The building that in 1923, Fiddlin’ John Carson, a Cabbagetown resident and trailblazer in “hillbilly” music, recorded what has been called the first country music album with vocals is demolished Aug. 8, 2019.
Photo: Jeremy Turley. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo: Jeremy Turley. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Judge’s ruling halts demolition of historic Atlanta building

Demolition crews on Thursday began tearing down the Atlanta building where the first country hit songs were recorded, but they were forced to stop after a Fulton County judge issued a temporary restraining order.

Though part of the back of the building already has been reduced to rubble, the order by Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua will prevent further demolition until an Aug. 29 court hearing to determine its long-term fate. The building, located downtown on Nassau Street, is at the center of a two-year battle between preservationists and developers.

The unassuming brick building served as a temporary studio for Okeh Records in the early days of recorded music.

Cabbagetown resident Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded there in 1923, producing two songs — “Little Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled” — that would become the first hits in the musical genre known today as country music. Other local musicians, including Fannie May Goosby and the Morehouse College Quartet, recorded there as well.

A Myrtle Beach developer acquired a demolition permit last month and is planning to build a 21-story, “Margaritaville”-themed hotel, timeshare rental and restaurant, in a nod to Jimmy Buffett’s 1977 hit song.

Crews from Charleston-based LowCountry Demolition had been slowly gutting the interior of the building over the last two weeks while preservationist Kyle Kessler and the activist group Historic Atlanta fought to save the building. They filed a last-ditch lawsuit last week against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, saying the city did not allow for due process when deciding to demolish the building, which lies across the street from the SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel and Centennial Olympic Park.

Work crews began heavy demolition Thursday morning and used an excavator to begin knocking down brick walls, even as Kessler and an attorney were trying to get a stop-work order at the Fulton County Superior Court. Though a sizable chunk of building was destroyed Thursday, the facade and much of the front end remains intact.

“It was tough watching more of the historic recording studio be demolished,” Kessler said. “But I’m thankful we still have what remains, and I’ll continue to advocate for its preservation.”

You can read our story about the fight to save the historic building here.

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