Atlanta Recording Site of First Country Music Hit Faces Demolition
When Ken Burns’ docu-series Country Music debuts on Sept. 15, the narrative will not begin in Bristol, Tenn.; Chicago, Ill.; or any other city with sway over the genre’s pre-Music City development. Instead, the story begins in downtown Atlanta, Ga., where, in 1923, local radio star Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded the first country hit, “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane.”
Somehow, the building chosen by Okeh Records’ Ralph Peer to record Carson and other locals survived decades of redevelopment. Neither changes for the 1996 Summer Olympics nor a 2008 tornado that destroyed a building across the street cost Atlanta an important landmark in country music history. Yet from the looks of things, the downright fluky survival of Peer's recording destination at 152 Nassau St. will likely end thanks in part to folk-rooted singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.
Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant chain plans to open a location on 152 Nassau and other neighboring properties, all of which are adjacent to the Atlanta Ferris wheel and within walking distance from the CNN Center. Despite a local outcry to save the building led by architect Kyle Kessler and numerous articles about its historic importance by such national outlets as Rolling Stone and No Depression, developers have remained relatively silent as the first phases of demolition begin.
On Tuesday (July 30), crews began gutting the building at 152 Nassau St., according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Kessler tells the newspaper that he will continue to try to save the building, though.
Attempts as far back as 2017 to save the 152 Nassau building were undermined by greed and political interference. Per a July 29 report by the AJC, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued the developers “a golden ticket” to demolish the building if they also built a Wyndham hotel standing at least 10 stories and costing at least $100 million.
Per recent reports, both the building and any hope that the new construction on the 152 Nassau St. lot would include signage, a small exhibit or something to commemorate Carson’s accomplishment seem lost. Per the AJC, the developer’s design plans indicate that the site that proved the commercial appeal of what Peer later called “hill country music” will eventually host the new facility’s dumpsters and grease traps.
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