlanta.
As of September 17, 2019, Judge Adams has not yet ruled.