Any visitor who pays a visit to the East Atlanta Village will notice eclectic clubs, quaint eateries and a newly constructed apartment complex called the Alexan East Atlanta Village located on Metropolitan Avenue in South East Atlanta. Few may notice that the new apartment complex sits on the same lot as a once bustling East Atlanta elementary school that occupied the apartment’s spot from 1915 to the mid-2000’s when a devastating fire gutted the former school.
Most Atlantan’s remember the former school as John B. Gordon Elementary school, named for the famed Civil War brigadier. What many may not know is Gordon Elementary was once named East Atlanta school. The East Atlanta School was erected during a time where the neighborhood of East Atlanta began experiencing an explosion of growth. New subdivisions, public library, and fine stores began to emerge around 1913 and 1914 including the opening of the new school servicing the area. East Atlanta School officially opened its doors September 1, 1915, providing schooling for children up to the seventh grades.
East Atlanta school was designed by architects Battle and Burill, costing the city $15,000. By all accounts, the new school building was considered state of the art compared the original APS schools of yesteryear. East Atlanta school would enjoy eight large classrooms, indoor plumbing, and toilets, as well as a steam heating system– exceptional luxuries of the day.
East Atlanta School’s completion came as soon as East Atlanta became annexed into the city Atlanta in 1909; prior to the annex into the city of Atlanta, East Atlanta was a part of DeKalb County. The new elementary school was the only school in East Atlanta during its infancy.
Toward the 1920’s, East Atlanta School would be renamed as John B. Gordon, a Civil War brigadier. Along with a name change, the school also grew, growing from 8 to 25 classrooms and a larger gymnasium. With integration in the 60’s occurring, John B. Gordon elementary school began to decline. Additionally, as the city of Atlanta’s population grew and newer schools were constructed to accommodate the growth in the city’s population, John B. Gordon elementary steadily decline.
John B. Gordon officially closed in 1995, falling prey to arson, vandalism, and trespassing by curious on-lookers. As a native resident of Atlanta who once resided in East Atlanta, my family would often pass by the abandoned relic of a time once forgotten. John B. Gordon would remain abandoned until a devastating fire in 2014 gutted the building. It would eventually be demolished in 2015; though the physical building no longer exists, bricks from the original building were repurposed into the luxury apartments that are now housed on the former site of John B. Gordon Elementary School.
— SHAKIA GUEST