With these three seasons of the Building Memories Series completed, we invite you to listen to each and all of the episodes using the links provided to access each season. Each page provides additional general information about each episode, and also—for Season 1 only—an extended narrative about each episode.
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Atlanta is a city that grew out of the Piedmont along the ridges and rolling hills at the end of the Appalachian mountain chain. Quite noticeably, it is a city in the forest, at the convergence of the centuries old Creek and Cherokee Trails; an area known in our times as Five Points. Over the decades since the founding of Atlanta as Terminus in 1837, the city has expanded and evolved, and so have the legacies and accomplishments of the people who occupy this territory.
We know some parts of this history better than others, but each historical narrative has been distinctive in creating the tapestry that now constitutes what Atlanta has become as an amazingly vibrant 21st century urban space. From the original Creeks and Cherokees to the many, many people from around the globe, all have left marks that are still recognizable on the landscape—in the spaces and places where they lived, worked, and built their communities. They left behind structures, place names, legends, and stories for subsequent generations to discover, explore, appreciate, and find well springs for their own inspiration.
BUILDING MEMORIES seeks to celebrate these legacies, to declare that these people were here. They lived, worked, and made their homes here, endowing the land itself with their energy and spirit—as they laid the foundations for and helped to push forward both the vision and reality of a remarkable urban environment. While we realize that there are many ways to celebrate legacies and pathways forward, with Building Memories, we have chosen to focus on sharing their stories through the lenses of their spaces and places.
The BUILDING MEMORIES Podcast Project began as the brain child of Steven Hodges, the Director of Information Technology for the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Institute of Technology. Steve connected his technological expertise and innovative spirit in partnership with Jacqueline J. Royster's commitment (as Dean of the College at that time and Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication) to document and represent histories of Atlanta that matter, not always to the world at large, but certainly to local communities. In Fall 2017, these two partners reached out to Ivan Allen College graduate, entrepreneur, and preservationist Gene Kansas, and to Stephen Key, both of whom had considerable experience with developing and producing podcasts. With this team, the project was launched.
With this sense of beginning, the Project gratefully acknowledges the critical support provided by the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts in serving as champion and host for the podcast project from 2017 – 2020.
In Season 1, we began on the West Side of Atlanta, an area that is experiencing many architectural and environmental changes, as well as population shifts—as the city develops West. The first episode was the Herndon Home, the elegant resident of Alonzo F. Herndon and his family. Mr. Herndon was born enslaved but rose in freedom after the Civil War to become a very successful businessman and community leader. He was the first African American millionaire in Atlanta. He began his business ventures as a barber, but built considerable wealth in real estate and as the founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. His first wife, Adrienne McNeil Herndon, a professor of speech and drama at Atlanta University, designed their regal two-story home in the Beaux-Arts classical style. The Herndon Home Museum is now on the National Registry of Historic Places.
This episode was followed by Herren’s Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant that opened its doors at 84 Luckie Street in 1939 as Atlanta’s first fine dining for the general public in downtown Atlanta. In 1963 it inaugurated another moment as the first restaurant in downtown Atlanta to permit African American guests. It closed its doors as a restaurant in 1987, but the space was repurposed, and renovated in 2002 to become the Balzer Theater, home of Theatrical Outfit, the second oldest professional theater in the city of Atlanta.
Other episodes of Season 1 include:
- the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, which started in 1921 as the African American branch of the downtown Carnegie Library which was for whites. In 1994, it moved to its current location and opened as the first public research library of its kind in the South East.
- The Atlanta Daily World, home of one of the oldest African American newspapers in Atlanta. It was founded in 1928 by William Alexander Scott II and remained a family owned and operated business until 2014. It continues to operate as a multi-media resource for the city of Atlanta.
- Booker T. Washington High School opened in 1924. It is the oldest high school in the state of Georgia for African American youth, and it remained the only one in the City of Atlanta until 1947. This site was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1986.
- Friendship Baptist Church, established in 1862. The roots of this congregation, however, extend back to 1848. It is the oldest autonomous Baptist congregation in the city of Atlanta.
- South View Cemetery, established in 1886 by a group of African American leaders in the city of Atlanta with the support of a coalition of their fellow community member, both individually and through organizational groups
. It is the oldest cemetery in Atlanta for African Americans offering these families the privilege of burying their loved ones with dignity and grace.
In 2019, BUILDING MEMORIES continued with the launching of Season 2. Episodes include: Paschal’s Restaurant, the Just Us Neighbors community, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, the Cabbagetown neighborhood, O’Keefe High School, and Big Bethel AME Church. This second season also included our first episode to be produced through a course at Georgia Tech. It was led by Professor Hugh Crawford in the Ivan Allen College School of Literature, Media, and Communication. This episode focused on their Birdhouse Project, which was designed as a multi-media, multi-modal learning experience in environmental studies. The students studied birds and their urban environments, built birdhouses in the form of four iconic buildings in Westside communities (Ashby Street Theater, Georgia Teachers and Education Association building, The Atlanta Inquirer building, and Friendship Baptist Church). They prepared podcasts and textual assets to provide a cultural context for the buildings, and they donated the birdhouses to the Conservancy at Historic Washington Park for their bird sanctuary areas.
The third BUILDING MEMORIES Season launched in 2020. Episodes include: the Wachendorff Estate, the Martin L. King, Jr. Business Corridor, and the Biltmore Hotel. This final season of the series also included another episode on the English Avenue School that was been produced through a course at Georgia Tech. The course was led by Professor Todd Michney in the Ivan Allen College School of History and Sociology.