The Abandoned East Atlanta High

A place once frequented by squatters, this former elementary school was a lively part of Eastern Atlanta, and while it is still lively with nature, I wonder ‘where did the education go?’ Perhaps out one of the many broken windows…

We find ourselves quietly standing among the destruction of a large, once vibrant gymnasium inside the John B. Gordon School. Staring upwards towards gaping holes across the ceiling, a background ambience of passing cars and cluttered yelling carries through the air from streets outside. This school, built in 1909, was named after a brigadier general of the Civil War, and 1886 Governor of Georgia, John Brown Gordon. Originally called the East Atlanta School, somewhere near the year 1925, it took on the revised name, shortly followed by an addition to the building built in 1934.

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The town was booming come the arrival of the 1950s, and with an A&W Root Beer drive-in standing directly across the street from school, how could things not be perfect? All the way into the 1960s, shops and restaurants held the attentions of children and adults alike, including a Charlie’s Hamburgers and East Atlanta Pharmacy soda fountain, where you could grab a hot dog for just 10 cents!

Sadly, as with many places scattered atop the surface of our wonderful Earth, the John B. Gordon School took a silence-shattering fall in the year of 1995 and was left entirely abandoned. Here I was, 5 years old, just beginning my educational path, while elsewhere, entire schools were being left in the dust. It’s truly insane when I really sit down and think about it, entire student bodies being transferred and going through these rough patches, while my little suburban neighborhood was moving along just fine…well, other than the millions of dollars in debt that our school systems supposedly face, but that’s an entirely different story. Shortly after, in 1997 Inman Park Properties purchased the property for $200,000, with plans of converting it to the J.B. Gordon Lofts. As with many planned operations such as this, the building remained empty. There sat a once functioning system, forgotten for 10 years, finally foreclosed on in 2009, under a debt load of more than 4 million dollars. Good news is, it can be all yours for the low, low price of just $1.65 for 41,000 square feet.

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Oh wait, $1.65 million.

I think it’s safe to say that nothing will be happening with this derelict beast for quite some time now, if ever…at least not until that price tag can drop a couple digits.

Growing up, I began to realize how distorted our educational system is truly becoming, even in my neat little suburban “happy go lucky” city. See, there were large differences between many of the teachers I had throughout the years, attending mainly local schools, with the exception of one year in Austin, Texas, while spending half of my high school years studying art at a separate school, which showcased vastly different attitudes. While some teachers would make the most of each and every day, stand by your side and praise you for a job well done, the rest would simply not give a shit one way or another as long as they went home with a paycheck earned through mediocrity of a job done half-assed. It’s okay though, because they gave you a packet, right? The damn packet was like the get out of jail free card for these teachers, absolved of their bullshit and cleansed through paper confessional. One thing I did learn from these specific teachers though, was that you can’t expect someone to become excited when you, yourself make no effort to build any level of excitement to break the ice in the first place. If you’re a dance instructor, you don’t explain 2 percent of something, hand someone a damn packet, tell him or her to read it over and shove a test in their face the day after, expecting them to succeed with flying colors. Get off of your lazy ass and get involved. If you can’t do that, then how do you expect your students to reciprocate?

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Enough ranting, though you may wonder how this connects other than the relation to education. See, if every teacher could have the same or similar attitudes of the ones who truly taught me, I believe school systems could almost be better off, leaving less to fall into such a state of shit. It’s ridiculous seeing how many of these massive educational buildings are laid to waste as I drive along these roads. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the surreal aspect of nature taking back what belonged to her in the first place, I love exploring the abstract and abandoned…I love how beautiful the destruction of such a place can truly be, learning the history through fragments of lives left behind, and hey, I know we can’t save them all, but this is the future of our planet emerging from these places, we can’t keep pushing it down hill, tossing things aside like they mean nothing. Ever heard the term “role model?” Do you see how that plays a part?

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But hey, I’m just a photographer with a big mouth and a warped perspective of the world around me. I love it, though.

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We really need to start taking better care of things.

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10 thoughts on “The Abandoned East Atlanta High

  1. I’ve always wondered why the owners and/or cities abandoned places like this are in don’t work harder to repurpose them? Even if that means selling at a loss to get it off their books so properties like this could be turned into apartments or libraries or whatever. There are people out there with the money and motivation to take on a project in this condition. They are doing it in Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. Why not anywhere else?

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    1. In a lot of cases – especially with buildings of this age – the cost of restoring them to usable condition is prohibitively expensive due to asbestos and lead paint abatement, to say nothing of the cost to bring them up to current code (sprinkler systems, ADA compliance, etc). Those projects can be incredibly costly and many times, it’s simply impossible for developers to recoup their investments.

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  2. Man it’s sad to see these places falling into ruin, kids uprooted from everything they know because someone can’t balance the books. Great set of images, you captured the place really well.

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  3. This was not East Atlanta High,it was John B. Gordon Elementary School .Sad to see property in this shape ,everything must change.

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    1. Thank you, you saved me the effort on the clarification. I went to both Gordon and East Atlanta High, and was puzzled by the title.

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  4. Your pictures are great but they break my heart to see the school my father and then my sister and I went to look like this, I loved growing up in EA went to the Madison every sat, sun, and wed. It cost 10c to get in and popcorn was 10c sometimes Mom didn’t have 2 dimes and she would give me a quarter and I felt like I was rich because I could then also have a coke with my popcorn.

    Thank you so much for that trip down my past

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