Nestled on the backside of the bulky 222 Mitchell Building one block south of historic hotel row sits a three story, brick building for “all lovers of the artistic and beautiful.” Or at least that is what a 1908 Atlanta Journal article described the architectural phenomenon which still stands today. The only way the majority of Atlantans would ever see it; traversing along Nelson Street, after parking in one of the numerous surface-level parking lots likely before a game or concert at the Benz. If that lucky individual did happen to not only park but also look up and observe the gorgeous building, they’d be looking at the former Southeastern Headquarter of The Liquid Carbonic Co. – which is one of dozens historic and story-filled buildings in the South Downtown neighborhood.
The last 120 days have produced a once in a lifetime opportunity to generate a resurgence in Atlanta’s South Downtown. The popular phrase “Atlanta Influences Everything” is accurate, therefore us Atlantans have an even greater responsibility to cultivate our city towards more growth and progress. Amidst the actual deal and new operations within the 15 acres, I've gone into numerous mini-research history sprints. The Liquid Carbonic building is one of my early favorites. This three story, brick gem with herringbone brickwork and arches we rarely see any more sits – and has sat – tucked away in the Heart of Atlanta for 118 years.
How did this building come to be? The natural answer is it started with an entrepreneur. Second generation pharmacist Jacob Baur founded the soda fountain out of Indiana in 1888. His invention gave the ability of fountain owners (most likely pharmacy owners) to create their own carbonated drinks, versus buying it in bulk. This invention cut out the middle man and made it much more affordable (a tenth of the existing cost). As the years went by, soda fountains started to gain some panache with their look and style. By 1909, Liquid Carbonic Co was the “world’s largest builder of soda fountains.” Imagine walking into the first floor showroom where a customer could pick out their desired look and design of their new soda fountain display. Look no further than the pictures below.
In 1906, the building was finished to the delight and amazement of the community.
The fire of 1908 wrecked a large portion of the neighborhood including this building but it was quickly re-built.
The battle for market share was ferocious. Below is a letter we have in the Atlanta Tech Village - Mason's office. Educating a market back then was much different than it is today.
Whatever happened to the fate of the Liquid Carbonic Company? Like all great companies and organisms, one either iterates or dies and they seemed to iterate extremely well. In the late 1920's they began producing "dry ice." In the late 1930's they began to manufacture industrial gases and through a series of acquisitions and product evolutions by 1981 they had 85 carbon-dioxide plants world-wide. CBI Industries purchased them in 1984. In 1996, CBI was acquired by Praxair, which was acquired by Linde in 2018.
Next time you're walking in South Downtown, venture over to 216 Nelson Street and see where one of America's brilliant entrepreneurs expanded an industry he created, right in our backyard.