It’s brand spanking new, state-of-the-art and has all of the bells and whistles one would expect with the price tag. Our son Thornton is playing in a pickup Sunday night basketball league, and North Atlanta has graciously opened its gym for the games. The sparkling campus is on Northside Parkway, at the northern edge of the city maybe a quarter of a mile from the Chattahoochee River. The school is an office building, glass and concrete, suspended above a pond.
It would seem to have no equal, except perhaps its former self.
North Atlanta was born out of the combination of North Fulton High School, the school housed in the current Atlanta International School building on North Fulton Drive, and Northside High School on Northside Drive just south of Arden Road.
Teacher Ben Hutchinson opened his ode to North Fulton in 1931 with these lines. He may well have been writing about the new North Atlanta.
“On Atlanta’s northern border
Reared against the sky,
Proudly stands North Fulton High School.”
North Fulton’s building welcomed students in 1930 but the Garden Hills school wasn’t completed until 1932. The school was born out of need and driven by the Garden Hills neighborhood. The only public school serving the children in Buckhead at the time, which until 1952 was in unincorporated Fulton County, was Fulton High School on Washington Street, a good seven miles away.
Mrs. Moreton Rolleston and Philip McDuffie, the developer of Garden Hills, were joined by my great-grandmother, Jane Kennedy, in pushing the county for a new school. McDuffie had set aside 10 acres for a future development and a school. Convinced of the need, Fulton County purchased the land.
But it did not build just any high school.
McDuffie called on the architect who designed his Cherokee Road home to design the new school: Philip Trammel Shutze with Hentz, Adler and Shutze. Shutze gave the county a magnificent building. It was Georgian/Classical Revival in style with an eye toward detail. It was considered “the most complete and modern high school in Georgia,” according to a news report shortly after it opened. With 23 classrooms, two lecture halls and seven laboratories, the school located at 2890 N. Fulton Drive instantly became the most popular school in the area.
It continued until 1991, when falling attendance forced the merger with Northside High School. The grand old building fell into a state of disrepair until Atlanta International came in, restoring it to its former glory.
Atlanta Public Schools is now trying to sell the property and, of course, the historic building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Atlanta International has a 50-year lease on the property and would seem to be the most likely buyer to this naive columnist.
In the case of the new North Atlanta, while the price tag is drastically different, it is a bit of history repeating itself.
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.