The Selig Company Building - Pioneer Neon Company

National Register listed : 1996

Credits

Location: 330-346 Marietta Street, Atlanta, Fulton County,GA 30303

Original Builders: 1915-1965: Selig Chemical Company ;1965-1936: Block Candy Company

Period of Significance : The period of significance runs from the construction of the first part of this building in 1915, until the end of the historic period, 1946. The company remained at this location until 1965.

Significant Dates : 1915 - Construction of Building:

Boundary Justification: There is only one contributing building on the site.

Description of Architectural Classification : LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY AMERICAN MOVEMENTS/commercial style

Classical Materials: foundation: concrete; walls: brick; roof: asphalt

Historic Functions: COMMERCE/TRADE/warehouse INDUSTRY/PROCESSING/manufacturing facility

Current Functions: multiple dwelling

 

Developmental history/historic context :

The building was constructed beginning in 1915 by the Selig Chemical Company, which was founded in the late 1800s by legendary Atlanta businessman Simon Selig. The company engaged primarily in the manufacture and sale of home-cleaning products (soaps, dispensers, disinfectants, and other cleaning agents), insecticides, and other consumer goods. Mr. Selig built his company into one of the largest of its type in the country and now it forms the nucleus of one of Atlanta's most successful corporations, National Service Industries, Inc. The company, no longer the owner of this building, is celebrating its centennial in 1996 and has published a history of the company.

The association of the building with the Selig Chemical Company is very strong; when viewing the facade facing Marietta Street, one can see "Selig Company" printed under the left limestone/ concrete arches. In addition, the interior dividing wall of the building includes a well-preserved former outdoor wall sign advertising the Selig Chemical Company's products.The exterior of the building along the railroad tracks also carries numerous Selig Company signs.

The Selig family owned this building until 1965, when it was sold to Ira Weiss, owner of the Pioneer Neon Supply Co., Inc. of Atlanta. Mr. Weiss and his company utilized the building as a storage warehouse and office area until the mid-1980s, when the company moved to a larger industrial facility off Howell Mill Road in Atlanta. It was during Mr. Weiss' ownership of the building that the large Pioneer Neon Supply Company exterior wall sign (overlooking the parking lot) was added, on top of an earlier Selig Company sign of the same size. Because of the prominence of this sign on the western side, the building has come to be known as the "Pioneer Neon Building".

The building was sold to Pioneer Partners, a Georgia general partnership on August 14, 1992. The corporation has proceeded to rehabilitate the building using the Federal Investment Tax Credit Program. The corporation received a final certification of completed work from the National Park Service on August 4, 1993. The building has been rehabilitated for use as loft apartments on the upper levels and commercial space on the street level.

Key Dates and Events:

1880-Simon S. Selig born in Atlanta to Sigmund and Sophie Selig. Sigmund and Sophie involved in several business ventures, including a saloon at 336 West Mitchell Street until about 1897.

1896-Simon Selig, 16 years old, begins his career as a sales representative of West Chemical Corporation (New York). He sells soaps, disinfectants, and other household products out of a basket on his bicycle, which he rides through the residential areas on either side of Marietta Street west of downtown. First use of the name "The Selig Company". 1897-The Selig Company begins to grow rapidly and opens its first office, at 95 Garnett Street, Atlanta.

1902-Simon Selig begins manufacturing his own products under the Selig Company name for direct sale by its agents, but continues to represent West Chemical and its product line as well.

1906-The Selig Company moves its office to 48 Mitchell Street, Atlanta.

1910-The Selig Company moves its offices to 26 South Forsyth Street, Atlanta.

1915-The Selig Company builds a new office at 336-338 Marietta Street (this building and its 1927 addition comprise the building now listed as 342 Marietta Street). The company had continued to manufacture more and more of its products, which eventually led to the development of the company's own complete product line under the Selig brand name. By this time, the company has expanded its sales territory outside Atlanta throughout the southeastern U.S. as far west as Texas.

1915-1927-The company builds a large manufacturing facility in two buildings across Marietta Street from the new office, in the block bounded by Luckie, Latimer, Marietta, and Foundry Streets. The company's product line grows to include more sanitary products, insecticides, and disinfectants.

1927-The company doubles its office space on Marietta Street by completing an expansion addition to the 1915 building.

1927-1943-The company continues its growth despite the Depression and war years. In 1943, while on vacation in Hot springs, Arkansas, Simon Selig dies of a heart attack at age 64. He is succeeded as president of The Selig Company by his brother, Albert.

1955-Albert Selig dies and Simon S. Selig, Jr. is named president of the company.

1965-Due to the rapid expansion of the company's sales force in the years since the Second World War, as well as the need to consolidate its employees in a single and larger facility, the company moves from Marietta Street to new facilities on Selig Drive off Fulton Industrial Boulevard. The Marietta Street property is sold to the Pioneer Neon Supply Company, owned by Ira Weiss.

1968-The Selig Company is sold to National Service Industries (formerly National Linen Company). Simon S. Selig, Jr. resigns as president of the company and is succeeded by his first cousin, Lyons Joel (Mr. Joel, a grandson of Simon Selig Sr. and a lifelong employee of the company, remains president to this day).

1995-The Selig Chemical Company is part of the Chemical Division of National Service Industries, an Atlanta-based Fortune 500 corporation. Selig Chemical now employs over 500 people nationwide, with branches in Atlanta (its headquarters), Dallas, San Juan, New Orleans, Miami, Charlotte, and Louisville. On its own, Selig Chemical is one of the 20 largest chemical companies in the United States.

1996-Selig Chemical will celebrate its centennial. A book outlining the first hundred years of the company was published in early 1996.

Information on the Selig Family:

The Selig family is one of Atlanta's pioneering families, with roots that go back to Sigmund Selig in the mid 19th century. Sigmund Selig had four sons (Emil, Jacob, Jonas, and Sigmund), all of whom found moderate to great prosperity as businessmen in the growth of Atlanta in the late 1800's'. The Selig family was directly involved in one of Atlanta's darkest chapters, the Leo Frank Case (1913--1915). Frank's wife was Lucille Selig, daughter of Emil Selig. Sigmund Selig (the younger) was the father of Simon S. Selig, founder of The Selig Company. During the late 1800's and throughout this century the Selig family has held a prominent position in Atlanta's business, social, and religious communities. Their positions of leadership on civic, religious, cultural, and commercial organizations are literally too numerous to list.

Simon S. Selig's descendants continue this family tradition. His son, Simon S. Selig Jr., served as president of The Selig Company until the time of its sale to National Service Industries. Simon Jr. married Caroline Masses, and together they were active in cultural, educational, and philanthropic activities in Atlanta and the state of Georgia (their obituary notices are attached). The children of Simon Jr. and Caroline Selig, Cathy and Steve, remain active in the family owned, Atlanta-based real estate business begun by their maternal grandfather, Ben Massed. Simon Selig's grandson, Lyons Joel (son of his daughter Dorothy) has been president of The Selig Chemical company, a division of National Service Industries, since the sale by the family to NSI in 1968 (thus, a member of the Selig family has headed the Selig chemical business since its inception a century ago). These and other members of the Selig family are prominent members of Atlanta's business community, are active in Jewish affairs, and contribute greatly to Atlanta with their philanthropy and leadership.

Historical Publicity:

The following is a brief piece of publicity about the company, published in 1932 during the height of the company's existence in this building:

Taken from The City Builder, July, 1932. (This was a publication of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the article was no doubt written by the Selig Company.)

"SELIG COMPANY ATLANTA CONCERN PRODUCES 1001 ITEMS"

In June of 1896, Simon S. Selig started in business as a distributor for companies manufacturing disinfectants, insecticides, soaps and sanitary products. This was before the day when strict Federal regulations insured the quality and purity of chemical products.Even back when this guarantee of quality was unnecessary, Mr. Selig sensed the need of a brandname which would command the confidence of the trade and be its own guarantee of quality and purity.

Six years later he began to manufacture his own products. Employing the best chemists, purchasing the best equipment then available, he began to manufacture a few items the purity and quality of which he wanted to impress upon his trade. Since that time the number has multiplied as the trade demanded more and more items guaranteed by the Selig name.

Today [1932) the chemical staff of the Selig Company is unique in America. The factory's chief chemist was born in Spain, imported to this country by the Selig Company. Dr. Julius Vallebuona was reared and educated in the production center of the olive oil and other important ingredients used in the finer grades of soaps and cleansers which carry the Selig name. Mr. Selig sent to Germany for his assistant chemist, Dr.Rudolph Lind, raised and educated in the center of the chemical industry with a special knowledge of caustics and cleansing chemicals.

The manufacturing plant has outgrown its building three times and now three large buildings on Marietta, Luckie and Latimer Streets are occupied in the manufacturing of Selig products. The production is directly supervised by the staff of chemists who test each lot of soap, insecticide, disinfectant, cleansing fluid and other items through all stages of its manufacture.

Warehouses have been established in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas, and the sales, executive and manufacturing personnel averages more than 125 persons.

The thousand and one products manufactured by the Selig Company represent imports from almost as many different countries.

Some of the materials bought in large quantities from foreign lands include olive oil from Spain and Italy, linseed oil from South America, coconut oil from the Philippines and other tropic sources bought through Japanese and Chinese exporting houses, caustics and potash from Germany, perfumes From France and Holland. Large quantities of pine-tar and coal-tar products are bought from domestic sources.

The places of origin of foreign products shift with changes in market conditions which are followed closely by Selig buyers. If there is an over production of olive oil in some part of Asia Minor, Selig buyers transfer their olive oil purchases to that point, or if some coconut producing center on the opposite side of the world from the Philippines has more oil than its normal market can consume, tons of it find their way round the globe to the Selig plant in Atlanta. Savings are passed on to the customers.

One room in the plant has 28 floors, the only one of its kind in the world, and is used as a practical testing laboratory for the various cleaners and polishers manufactured by the Selig Company. This room, in which various products of the company are displayed, is cleaned oftener than any other room in Atlanta, not barring even hospital operating rooms, in order to discover not only the effectiveness of new Selig products as cleaners, but to determine their effect on the life of the floor covering.

The floor is made up of 28 sections, including separate floors of gum, oak, pine, maple and parquet woods, various types of tile, terrazzo, cement and other ceramic floors and various types of rubber compositions, linoleums and the like. Cleaners made specifically for one type of floor are applied to the proper section several times a day over a period of months and the effect studied by Selig chemists through microscopes before the cleaners is approved for market.

 

National Register Criteria

The Selig Company Building meets National Register Criterion A because it was the headquarters of a major early to mid-20th century chemical company with a national and state reputation in industrial chemicals. It meets Criterion C because it is an excellent example of an industrial building which contains many fine details on its front facade yet remains functional and unadorned on the interior.

 

Description of present and historic physical appearance:

Description: The Selig Building is a four-story commercial building. The eastern half dates from 1915, the western half from 1925. The building's style is typical commercial/industrial architecture of the period; its ornamentation makes it more distinctive than most. The building's front facade rests directly on Marietta Street with only a sidewalk. The building is mostly brick, with wood and glass storefronts at the street level. There are arched-brick openings on the Marietta Street facade, as well as limestone and concrete ornamentation, diamond-shaped geometric designs, cast-stone window sills and copings, and brick patterning. The interior was built to be a warehouse, hence there was very little interior construction. Some of the original stairways remain. The third floor housed offices but with temporary partitions. The building retains its original wooden floors of maple and pine, exposed heart-of-pine columns, beams and ceilings, original metal fire doors, and original radiators. There are two original vaults and two original freight doors in each elevator shaft. There are no outbuildings and no grounds other than the adjacent parking lot. The building is located in a warehouse area of mixed historic and nonhistoric structures along Marietta Street, a road leading northwest out of Atlanta. It is adjacent to the railroad track. There have been few changes until recent rehabilitation for adaptive use.

The Selig Company Building is situated on the south side of Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, and bordered on the south by a double train track owned by Southern Railway. The building is four stories tall (three facing onto Marietta Street, four facing the railroad) and contains approximately 29,000 square feet. A small asphalt parking lot immediately west of the building contains approximately 9,000 additional square feet and is enclosed by a chain-link fence.

The building as we know it today was constructed in two phases: the first, in 1915, consisted of the easternmost one-half of the building and the second, in 1925, of the remainder. The second phase created new space which was architecturally identical to the old and imitated the Marietta Street facade design of the first phase. Basically, the second phase was constructed as a horseshoe addition, meaning that the former exterior wall of the older part became an interior wall dividing the old from the new.

There is zero setback from both the Marietta Street sidewalk and the railroad property. The roof is slightly sloping behind high brick/limestone parapets facing Marietta Street and there are two low profile rooftop additions: an elevator mechanical parapet and a stairway parapet. The architecture is typical of that found in early 20th-Century industrial areas on the fringes of central business districts in many American cities, with an additional attractive storefront.

The building is constructed predominantly of brick, with a wood and glass storefront area facing directly onto Marietta Street. Steel industrial windows face onto the parking lot (third floor only) and the railroad (all four floors). Double-hung wooden windows face onto Marietta Street above the storefront, and are encased in arched-brick opening. of particular interest is the Marietta Street facade, which includes limestone and concrete ornamentation, diamond-shaped geometric designs, cast-stone windowsills and copings, and brick patterning.

The concrete\limestone copings, parapets and arches give the building a unique appearance that is visually appealing. The wooden storefront includes tongue-and-groove paneling, glass-paneled doors, lead-glass upper windows and smoked-glass areas. Exterior hardware is minimal but includes a water-controlled Ere-alarm bell. The rear facade has no decoration but includes large industrial window bays throughout all floors as well as loading dock doors at grade. The building's brick and limestone exterior is unusual and represents a departure from the more practical designs of similarly aged buildings in Atlanta.

Prior to extensive renovations begun in 1992, the building's main purpose was as a storage warehouse and, therefore, most areas were left completely open. The first and fourth floors, in fact, had no interior walls at all. On each floor an arched-brick walkway had been constructed to allow passage from one side of the building to the other. Three staircases were located in the building: one (inoperable due to rotting wood) in the oldest part which connected all four floors; one (operable) in the newer part which connected all four floors and the roof; and one (operable) in the newer part, which connected the third floor with a Marietta Street entrance to the building.

Two inoperable elevators were also located in the building, one on each side. The elevator in the newer part of the building included a rooftop parapet constructed of brick; the elevator on the older part had a parapet made of tin sheets and plywood.

The third floor of the building housed small office areas and workspaces interspersed with storage rooms. From interviews with former workers and owners of the building, it can be discerned that the interior walls on the third floor were temporary and constructed during a renovation of the building in the 1960s by the Pioneer Neon Supply Company.

The interior sides of the brick walls on the third floor of the second phase were covered with sand-based plaster held onto the walls by wooden stakes driven into the wall. The building's interior is filled with items and details of significant architectural character: wooden floors (including maple tongue-and-groove in the older part and large pine planks in the newer); exposed heart-of-pine columns, beams and ceilings; arched brick doorways and windows; original tin fire doors (operable by dropped weights); two dozen different radiator types; and wood stairs with steel rails just to name a few.

Interior ornamentation is minimal and functional. The building also includes two large interior vaults with locking safe doors, one on each side. Finally, there are two large pull-up freight doors located in each elevator shaft at ground level which allowed access from the railroad tracks directly to the elevator.

The building is of "Standard Mill Construction" with heavy brick masonry exterior walls (three to four wythes each). The basement floor consists of a concrete slab on grade approximately 4" to 5" thick. The elevated floors consist of 3/4" tongue-and-groove plank flooring spanning seven feet to roughly 12" to 16" timber beams spanning 14'; these beams are supported at each end by either a timber column or by framing into 12" x 16" timber guides. The roof framing is similar, with roof planking thickness varying to 2" thick and timber beam sizes of 6" x 12". Heavy timber columns support the structure on a grid of about 14' x 14'. These columns vary in size from 12" x 12" to 7-3/8" x 7-3/8" as they extend from the basement to the roof.

The building was heated by an industrial boiler located in the basement of the older part of the building and vented through a brick chimney. During the Pioneer Neon renovation of the third floor in the 1960s a portable air conditioning/heating system and ductwork were added (for the third floor only). The entire building is protected by sprinklers.

Other than the parking lot, there are no grounds, and no landscaping has occurred except voluntary growth around the parking lot. The only significant feature of the terrain is that the first floor is at grade in the rear of the building (facing the railroad) but is not at grade on the Marietta Street side. There are no outbuildings.

The building is attached to a smaller, but also four-story, building by a common wall. Together these buildings represent the first examples of the warehouse vernacular as one heads west away on Marietta from the Atlanta Central Business District. The immediate area (within two blocks) around the building is populated with other unrenovated low-lying buildings interspersed with undeveloped empty lots. Directly across the street is the old Techwood High School, now a dance club.

The building is one of but a few large warehouses from the early 20th century still standing in western downtown Atlanta. The others are located due west of the building on Marietta Street within two miles of the building, and include the Atlanta Carriage Works (now Nexus Arts Center), the Hastings' Seed Building, and King Plow Arts Community. Together these buildings (all of which except King Plow are located between Marietta Street and the railroad) represent a significant departure from the modern architecture of downtown Atlanta.

The Selig Building and its area is located in the last great undeveloped tract of downtown Atlanta. The building contributes greatly to the area as an example of 20th century industrial architecture. Its large, multi-bay characteristics, brick facade, windows, and storefront are complementary to the other buildings of the same era around it.

Like other historically significant warehouses, the building faces a major arterial street and a railroad track, indicating the historic commercial and transportation development of the area.

Other than the separate construction phases of the building, there appears to have been no alterations or remodeling of the premises until the recent rehabilitation took place. Ira Weiss of the Pioneer Neon Supply Co. said that the third floor office area was constructed "sometime during the Sixties", which would mean 1965-1969. Mr. Weiss also said that this new construction occurred in a previously open area. The recent rehabilitation of the building included the construction of apartments on the upper floors. This included the addition of walls and a new elevator, as well as new heating and air conditioning.

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