White Provision Company

National Register listed : King Plow/ Railroad Historic District
Pseudonyms: The Slaughterhouse, West 14th Street

Readaptive Use Construction 2007-2008 by Weaver and Woodbery
CREDITS

Atlanta Water Works

Location: On the Southern Railway and 1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, Fulton Co., GA 30318 (Howell Mill and 14th Street)
Original Builders: Wm. H. White, Jr.
Original Architects: Henschien & Mclaren, Chicago
Years of original construction: 1910, Additions: 1919, 1923, 1924, 1929, 1937

Period of Significance: The period 1910-1935 represents the period during which the building was occupied by its primary historic industry: The White Provision Company

Significant Dates: 1910 - Construction of Building:

Boundary Justification: 3.2 acre site bounded on the northern side by the The Southern Railway Right-of-Way and Howell Mill Road on the eastern side.

Description of Architectural Classification: Industrial Gothic

Classical Materials: foundation: reinforced concrete; walls: brick, reinforced concrete; roofs: reinforced concrete

Historic Functions: INDUSTRY:utilitarian industrial

Current Functions: COMMERCE:small business DOMESTIC: multiple dwelling

ABOVE: Photographs from (top) the east and (2nd) the north from Howell Mill Road.

Developmental history / historic context
This proud building with Industrial Gothic buttresses soaring towards the heavens served from 1910 - 1963 as the first large scale meat packing plant in the South. On March 3, 1910 it was announced in The Atlanta Journal and The Constitution:

You are respectfully
invited to attend the
Opening of our
New Modern Sanitary Packing House

and

Cold Storage Plant
Located at the Miller Union Stock Yards

on

Thursday March 3, 1910
Between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
The ceremonies to be conducted under the auspices

of the

Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

White Provision Company -Take Marietta Street Car to Stock yards or Exposition Cotton Mills

The Builders and Inhabitants
1909-1935: White Provision Company
Architecture Firm: Henschien & Mclaren
With an Atlantan business spirit that promoted "the dollar and the dogwood" in the face of all other obstacles after the Civil War, the idea for the White Provision Company meat packing plant presented a powerful vision with popular backing. This meat processing facility is described in The City Builder as being the "first in the south". A basic commodity enterprise made excellent business sense judging from the company's long lived success and extensive spaces needed for operation.

In a 1924 article in the The City Builder the founder Mr. Wm..H White Jr. is described as having the humble beginnings of a news-stand boy growing up to become a salesman at a major western meat company. The second day on this job he determined to own his own company.

Mr. White was energetic with the qualities of entrepreneurship and his excellent organizing, political, and salesmanship skills are well manifested in the extensive building he undertook. Another indication of the reach of his powers is that his board of directors included Asa Candler Jr. (Asa Candler Jr. and his 4 brothers and sister sold Coca-Cola in 1919 to Robert Woodruff for 25 million and had their fingers in many pies in the Atlanta business community. See "The Secret Formula" by Fredrick Allen.)

In 1906 the first listing of the White Provision Company appears in the city directory head-quartered "under the Whitehall Viaduct.". By 1910 a comparatively small building was constructed at 1170 Howell Mill Road at the Miller Union Stock Yards to better house this organization. Under Mr. Whites enthusiastic leadership his company grew to be over 350 people and numerous building additions were made to the rudimentary structure to accomplish expansion.

During the period from 1910-1918 Mr. Whites abilities were well appreciated and he was an important member of the Atlanta business community. He was elected President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1918. This is an excerpt from Atlanta and Environs Vol II by Franklin Garrett page 732:

The feasibility of air mail service had it's first test in America as early as May, 1918, when the army and the Post Office Department cooperated in setting up an experimental route between New York and Washington. After a few months the service was discontinued, as the course was too short to pay well.

Two months prior to this first attempt at air mail service, Atlanta was alert to the vast possibilities of such an innovation. In early March, 1918, William H. White, Jr., President of the White Provision Company and of the Chamber of Commerce, appointed a permanent committee, headed by Lindsey Hopkins, a local air "fan", to look into the matter of air mail service for Atlanta. Said the Journal on March 5:

"In order to place Atlanta in a position where she will be among the very first of American cities to secure the benefits of airplane mail service when the war is over, W.H. White, Jr., president of the Chamber of Commerce, will appoint a permanent committee in the next few days to work out complete data on the subject.

"This committee will ascertain the size and kind of fields available near Atlanta, and the probable cost of securing the use of such fields and putting them in shape for use when needed.

"Mr. White is enthusiastic over the great future of the airplane in time of peace. He regards it as absolutely certain that airplane mail lines will be established in this country and all other countries immediately after the war. He has reason to believe that enterprising cities which had the foresight to get their fields ready in advance, will be the first to secure the benefits of this superlatively fast and up-to-date transmission of important business letters.

"The flying machine, ' said Mr. White, 'has been developed more rapidly by the stress of war than probably any other invention in the worlds history. The development of the automobile was a wonderful thing before the war, but the flying machine has gone ahead by leaps and bounds in a much shorter time…..'

"Our government will come out of the war with probably a greater number of flying machines and trained aviators than any other belligerent. The natural and logical move, when peace is declared, will be to employ these machines and flyers in carrying fast mail. The cities which have built their landing fields will naturally be the first to get this mail service. We want to start early, keeping pace with our famous slogan, "Atlanta Always ahead'…"

Despite the vision and activity of Messrs. White and Hopkins, it was to be nearly a decade before the first regular air mail was inaugurated to and from Atlanta. This epoch making event occurred on September 15, 1926......

MAP ABOVE : View of Building from 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. The smoking shafts are highlighted in yellow. Technology available in 1910 allowed only for the smoking and salting of meat for preservation. The walls involved in the meat packing process are insulated with cork to keep the temperatures low. By 1924 refrigeration had developed enough to build the soaring Industrial Gothic Howell Mill Street facade which housed primitive refrigeration facilities on all six levels.
PHOTO ABOVE : The White Provision Company from the North. This sprawling structure attained its generous present built form through a multitude of additions over the years. It is easy to decipher the outline of the original small 3-story structure built by Mr. White from the north because of an unusually soft red brick used only for this construction and the resulting discoloration and patching done over the years. Seen in the pixel reduced photo below, this soft brick section stands out with a white looking appearance on the 3rd and 4th levels as compared to the better quality 'crisp' brick used for later additions.
RENDERING LEFT: 1919 architectural rendering of the south facing facade. Trains can be seen in the background and Howell Mill Road is to the far right.

In 1919 drawings were prepared for the construction of an office building addition to the White Provision Company on it's south side, along Howell Mill Road. This addition brought Mr. Whites office and the business end of the company out from downtown where it was located at 1 Wall Street. One can still walk up an exterior metal staircase which at one time lead to the upper offices located just south of the soaring gothic pilasters. This design put all the meat packing rooms to the north where it is cooler, and the administration spaces to the south where there is plenty of light.

PHOTO LEFT: This is a south face facade photograph of the building taken after the rendering and construction mentioned above. This photo was taken between 1919 and 1923.

The period from 1922-1924 saw tremendous and rapid expansion of the White Provision Plant with 4 different additions taking place during this time and producing most of the footprint for the building that exists today as well as some that have disappeared. (The Ice Plant and Stack)

Some kind of misfortune surfaced in 1926 and Mr. William H. White appears to have given up his interests at the White Provision Company. Considering Mr. Whites vitality the author would speculate he either died or became very ill. The last time his residential address is mentioned in the city directory is 1929. From 1926 until 1928 the leadership for the White Provision Building was generated by Asa G. Candler, Jr. After this The City Directory indicates the leadership reins were taken by Lorenz Neuhoff as president and other people of the same family name as vice-president and treasurer.

RENDERING LEFT: View of building from May 1923 The City Builder : Architects Henschien & McLaren , Chicago, Il. It looks from the rendering that Mr. Whites personal offices may have been on the top floor where there is an appearance of a canopied balcony and loft 501 today. The stairs below this once lead to the administration offices and still exist today leading to loft 409.

PHOTO LEFT: Addition to West side of South wing -Architects Swift and Company Construction Department. This photograph was taken around 1948. The building is very similar to what exists today minus the smoke stack.
United Butchers Abattoir E. Van Winkle Gin and Machine Works Foster Street Arts and Antiques
MAP LEFT: 1925 Sanborn with a White Provision Company building footprint matching the rendering above. The gray area and the meat smoking shafts (highlighted in yellow) mark the original 1910 part of the building.
PHOTO LEFT: The imposing Industrial Gothic addition (1924) so familiar from Howell Mill Road firmly proclaims even 75 years later the grand goals and personal achievements of the owner. Mr. White was a man clearly aware of ideals and the arts as he took the care to hire the Chicago architecture firm Henschien & Mclaren to design his building. The White Provision Company building may have been influenced by the popular industrial image created by Frank Lloyd Wrights' Larkin Building of 1904 (Dem.).

1935 - 1963: Swift & Company Construction Department
The White Provision Company was purchased by the nations largest meat packers Swift and Company. Swift decided to continue operating under the White Provision Company name that was known so well throughout the region. The majority of the building had been completed by this time.
Sometime towards the end of the 1930's a major addition was made in the form of the storefront facing Howell Mill and stretching a couple of hundred feet to the south of the main structure. This was probably originally used for offices considering the large windows and relatively remote location from the rest of the meat packing operation. Today this wing provides offices for Wilson & Dawson Architects and Yellow Couch marketing.

1963 - 1973
Beazley Corporation purchased the building and 8.3 acres of land upon which the building sat. All of the equipment was removed to facilitate the use of the building as a warehouse.

1973 - 1991
Purchased for approximately $ 250,000 in 1963 the building fell into further disrepair and decay while the owners Charles S. and William H. Martin looked for ways to economically utilize the outdated spaces. Fortunately the building is constructed of reinforced concrete and brick masonry so the level of damage from these years was minimal. They left this building to their sons William and Richard who tried in the early 1980's to sell the building for $ 400,000 to pay estate taxes. There were no bidders until 1991.

PHOTO ABOVE: The first resident of the White Provision Company Building in 1991 was a neon light crafter who's presence can still be felt from some remaining neon signs in the back courtyard. His sociable demeanor in a prominent space dubbed him 'Mayor' Wayne. Unfortunately Wayne moved to Jupiter Florida in 1996 and passed on in 1997.

1991 - PRESENT
Bill Smith bought the building from Richard Martin for approximately $950,00.00 and was going to continue renting the space out as storage in the form of a huge U-Haul center. As people kept coming to him asking to rent out residential loft space he very quickly reconsidered his original ideas. Of the total 200,000 square feet approximately 1/2 is now developed as do-it-yourself live/work loft spaces.

Thus did early loft dwellers began to move into this rambling old avatar. It takes a creative hearty breed to settle cavernous and dilapidated spaces devoid of any antecedent of domestication. The first resident was a neon light crafter who's presence can still be felt from some remaining neon signs in the back courtyard. His sociable demeanor in a prominent space dubbed him 'Mayor' Wayne. Unfortunately Wayne moved to Jupiter Florida in 1996 and passed on in 1997. Another of the primordial inhabitants was the lead guitarist for Nine Inch Nails when his band was Sick Dick in what is now loft 310.

The only remaining original urban pioneers at this time are Jim Littolff of Zuma Woodwork (1991), Tony Lewis (1991) a computer engineer, and Nick Storck (1992) of Nicholas Storck Design Studios. These unflustered souls tell tales of no working plumbing, the near-by Crystal Burger as being the nearest working toilet and very big rats. The desperate cold of unheated huge concrete spaces in the winter drove the residents to build tire fires in the back of the building to thaw themselves. In this comfort they waved gleefully to passing Amtrac passengers of the railroad.

The situation has improved and by 1994 Bill Smith built-out a 5000 square foot loft for his mother. He completed a 3500 square foot loft for himself in 1995 thus continuing a family tradition began by his mother many years previous of buying property and moving into it to support the development of the real estate.

In 1997 Bill Smith acquired The Candler Warehouses and is successfully bringing adaptive reuse to over a million square feet of space covering a city block in West End Atlanta. This environment is in an early stage of development and filling up with extremely stalwart urban pioneers enjoying lots of space.

The aspirations and high level of craftsmanship from another age speak a hundred languages and the strength of the original White Provision Company building makes this an unusual and fascinating place to live. The basic freedom of Bill Smiths' present day maintenance philosophy and the freedom taken by a wide range of tenant improvements create other levels of sensibility.

Warm brickwork and urban decay cast a spell not easily duplicated and this old avatar is frequently used as a dramatic backdrop. The movie 'Kalifornia' with Brad Pitt and David Duchovny was filmed in these surroundings, in loft 409, and at the near-by Murrays Mill. Television and modeling crews are frequently filling the parking lot with lights and cameras. The photographer Benita Carr had a show in the pickling room at the top level, and a Travis Trevor video was filmed in the generous space of loft 410.

ABOVE: View from sunken courtyard in 1998 of the south facade of the building. The slanted ramp can be seen that took the cattle loaded off the railroad to the top of the building. According to Robert Hayward of Murray Mill a Judas Calf was used to lead the cattle up the ramp where the calf was fed and the cows following him met their fate. Gravity was used to process the meat as it was cut, smoked, and in the 1920's refrigerated, as it made it's way towards Atlanta's supper tables until 1965 when the plant was closed. At this time the cattle began to be shipped to Nebraska where they were corn fattened, slaughtered, and redistributed in refrigerated cars through-out the USA, as it's done today.
ABOVE: View North down Howell Mill from what has in 2002 become Alta West.
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