A Look Back
July 4, 1882: Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish-born novelist, playwright, poet and critic and chief proponent of the aesthetic movement based on the principle of art for art’s sake, arrived in Atlanta and registered at the Markham Hotel on Lloyd Street. That evening he appeared at the Degive’s Opera House on Marietta Street in a suit of rich black velvet, knee breeches and patient leather slippers and launched into his speech on decorative arts.
July 4, 1961: Atlanta celebrated the first ever WSB-TV Salute 2 America Parade on Peachtree Street. A record crowd thronged the route starting at the corner of Baker Street. The grand marshal was actor Victor Jory, who played Tara’s overseer in Gone With the Wind. WSB ended the parade in 2007.
July 8, 1923: Soft drink industry pioneer Frank Mason Robinson died (1846-1923). Born in Maine, he moved to Atlanta in 1886 at the age of 40 and formed business connections with both John Pemberton and Asa Griggs Candler. Robinson realized Coca-Cola’s potential as a marketable product and introduced the now world-renowned Coca-Cola Spenserian script logo trademark for the first time in an Atlanta Journal advertisement on June 16, 1887. Robinson became the first secretary of the Coca-Cola Company in 1892 and for the next 20 years gave his personal attention to the company’s management and advertising departments.
July 11, 1942: The Atlanta Historical Society celebrated the 100th birthday of old Marthasville at the Atlanta Biltmore Hotel. The honored guests were the 66 descendants of Marthasville’s 1842 pioneers. The Society’s Executive Secretary Ruth Blair designed a set of Wedgewood coffee cups each depicting 12 phases of the city’s history. The first depicted in cameo setting Marthasville’s namesake Martha Lumpkin Compton, daughter of Gov. Wilson Lumpkin. The last cup in the set was a cameo of the East Lake Country Club honoring grand slam golfer Bobby Jones.
July 16, 1990: The Atlanta City Council proclaimed Kenny Leon Day at a brief ceremony in City Hall. The tribute honored the 34-year old Atlanta theatrical artist, who was then artistic director of the Alliance Theatre. In May 2010, Leon was nominated for a Tony Award as best director, one of 10 received by the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s drama Fences. Leon lost, but the play won best revival and acting awards for stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
July 21, 1927: The original Frances Virginia Tea Room opened downtown on Poplar Street in today’s Fairlie-Poplar district, diagonally across from the old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, now the Federal Court of Appeals. It was known for its southern style cooking. The tea room’s namesake, Frances Virginia Wikle Whitaker, was called “Texey” by her friends and family. Five years later, the tea room occupied the top floor of the Collier Building on the southeastern corner of Peachtree and Ellis streets. With various owners over the years, the tea room closed in 1962 and the Collier Building razed in 1973. Check out Mildred Huff Coleman’s popular The South’s Legendary Frances Virginia Tea Room Cookbook available at Amazon.com. You can also visit www.southernfoodmillie.com.
July 24, 1985: The one-millionth visitor entered the High Museum of Art’s new building since its opening two years earlier. The winner, Brian Renoud, received a one-year membership to the High, tickets to an Alliance Theater production and an Atlanta Symphony pops concert at Chastain Park, plus dinner for two at the Peasant Restaurant.
July 26, 2002: Actress Rue McClanahan, in Atlanta filming The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr., was disappointed to learn that the hit comedy Peachtree Battle was sold out through October. John Gibson, co-author of the play, recognized McClanahan and promptly found her a folding chair that gave her the best seat in the house. After the performance she signed autographs for the cast and audience members. McClanahan, who died on June 3, 2010 at age 76, will probably be most remembered for her role of Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls.