We are running out of buildings to save in Buckhead, which makes the urgency surrounding the National Library Binding Co. building on Peachtree Road at the top of the Hole all the more compelling.
I know the building as Oxford Too. The original Oxford Books in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center was the largest independent bookstore in the South. It opened the second location — Oxford Too — around 1985. Importantly for me, when I was 12, it was home to the comic books. It was also a massive used bookstore.
At least once a week, my friends and I rode our bikes down to the Hole and bought a few comics before heading home, the bag dangling from the handlebars as I pedaled back up Peachtree to West Wesley Road.
I didn’t know then the old house-like bookstore on Peachtree between the Burger King and the flower shop had been the National Library Binding Co. It is where the bindings for books in the Carnegie library system were repaired, according to the periodical American Printer and Lithographer.
Architects A. Ten Eyck Brown and Alfredo Barili Jr. took great care to design a building for a community in transition in 1929. Up to that point, homes lined Peachtree. The automobile and the extension of the streetcar led to the street becoming more commercial.
To offset this tension, Eyck and Barili designed an industrial building complementary to its surroundings. The National Library Binding Co. building looked like a brick English Tudor home with arched windows and an inviting front door from the front and the sides. The back was the cavernous space that housed large binding equipment with thick wood floors and heavy beams.
A few years ago, a developer, Branch Properties, announced plans to build an apartment community on the corner of Peachtree and Terrace Drive, which included the bindery. As a result, it landed on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Places in Peril list. The Atlanta Preservation Center has also worked diligently for the building’s preservation.
The developer agreed to preserve the front of the building as a result of the earlier kerfuffle. But, as happens, that project fell through, and another developer, Florida-based Kolter Urban, is moving through the zoning process with plans to build condominiums on the site.
They, too, have agreed to save the facade of the building, but preservationists hope they will keep the entire structure. Kolter is seeking a zoning variance. The Neighborhood Planning Unit B board was expected to vote on that request at its June 1 meeting. Once it clears the zoning challenges, it’s only a matter of time before the project is underway.
Right now, the building is open for business as Peachtree Battle Antiques & Interiors. If you want to get a sense of a nearly century-old building designed by two of Atlanta’s most celebrated architects blending commercial use with residential character, I recommend you stop by.
Brown and Barili gave Atlanta many important buildings, including the Martin Luther King Federal Building and the Fulton County Courthouse. According to the preservation center, Brown designed the Sweet Auburn Curb Market and several other significant civic structures. Barili’s firm would go on to design First Presbyterian Church, among others.
We don’t have many historical buildings left in Buckhead. We must do everything we can to preserve the few that remain. You can do that by supporting institutions like the preservation center.
For now, the fate of the National Library Binding Co. building has yet to be written.