“Hillbilly” music star Fiddlin’ John Carson having a bad afternoon. He recorded two of the first hits of country music at 152 Nassau St. in Atlanta (Photo from the Georgia State University archives)

Judge stops demolition of historic music site — again

As Hank Williams might have put it, there’ll be no teardrops tonight for the historic site in Atlanta that helped birth country music.

That’s because the brick building on Nassau Street which served as a temporary studio for Okeh Records in the early days of recorded music has been saved from demolition.

At least for now.

A legal attempt by preservationist group Historic Atlanta to stop developers from destroying the building was dismissed last week from court after an undisclosed settlement between it and city officials.

At the time, local preservationist Kyle Kessler said he mourned the loss of the historic building. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “As far as I know, that’s the end of it, unless there is some other entity that can take action.”

But he had second thoughts and went to court himself. “Another entity, me, decided to take action,” he said Monday. “I started advocating for the preservation of these buildings because I think they are worth saving, and there is still a real chance of doing so.”

On Friday, Kessler obtained a temporary restraining order from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Paige Reese Whitaker, who wrote in her opinion that further judicial review was warranted. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Friday before Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams.

The city subsequently ordered work to stop on both 152 Nassau Street and 141 Walton Street, which Kessler argues are both historic and supported for landmark building designation by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission.

The site’s historical bona fides rest with its use by Cabbagetown resident Fiddlin’ John Carson, who recorded two songs there in 1923. The tunes would become the first hits in the genre now known as country music: “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going to Crow.”

The studio was also used to record artists from other genres, including blues singer and pianist Fannie May Goosby and the Morehouse College Quartet.

Ironically, the demolition is taking place because developers want to locate a 21-story hotel, timeshare and restaurant there inspired by another musician. That project would be a “Margaritaville”-themed project, taking its name from the 1977 hit song by Jimmy Buffett.

Michael Smith, a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, declined comment. “We do not find it appropriate to comment on pending litigation.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.