Stein Club (929 Peachtree Street)

Today I decided to dive into the former nightlife along Peachtree Street and discovered Stein Club.

newspaper article photo of owner, David Heany, in front on Stein Club (c. 1980)

“We’re Not Buckhead” the bar proudly proclaimed while keeping glasses filled at 929 Peachtree Street. The pub attracted a mix of hippies, bikers, artists and beer lovers.

Donna Brown, a former regular of the bar, recalled her days at the Peachtree tavern. “The Stein Club was probably the highest IQ bar in the world,” she said. “There were artists, there were writers, journalists and also ne’er-do-wells, but they had the combination of being well-read.”

intersection of Peachtree Street and 8th Street, facing north (c. 1978)
Stein Club linocut print from artist Katherine W. Linn
facing south toward Peachtree (c. 1998)

The Stein Club displayed a variety of steins around the bar. Regulars could even bring in their own mug to enjoy their favorite brew. According to former manager George Faulkner, “you used to be able to come in and bring one of your own steins. We’d put them in the cooler and when you can in to drink a beer, you could drink out of your very own stein.”

Another popular draw to the neighborhood bar was the juke box, offering a diverse selection of tunes from classical to current.

Proposed developments and high rent forced the midtown bar out of town. After one “last gasp”, Stein Club closed its doors on June 10, 2000.

“I just don’t know if we really improve things by tearing them down,” said former owner Chris Lautz. “With all of the lofts coming in around here, its going to look just like a suburb soon.

Within a year of closing, Stein Club was razed and construction began on Metropolis, ushering in the hi-rise condo craze on Peachtree Street.

The two, 21-story towers of Metropolis, would include 498 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space. Completed in 2002, the developer followed in rapid succession with new developments down the street, Spire (860 Peachtree Street) and Viewpoint (855 Peachtree Street), before the Great Recession hit.

Lautz, who owned the bar for its last 11 years, had hoped to open Stein Club II in Downtown near Castleberry Hill. Unfortunately, these plans never materialized, and Stein Club regulars were left to find a new watering hole.

Photo Credits: We Miss the Stein Club (Atlanta bar), Novare Group, Georgia State University Digital Collections, Linn Print Works

The Farlinger/Frances Hotel (343 Peachtree Street)

I have passed SunTrust Plaza many times on my walks to and from Downtown Atlanta. The 60-story building is Atlanta’s second tallest, so it tends to demand your attention.

When walking I overlook verticals and focus on the horizon, like most people, to avoid stumbling into traffic or crashing into my fellow pedestrians. SunTrust Plaza doesn’t disappoint from the the ground either. The greenspace and courtyard sculptures at 343 Peachtree Street are a welcomed break in the concrete jungle as you’re leaving downtown.

Ground broke on the office building, greenery, statues, and fountains at SunTrust Plaza in 1989 and was completed in 1992. However, in order to make way for the new, Atlanta lost a building that was only a decade away from celebrating its centennial. That building was the Farlinger.

Built in 1898, the building gets its name from the original owner, Alex W. Farlinger. As Atlanta’s first large scale retail grocer, Farlinger envisioned “the model grocery store in the United States” for the lower level of the Farlinger. Above the grocery would be three floors of “French flats”, each with its own bath.

Alex W. Farlinger (c. 1900)

The architect, George W. Laine, would create Atlanta’s first apartment house in the Farlinger. Built at a cost of $42,000, the building would also become the first multi-use building in the city. In addition to the grocery store on the lower level, the first floor included a reception room for the wealthy female patrons. Inside the reception area, ladies could write letters, play the grand piano, or sip a cup of tea while clerks filled their orders. The Farlinger also included a fancy fourth-floor restaurant and an elaborate rooftop garden.

postcard image of Frances Hotel (c. 1950s)

The building was sold for $125,000 in 1910 and remained apartment for about the next 20 years. By 1931, the Farlinger was converted to the Frances Hotel. The 51-room hotel thrived for decades, but as time moved on, so did the upscale patrons. The once thriving central business district saw residents and customers flocking to the suburbs.

view of Frances Hotel along Peachtree Street (1978)

By the late-70s, strip clubs and peep shows became prominent on the block. Prostitution and homelessness became commonplace in the area. The Frances Hotel now catered to extended stay guests with rooms going for $9.72 per night and $55 per week in 1984.

Intersection of Peachtree Street and Peachtree Center Avenue (1985)

Atlanta preservationists fought to keep the Farlinger from demolition by adding the building to the National Register of Historic Places. Even so, the addition of the building to the prestigious list did not guarantee safety from the wrecking ball.

traveling south of Peachtree Street (1985)

By the mid 80s, the Farlinger had become an abandoned building and “a haven for the homeless”. With a non-working sprinkler system, a 1988 fire sealed the fate of the four-story icon and the building was razed the same year.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Adults play in the “Backstreet” (reprint)

While playing around in newspaper archives, I came across this article from The Georgia State University Signal from January 7, 1997. I would have been 21 at the time, but it would still be a couple of years before I made my first visit to Backstreet.

Adults play in the “Backstreet”

By Crystal Jaudon
Staff Writer

The night was full of promise as two roving newspaper types searched for an appropriate nightspot in which to intrude and demand entry. Actually, the people at Backstreet were incredibly cooperative and even friendly to a couple of novice college journalist out to snag a story and free admission. Located at 845 Peachtree St. N.E., this members only club is home of the one and only Ms. Charlie Brown. The mother of an all star cast of Grand Diva’s including Miz Lily White, Raven, Amanda Black and Heather Daniels. The cabaret motto reads something to this affect, “Welcome to Charlie Brown’s Cabaret where the men are men and the beautiful women… are men.” If this is shocking you, take a breather before continuing. Ready?

Charlie Brown’s Cabaret bombards the senses with comedy, dance, talented performers, great wait staff and cheap, yet tasty drinks. Definitely not for the meek, Ms. Charlie Brown goes for the jugular. Her barbed sarcastic humor drips with sticky, sweet honey as she good naturedly, rips those shreds who are rude, shy or simply from out of town. But, they love it! And they love her. The Charlie Brown quote for the night was, “Charlie Brown’s my name and fake is my game.

Raven, Charlie Brown’s co-host for the evening, gave the audience her dynamic rendition of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” in a midriff wedding ensemble with tassels. After her set, the Barbie of Backstreet moved through the audience forcing her victims to lace her shoes, mind their manners and acknowledge that we were in the presence of someone unaccustomed to dissension.

Although the show was hilarious and the drinks were good, the two novice journalist types had to pry themselves away from an excellent table, near the stage but not too far from the bar, to enter the land of Semi-Nude Male dancers. Wow! Not much one can say here, this is a school paper you know!

Stuart “Sweet Daddy” Gardner, the Senior Music and Video Programmer, creates that certain something that attracts young and old alike every Thursday, Friday and Saturday Night to Backstreet. “Sweet Daddy” has reported to Billboard Magazine since the eighties and has won international acclaim as one the best disc jockeys in the nation. But, to speak with the man is a rare treat, “I’m not interviewed much,” he says with the nicest voice as the flash explodes in a burst of bright light.

If you are interested in having a good time, with a diverse and good-natured crowd of people, join the club. Backstreet is members only, but a measly ten bones makes one a quarterly member with all of the privileges of membership. If you are under twenty-one do not even try it, everyone from twenty-one to ninety-one must show identification. So, adventurers have fun and as you step into Backstreet, an adult playground, remember this… approach that cute guy or girl you had been eyein’ all night, you may be surprised.

Peachtree Art Theatre (1137 Peachtree Street)

Peachtree Art Theatre (1948)

Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall… they were all big stars in 1946, the year the Peachtree Art Theatre opened in Atlanta. However, it was three years later when another star, Atlanta’s most popular resident, would be killed while crossing the street to watch a movie at the theater.

On Thursday, August 11, 1949, Margaret Mitchell and her husband were on their way to see A Canterbury Tale when she was struck by a speeding motorist. Her injuries included a fractured skull “from the top of her head to the top of the spine,” and two pelvis fractures. The famed Gone with the Wind author would not regained consciousness and died the five days later at Grady Hospital.

Hugh Gravitt, an off-duty taxi driver, was charged with drunken driving, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the street. Although Gravitt denied he was intoxicated, he would go on to be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and serve 10 years in prison for the death of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.

The Peachtree Art Theatre closed its doors in 1971.

Roma Lounge, Cine Showcase, unknown florist (1981)

The building at 1037 Peachtree Street would continue to house movie theaters and other business for the 15 or so years until it was razed to make room for Campanile Plaza. The 20-story office building was completed in 1987.

Campanile Plaza

Sources: Cinema Treasures, New York Times, Tulsa World. Photos from Georgia State University and Viracon.