Attendance: ~40 people with so many architects and preservationists present that Robert M. Craig, a professor emeritus of architectural history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, quipped that he was quite intimidated by the distinguished audience (excluding me, of course).
What He Read: Craig didn't read. Instead he presented an extensive slide show based on his new book from the University of Georgia Press, The Architecture of Francis Palmer Smith: Atlanta's Scholar Architect. For a half a century, Francis Palmer Smith (1886-1971) either designed or influenced dozens of commercial buildings, hotels, elegant homes and churches. Smith was the first department head of the Georgia Institute of Technology's architecture program.
Why I Went: I've always had an interest in history, architecture and gorgeously printed books like Architecture. Craig is correct in saying his book is no coffee table book – though it has over 400 color and black and white photos. The book is chocked full of building descriptions and detailed history about the architecture and architects of Atlanta. I especially liked the appendix that has the list of all the houses, buildings, and churches including addresses where you can drive by and see them for yourself. (Shown at the top of the posting is the Druid Hills First Presbyterian Church on Ponce De Leon Avenue built in 1939-40. And don't worry, Craig's photos are much better than mine.)
What Craig Talked About: Everything. The lecture was divided into four parts: 1.) The early influences of the Ecole des Beaux-Art on Smith ( who grew up in Cincinnati and studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania). 2.) Smith's partnership with another influential Atlanta architect, Robert Pringle. (1922-1934), which included many beautiful homes – many in the Druid Hills area. 3.) Smith's commercial work which began with Pringle and included hotels and Coca-cola bottle plants all over the Southeast. The bottling plant construction supported Smith's work during The Great Depression. 4.) Smith's design of churches including his crowning achievement, The Cathedral of St. Philip, here in Atlanta. Preliminary sketches were began in 1937, but the church wasn't built until 1960-62.