Levenson's Guide: The Tabernacle


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Note: I’m of the opinion that there needs to be something akin to a “Fodor’s travel guide” for Hawks fans needing stuff to do besides merely getting to the arena and going home. To that end, here’s an initial installment of venues and sites within a short walk, ride, or drive of Philips Arena that some may find worth checking out, under the banner of “Levenson’s Guide”.





Address: 152 Luckie Street, Atlanta, GA 30303



What is it: Former church, converted into downtown Atlanta’s most popular mid-range concert venue.


History: Situated on land now occupied by Centennial Olympic Park, Third Baptist Church was bursting at the seams not long after Rev. Len Broughton arrived in Atlanta to pastor at the turn of the 20th century. Several on-site expansions proved futile in meeting demand.


The North Carolinian fundamentalist minister was vocal on political issues of the day, a tireless advocate for temperance and teetotaling prior to the national Prohibition era. Broughton embarked on a quest to construct a tabernacle closer to the city center and large enough to accommodate all comers.  He worked with noted Chattanooga architect R.H. Hunt to design the building at Luckie and Harris Streets.




Broughton’s new church opened in 1911, with an auditorium seating 4,000 and Sunday school facilities downstairs for 3,000. The largest Bible Conferences in the South were hosted here, at the new Tabernacle Baptist Church. Churches were at the forefront as cities warmed to caring for the ill outside of their own homes, and one of the services hosted by this church was an infirmary, the predecessor to Georgia Baptist Hospital (now Atlanta Medical Center).




Broughton didn’t stay at his new church for long, accepting an offer to come to London’s Christ Church. But he returned to America after The Great War took its toll on England and personal health problems mounted. He last led Tabernacle Baptist from 1929 to 1931 and died in Tennessee in 1936. The Tabernacle he left behind continued to prosper for decades.


With the onset of suburbanization and desegregation, many Atlanta intown places of worship relocated further out to accommodate their longer-commuting congregations. But Tabernacle Baptist held firm. Church membership declined from a peak of 3,000 in the 1950s to 500 in the 1980s. By 1991, its pastor resorted to fasting in a last-ditch attempt to draw sympathetic donations to keep the place open. The 100-member church decided to put the building up for sale later that year, but it would take years to find buyers.


The 1994 sale went to investors seeking to use the building as an entertainment site during the Olympics, given its proximity to the Olympic Park being constructed just across Techwood Avenue.


Those plans seemed to finally come to fruition when the place became the host of The House of Blues just in time for the Games. The Blues Brothers were the first act that summer of 1996, followed by James Brown, Johnny Cash, Al Green, Bob Dylan, and other notable acts. Unfortunately, the House of Blues franchise owner had no plans to continue their run in Atlanta beyond that Olympic summer.


A California developer then invested heavily in what he believed would be “the premier venue in the Southeast.” The Tabernacle became the host for a breakthrough gospel play by a struggling local stage director named Tyler Perry. Its lower floor was rented out to host The Cotton Club, run by local promoters best known for creating Music Midtown.


Finding the travel distance between Atlanta and home to be too great, the California investor sold his interest in the Tabernacle property to the entertainment group now known as Live Nation in 1999.




Today: Now managed around-the-clock by Live Nation, the Tabernacle has become downtown Atlanta’s go-to site for SRO music concerts and comedy stands, lauded in Rolling Stone and other magazines as one of the nation’s top concert venues. The palatial design of the former church has proven to offer impressive acoustics and superb sight lines for concertgoers thrilled to see their favorite acts in more intimate and historic settings than run-of-the-mill arena stages. Frequent concertgoers declare that there’s hardly a bad seat in the house, particularly in the tiered balconies above the floor.


The Tabernacle continues to survive even after the 2008 Tornado that ravaged downtown, ushering in extensive repairs to the roof, windows, wiring, and pipes. A packed concert for the aptly named “Panic! At the Disco” in February of this year had to be evacuated due to fears the stage floor was cracking (the place was promptly inspected, and it’s fine). As one Yelp commenter amusingly noted: “Part of the fun is worrying if the whole place is going to fall in. I kid – but you feel every bass bump and every footfall up in the balcony. GREAT Acoustics.”




Tabernacle events are NOT for kids. Despite the non-smoking signs posted around the venue, it’s safe to say the smoking rules are liberally enforced once performances begin… and I’m not just talking tobacco. Still, for visiting adult Hawks fans, the Tabernacle can be suitable for postgame fun on matinee days, or as someplace fun for the out-of-town grown folks to go during two-night stays. It’s a far cry from what Len Broughton envisioned for the place, but one century later, there’s plenty of good-natured shouting at the Tabernacle.




* Purchase tickets to events online (www.tabernacleatl.com) or at a Ticketmaster outlet if possible. The Tabernacle box office is usually open just a couple hours before performances, and the best acts are usually sold out by then.


* Call in advance if you have ADA/accessibility seating needs. Don’t bring any large purses or bags, and dress light as there’s no coat check.


* Get to the Tabernacle at least an hour before performances, not only to avoid the long lines around the building, but also to mingle while enjoying the full-service bars ("sorry, Rev. Broughton! Haha.") on the stage floor. The original version of Ted’s (as in Ted Turner’s) chain restaurant known for its bison burgers is situated right across Luckie Street.


* The Tabernacle has a VIP bar and lounge (“The Room”) on an upper level for season-ticketholders. Do NOT purchase “VIP passes” hawked by vendors or yahoos on the street, as there’s a likely chance they’re invalid.




From Philips Arena: Cross Marietta Street and walk north along Centennial Olympic Park Drive to the traffic light at Andrew Young International Boulevard (near the park entrance where you’ll find the Fountain of Rings). Cross Centennial Olympic Park Drive and then walk back toward the arena one block to Luckie Street. The SkyView Ferris Wheel is right next door to the Tabernacle.


From MARTA: Take the North/South train (Red or Gold Line) to Peachtree Center Station, then take the long escalator to the Carnegie Way exit (Main branch of the library is across the street). Walk two blocks down Carnegie Way, cross Spring Street and then walk two blocks to the left along Spring to reach Luckie Street. The Tabernacle is across Luckie, just past Ted’s Restaurant. Alternatively, in a few months you can access the new Peachtree Streetcar from the Ellis Street exit at Peachtree Center. The streetcar travels right in front of the Tabernacle just after it passes Centennial Olympic Park.



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I swear I had nothing to do with this!


10Best: Concert venues across the USA




They're not ranked, but The Tabernacle is the 9th one of the ten mentioned. I believe the Ryman and MSG are the only other ones on the list that are indoor concert venues.



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    • By lethalweapon3

      Address: 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, Atlanta, GA 30313


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    • By lethalweapon3
      Location: One-half-mile south of “the Gulch”, via Centennial Olympic Park Drive
      What Is It: A pedestrian-friendly (but only once you get there) urban neighborhood with restaurants and shops, best known as Atlanta’s historic visual arts district.


      (illustration by Zohar Lazar, in Atlanta Magazine)
      History: Drunks! Whores! Rowdies! Cockfighters! Such was the prevailing scene around downtown Atlanta… in the 1840s.
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      Elected on his second try in 1850, Norcross also became essentially Atlanta’s police chief, and he organized raids of Atlanta’s “shanty town” establishments. Many of the rowdies shifted their activities from Five Points to a more hospitable locale a mile southwest of downtown, a community called “Snake Nation” that the press deemed “devoted almost entirely to the criminal and immoral element”.While times were slithery in and around Snake Nation (at least, until Norcross’ raiders burned down that settlement, too), the area also laid adjacent to the budding railroad lines Norcross advocated, particularly the Macon and Western Railroad flanked by Peters and Whitehall Streets. Soon after the ruffians came the factory builders. By the time the Civil War was underway, Castleberry Hill was teeming with factories producing terra cotta and building materials, along with cotton warehousers, butchers, blacksmiths, meat packers, and grocers.

      One of the grocer outfits was run by the Castleberrys, the family the Snake Nation neighborhood was wisely renamed after. Daniel Castleberry was an early settler who owned land along Walker Street. M.T. Castleberry was a former Confederate Army soldier, shot in the face at Antietam, who wanted nothing to do with “issues of the past,” but instead immersed himself in the revival of Atlanta (during Reconstruction) and the industrializing New South.M.T. and Zach Castleberry were prominent businessmen in the furniture-making and terra cotta production fields in the late 19th century. By this time, a mule-drawn trolley was transporting workers and citizens across the Peters Street Bridge between Downtown, this community, and West End.

      Fast forward over a century later, and deindustrialization began in earnest the process of factory closures. The ghost-town factory settings were ideal for filmmakers searching for dystopian backdrops, as well as the arrival of adventurous urban dwellers, most notably local artists on the hunt for cheap intown loft living.

      Today: Communal interest in economically stabilizing the community around its many art galleries and studios (and many artists that live there) led to the establishment of the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll. Held on the second Friday of every month from 7 to 10 PM, the Art Stroll not only adds vibrancy to the area between Downtown and West End, but helped establish Castleberry Hill (according to USA Today last year) as one of America’s Top 10 city arts districts. Food trucks and bands liven up the street scene between Art Stroll venues.
      The neighborhood maintains its 20th-century warehouse aesthetic, but the streets (particularly Walker Street, the main artery south of Philips Arena, and Peters Street) are walkable and well-lit. And more modern-looking loft developments (with first-floor shops) have since joined the party.


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      About a dozen years ago, the historic Paschal’s Restaurant moved from Clark Atlanta University to newer, airy digs at the Loft at Castleberry Hill, facing Northside Drive. Reportedly, MLK used to enjoy the soup at the former AUC spot. Many eateries in Atlanta have recently fallen in love with special “fried chicken nights” for the foodie crowd, but few offerings compare to Paschal’s “Famous 1947” entree. Menu items are a tad pricey, but you won’t complain about being hungry when you leave.
      Very much not a hole-in-the-wall is Smoke Ring. Rightfully, you’d give pause whenever a woodsy barbecue joint has an Executive Chef. But their “low-and-slow” smoked meats and a plethora of sides and snacks happily take the edge off of their upscale veneer. Last week they catered and co-hosted a season-premiere party for The Walking Dead (a Bob-E-Que. Get It? Okay, never mind!) with Atlanta Movie Tours.

      Arts ‘n Stuff: It would be unfair to try mentioning all of the galleries in Castleberry Hill. But many of them (I’ll call out Besharat Gallery and Marcia Wood Gallery, in particular) have taken up modest 19th- and early 20th-century spaces and created stunning interiors to showcase their exhibits. Many are participating in this month’s Atlanta Celebrates Photography annual festival.
      Castleberry Hill serves as an apt focal point for TV and film production in the metro area. The previously-noted Atlanta Movie Tours has a gift shop and runs tours of just about everywhere filmmakers and TV show producers call for “Action!” in the ATL, from The Walking Dead to Driving Miss Daisy to The Hunger Games. This month, obviously, is big for their Big Zombie Tours. Call well in advance to book a tour. If you’re in need of a cool zombie shirt or some Gone with the Wind knick-knacks for your Aunt Petunia, this is the place for you.
      Whether you dress like Travis Scott or Mike Scott, you’ll find the hip (fly? dope?) apparel and sneaks you need at Fly Kix ATL boutique on Peters Street. If Mitchell & Ness items, Billionaire Boys Club tees, or swaggy New Balance sneakers (did I just type that) are your cup of tea, or you need to up your Sock Game, it’s worth popping in to see what they’ve got in store (they’ve got Hawks/NBA fitteds and related stuff there, too).



      Going south from the arena, Centennial Olympic Park Drive (briefly, “Dominique Wilkins Way,” in front of Philips) becomes Walker Street, which threads through the center of Castleberry Hill. The Gulch, of course, is VERY desolate at night, and even more daunting these days with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium construction going on beside the Georgia Dome. So I’d discourage foot traffic from the Centennial Olympic Park area UNLESS it’s mid-day, there’s good weather, and you’ve good energy to burn and time to kill (all of the above must apply). With your own ride, a rental car, or Uber/taxi, it’s a quick dash to the area where C.O.P. Drive (due to nearby construction, a two-way street, at least for now) becomes Walker Street. Curb parking is minimal, but there are lots behind/near many of the restaurants and galleries. Park at the lofts only while you’re visiting retail there. MARTA rail doesn’t serve Castleberry Hill, but it’s roughly a ten-minute walk south from the Dome/Arena/GWCC Station next to Philips (see my advisory above about walking). Add another five minutes one-way if you’re walking from Centennial Olympic Park or the Streetcar stop on C.O.P. Drive. Bus Route 13 takes riders to the southern edge of Castleberry Hill from Five Points Station – get off at Peters and Haynes Streets, then walk a short couple blocks to Walker Street. Ideal times to visit? Lunchtime, or during idle afternoon hours leading up to Hawks games, or after weekend/holiday Hawks matinees. Most galleries are open during the afternoon and early evening hours, but call ahead or check websites for specifics. More of the bar action is in the evenings, so plan ahead with your transportation. The times NOT to go? Those eight times a year (hopefully a couple more!) when the Falcons are playing at home. Tailgaters abound, and parking just to hang out in the neighborhood is a bear during those times.
      Upcoming Art Stroll Dates: November 13, December 11, January 8, February 12, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10.