The title page of the 1931 original edition of Southern Architecture Illustrated credits a foreword by Lewis E. Crook, Jr., A. I. A., Atlanta, and an introduction by Dwight James Baum, A. I. A., New York. It describes the Photographic Plates (the majority were by Tebbs & Knell, Inc., New York City) as: “More than two hundred and fifty illustrations and plans of outstanding Country and Suburban homes in the South as selected by a committee of prominent architects, members of the American Institute.” The copyright was 1931 by Harman Publishing Company, Atlanta, Georgia.
For Southern Architecture Foundation (SAF), Inc., to fashion this reprinted edition of Southern Architecture Illustrated, my copy of the 1931 original book had to be taken apart for the reproduction process. In 1973 I bought that copy, my first, of this scarce and expensive publication. When I was an Atlanta teenager in the mid-1950s, I was first acquainted with the book from the private library of Albert Howell, one of the architects whose work was well represented in it. Quite a few years passed before I could locate or afford my own copy, and I plan to have it reassembled and rebound.
This book’s influence on me began at an early age and, quite probably, helped lead to my career as an architectural historian and to the origination of Southern Architecture Foundation in April 1998. SAF’s new slipcase edition of this landmark publication is our foundation’s second publishing effort; the first was The Architecture of James Means, Georgia Classicist, issued in October 2001.
Southern Architecture Illustrated offers a heady glimpse into an almost lost pre-Depression world. It was, and remains, a beguiling presentation of mostly “ritzy” early twentieth-century country and suburban houses in our region, especially appealing because floor plans were included and because of its quaint, shadowy “green sepia” photographs. (The color and chiaroscuro quality of these illustrations have been carefully reproduced in our SAF reprint. The type has been reset to ensure optimum readability.)
Part of the appeal, too, was that these houses were not “antebellum,” although there were plenty of porticoes. These were “modern homes,” new but classic, with every antique, print and painting, fine fabric, every boxwood, in place; ready for Southern hospitality, just waiting for a stylish party or house guest. The plans showed “sleeping porches,” “morning rooms,” and “drawing rooms” decorated by such firms as Porter and Porter, Interiors, of Peachtree Street, Atlanta, and James H. Blauvelt of Park Avenue, New York. Everything was “best foot forward.” The South had indeed Risen.
There was only one printing of Southern Architecture Illustrated; the number published is unknown, and it never had a dust jacket. (Our slipcase edition will help to distinguish the reprint from the original.) A portion of the print run was evidently purchased as promotional gifts and had on its green cloth cover, embossed in gold, “Compliments of Georgia Marble Company, Tate, Georgia,” at the bottom, just above “Country and Suburban Homes.” This national purveyor of marble also bought an advertisement in the book, shown on page 283 and announcing representatives in “Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Dallas, and New York.” (Because of their historical interest, the advertising pages have been included in this facsimile.)
Basic to an understanding of Southern Architecture Illustrated is the magazine Southern Architect and Building News, which had originated in a somewhat different form in 1882, then began publication in Atlanta in 1889 under the leadership of the distinguished Atlanta architect Thomas Henry Morgan (1857–1940). In 1910 the Harman Publishing Company became the magazine’s publisher, led by Henry E. Harman (1856–1926), to whom the original edition of Southern Architecture Illustrated was dedicated. His son, Harry, Jr., was the magazine’s business manager. Ernest Ray Denmark (1899–1980) became an employee of the publishing company in his twenties and was editor of the magazine in its last years. (Denmark was editor of Southern Architecture Illustrated, although his name appears nowhere in the book.) On page 276 of Southern Architecture Illustrated, the advertisement for Southern Architect and Building News states that it had been published “since 1882” and had the largest circulation in the seventeen Southern states of “any architectural publication.” These magazines, such wonderfully historical, aesthetically pleasing documents of the pre-Depression “New South,” are not available in a complete set in any public collection, although several libraries have some bound issues, including Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the Charlotte Public Library, and the Atlanta History Center, which has no copies of the magazine before 1889 and after then, only a few.
I began collecting issues of Southern Architect and Building News when I bought my first copy of Southern Architecture Illustrated. I have some fifty copies of the magazine; the earliest is May 1924; my last is July 1932. The magazines, which now sell for ten to twenty dollars each, originally were fifty cents. Each month 5,000 copies were printed. The 288-page book, with illustrations gleaned from the magazine, cost five dollars in 1931, and Harman Publishing Company planned to make a series of such books. But in late 1932 the Depression finished off the company and its magazine. Today, a clean copy of the book sells for more than five hundred dollars. SAF’s reprint consists of 1,000 copies; each with its own slipcase faithful in style to the original green cloth cover embossed in gold.
The South, as defined by Harman Publishing Company, included the border states of Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma, as well as the District of Columbia, in addition to the old Confederate states of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Arkansas, although neither Mississippi nor Arkansas were represented in Southern Architecture Illustrated.
Besides the thirty-eight Georgia houses in the illustrated book, there were sixteen from Tennessee; then seven each from Missouri, South Carolina, and North Carolina; six each from Virginia, Texas, and Alabama; three from Florida; two from Oklahoma; and one each from the remaining states and the District of Columbia.
William R. Mitchell, Jr.
from the Preface of the 2002 edition of Southern Architecture Illustrated
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