Demolition began earlier this year on the historic building where Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded the first country music hit in 1923. Last-minute legal action stopped the work, but the way was cleared this week to continue the demolition and construction of of a “Margaritaville”-themed entertainment complex. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Way cleared to demolish historic Atlanta building

It looks like the record is now cued up for the final verse: the last-minute lawsuit that halted the demolition of a historic Nassau Street building and recording studio has been withdrawn.

Kyle Kessler said Thursday he ended his legal challenge.

“I cannot repair through litigation the problems for our city caused by an apathetic mayor, city council, and city attorney,” he said.

“A court cannot force elected officials to care, only we can do that by our votes.”

Michael Smith, a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said the owners of the property had threatened a legal challenge if the city had tried to save the building and that the city’s attorneys were not confident about winning in court.

The building was used by Cabbagetown resident Fiddlin’ John Carson to record two songs in 1923 that became 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.”

Other artists in other genres also recorded in the studio, including Fannie May Goosby and the Morehouse College Quartet.

Developers have been planning to destroy the property to make way for a hotel, timeshare and restaurant. That “Margaritaville”-themed project, would take its name from the 1977 hit song by Jimmy Buffett.

The Atlanta Urban Design Commission had proposed that the Nassau Street site and one on nearby Walton Street receive designations as landmark buildings.

City officials could have protected them, but did not, Kessler said. “Because of that, these buildings will be lost forever.”

Smith said the developers promised the city they would build a complex at least 10 stories high with a restaurant on the ground floor.

“This is not the outcome the city wanted, but it is certainly far better than the original plan,” he said.

Much of the Nassau Street building was already destroyed, but its facade was still intact in August when the preservation group Historic Atlanta filed suit to stop the demolition. However, that suit was dismissed in mid-October after an undisclosed settlement between Historic Atlanta and city officials.

A few days later, Kessler filed his own lawsuit, and a judge issued a restraining order to keep workers from knocking down what was left of the Nassau Street building. That order is no longer in effect.

Destruction of the property resumed Thursday, Kessler said.

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