Briarcliff Plaza was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 20, 2020.
Briarcliff Plaza is a shopping center located 2.6 miles from Atlanta City Hall. The district is bounded by Ponce de Leon Avenue NE to the north and North Highland Avenue to the east. It straddles Cleburne Terrace NE to the west. The nomination is sponsored by the property owner, and the nomination materials were prepared by consultant Regina Brewer.
Constructed in 1940, the Briarcliff Plaza shopping center is part of the busy retail and commercial area known as the “Ponce Corridor.” Briarcliff Plaza is comprised of two separate buildings and the original parking lot dedicated to the businesses located in the shopping center. The small district is approximately 2.27 acres, inclusive of two buildings and the parking lot. The two buildings, 1027 Ponce de Leon Avenue and 1061 Ponce de Leon, are one-story and are nearly identical in design, style, and materials. The lower portions of the buildings are composed primarily of glass and metal storefronts framed in colored tile, concrete columns, and glass block walls. Above the storefronts along the buildings’ primary facades, original Streamline Moderne metal canopies remain intact, affixed in some places with non-historic neon lettering. Above the canopies, the upper portions of the buildings’ primary facades (facing Ponce de Leon Avenue, Cleburne Terrace, and N. Highland Avenue) are sheathed in original marble panels. The most notable features of these buildings include historic Art Deco-style neon signage, and original decorative curved fluting with Streamline Moderne Fins, set into the marble panel parapet walls.
Briarcliff Plaza is significant at the local level under Criterion A in the areas of community planning and development and commerce for its contribution to and association with the advent of increased automobile ownership and use and the impact of this trend on communities, residential development, and patterns of urban and suburban growth in Atlanta. It was the first automobile-oriented shopping center in Atlanta and Georgia that included dedicated off-street parking for its customers. This new type of community shopping center broke away from the development patterns of Atlanta’s traditional commercial nodes that were designed for pedestrian and streetcar shoppers and is representative of the evolution of the American shopping center in Atlanta and statewide. Briarcliff Plaza’s automobile-centric design was the forerunner for larger regional shopping centers such as Lenox Square (1959, developed by Noble Properties) and Phipps Plaza (developed by Ogden Phipps in 1969), which was the first multi-level mall in Atlanta.
Briarcliff Plaza is also significant under Criterion C in the area of architecture as a notable example of the Streamline Moderne style in Atlanta. Additionally, Briarcliff Plaza’s design incorporated Art Deco elements it its illuminated neon signage, creating a vibrant shopping center in a predominately residential area. Streamline Moderne style was often applied to buildings with a transportation-related function or design, such as bus stations, drive-in restaurants, and gas stations, and limited extant examples in Atlanta include the Varsity restaurant (61 North Avenue NW, Jules Grey, 1940) and the Atlanta Constitution Building (143 Alabama Street SW, Robert and Company, 1947). At Briarcliff Plaza, the Streamline Moderne style coupled with the Art Deco style elements, created a unique design in Atlanta. Designed by George Harwell Bond, renowned Atlanta architect and engineer, the complex’s expansive horizontal form accented with curved corners; sleek marble panels; overall restrained, focused ornament; and curvilinear canopy all contribute to a feeling of motion that is a hallmark of the Streamline Moderne aesthetic.
The National Register of Historic Places is our country's official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property's architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes, and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property.
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The above is a news release from the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The Historic Preservation Division (HPD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources serves as Georgia’s state historic preservation office. Its mission is to promote the preservation and use of historic places for a better Georgia. HPD’s programs include archaeology protection and education, environmental review, grants, historic resource surveys, tax incentives, the National Register of Historic Places, community planning and technical assistance.
The mission of the Department of Natural Resources is to sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources for present and future generations, while recognizing the importance of promoting the development of commerce and industry that utilize sound environmental practices.