George W. Adair Elementary School – Circa. 1912
Name: George W. Adair Elementary School
Location: 141 Catherine Street, Atlanta, GA
George W. Adair Elementary School, located in the historic Adair Pair neighborhood, sits abandoned yet still maintains it’s architectural glory. Upon further inspection, onlookers are treated beautiful architectural design by one of Atlanta’s leading architects of the time, Edward Dougherty. In addition to Adair Elementary, Mr. Dougherty went on to design other notable structures in Atlanta such as Druid Hills Baptist Church on Ponce de Leon, Druid Hills Golf Club, Imperial Hotel in 1911 and the Highland School which has now been converted to luxury lofts. November 18, 1911, the Mackle – Crawford Construction Company was awarded the contract to build the new George W. Adair School in the “tenth ward” for a $34,000; this total would equal at least $843,191.55 in today’s inflation rate. The George W. Adair School officially opened its doors on September 9, 1912.
George W. Adair school was named for slave dealer turned real estate tycoon Col. George W. Adair. As of 2017, there has been a lot of controversies surrounding the rehabilitation of the Adair School since it now located in a prominently African-American neighborhood. Adair’s ties with the Ku Klux Klan has made some argue that the school should not reopen with the same name, as its namesake wasn’t exactly a part of a business that was deemed friendly to African American’s.
George W. Adair Elementary and the neighborhood that holds the same name wasn’t always a welcoming or friendly place for African-American’s to live and attend school. Compared to other established Atlanta suburbs, Adair Park was mediocre at best. The neighborhood housed thin land lots and modest homes. Residents were typically working class with a sprinkling of middle-class residents. According to the book “White Flight” by Kevin M. Kruse residents complained of the loud, crass behaviors of their neighbors, adding that they can’t enjoy a fresh breeze on their front lawn without the “fighting across the street….and the police running over there two or three times a week” (pg 94).
The school itself has an interesting past. Students gardened, held athletic events (field day), and even hosted a Chinese missionary in 1918. In 1914, two basketball courts were built for boys and girls who attended Adair elementary school. Students helped plant trees and were regularly featured in The Atlanta Constitution for perfect attendance and excellent grades.
March of 1937, Adair Elementary’s celebrated its 25th anniversary by adding an annex to its existing building; the school’s student body remained mostly white as well. Due to an increase in the residents of the area, the elementary school enjoyed an expansion to accommodate the student body growth, costing a total of $40,000, roughly $689,805.71 in today’s dollars.
With the desegregation of public schools across the country picking up steam, African-American residents began to slowly move into Adair Park around the mid-1950’s. This drastically changed the demographics of George W. Adair elementary school as white residents refused to participate in school desegregation as well as refusal to sell their homes to potential homeowners of color. By the late 1950’s, racial tensions had reached a boiling point. White residents proudly protested the newly found diversity of Adair Pair, proclaiming that they’d wish for Adair Park to remain for whites only. Some residents even threatened to burn the houses of black residents to the ground ( White Flight, pg 96). By the 1960’s Adair Park elementary and the surrounding neighborhood had transitioned to a mostly all-African American community. Noticeably absent in the local newspapers is the constant write ups of the Adair Elementary school. One can’t help but wonder if the changing hue of the student body affected the interest of local journalists.
- “Adair School Contract Is Let By the Board.” The Atlanta Georgian and News (Atlanta), November 18, 1911, 4th ed. Accessed April 10, 2017. http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/atlnewspapers/id:aga1911-5562.
- Reeves, Alexis Scott. 1976. “When White Fear Turned to Flight.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Jun 06, 1. http://ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/docview/1612082185?accountid=11226.