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Historic Sweet Auburn building saved from demolition

The 114-year-old building at 229 Auburn Avenue is known to have held the first Black banking company, established in 1910.

ATLANTA — Once destined to be demolished, a historical piece of Atlanta's past was preserved last Tuesday. 

The 114-year-old building at 229 Auburn Avenue is known to have held the first Black banking company, established in 1910. 

The building was a space for the Black community to start building wealth during a period of segregation, but according to the Saporta Report, the nonprofit organization Butler Street Community Development Corporation (CDC) planned to tear down the space to reconstruct the block on Auburn Avenue between Bell Street and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive into a mixed-use project. 

Initially, CDC board chair Alfonza Marshall told the news outlet the cost to maintain and preserve the building would be “too expensive,” however pushback from the community and local conservationists persuaded the nonprofit to now include the building in the development. 

Executive Director of the Atlanta Preservation Center told 11Alive that before Tuesday, the group had “every intention of defending the space and holding this ground (Auburn Avenue) with every single thing we had.”

Mitchell believes the Sweet Auburn District, and the buildings that make it, are a unique piece of Georgia history – especially at 229 Auburn Avenue. 

“Auburn Avenue isn't simply just a space of MLK, it's a space of Black excellence,” Mitchell said. “So it really becomes something really important to protect because it's not just simply a sense of trying to do something that is, quote, right or good or correct. It's really ensuring that a dynamic that is unparalleled anywhere else is laid bare so people can really understand and appreciate who and what we are as a culture.”

Over the years devastation hit the Sweet Auburn block. In 2008, a tornado struck the district destroying multiple buildings including the 83-year-old Herdon building that was constructed by Alonzo Herdon, who overcame slavery and became a wealthy entrepreneur. 

Additionally, construction brought in highways and parking lots to replace the once-standing structures that became a pinnacle for Atlanta’s Black community.

A study by the National Park Service shows that 47% of the historic buildings that once stood in the Sweet Auburn district are now demolished, but Mitchell maintains it is important for the city – community members and developers alike – to reinvest in spaces that were invested in building the City of Atlanta 100 years ago. 

“To have a building like this anchor, all of that. Never lets one forget the origins of their space, but also to appreciate it. And again, having a way of kind of saying, we've come far, we keep continuing to move forward, and that's extremely important in a building,” he said. 

At the time, Mitchell said there are no current plans for how the building will be incorporated, but he is glad that 229 Auburn Avenue will see another day. 

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