NGE >> The Arts >> Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Historic Preservation >> Architecture: Design >> Emerging Modernism, 1930-1950 >> A. Thomas Bradbury (1902-1992)
A. Thomas Bradbury (1902-1992)
Abraham Thomas Bradbury was born on April 4, 1902, in Atlanta to Hannah Marco and Abraham Bradbury, a contractor. Bradbury's early training in architecture was remarkable for its breadth and for the variety of firms with which he was associated. From 1921 to 1923, while a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bradbury worked for Robert and Company. He received a certificate from Georgia Tech in 1923. When John Llewellyn Skinner, who had served from 1923 to 1925 as head of architecture at Georgia Tech, left Atlanta for Florida, the young Bradbury followed him, seeking to establish a practice in Miami, but a hurricane in 1926 prevented it.
Bradbury next found work with Warren, Knight, and Davis in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1927. He lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1930 and returned to Atlanta during the early 1930s to study law. In 1933 Bradbury was admitted to the bar, and three years later he married Janette Lane, who held both bachelor's and master's degrees in law. The couple had three children, Janette Lane, Lynda Lane, and Thomas Lane. Bradbury later married Wylene Righton.
Bradbury's 1940s work shows him to be interested in the progressive functional style of modernism, as evidenced in his Seventh Street Candler Professional (Dental) Building (1946). His sometime associate Ralph E. Slay helped to sustain this aesthetic, seen in part in the educational/activities buildings that Bradbury and Associates added to West Hunter Street Baptist Church (where civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy served as minister during the 1960s), Rock Spring Presbyterian Church, and Venetian Hills Elementary School, all in Atlanta, during the 1950s.
Beginning in 1954 with the Agriculture Building and the Law and Justice Building, Bradbury and Associates constructed the precinct of modern classic state office buildings that today surrounds the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta. Bradbury soon added buildings for the departments of labor, human resources, and transportation, the latter designed with the ribbon-windows and sunscreens of a Bauhaus-inspired International style, rather than in the economic, stripped forms of the modern classic. Bradbury also served as lead architect for renovations to the Georgia state capitol, which began in 1957.
At that time, Heffernan's academic village of early modern buildings at Georgia Tech—including the textile engineering, architecture, and library buildings—was developing into one of the most significant ensembles of modern architecture in the South. Although his move to academia was a great loss to Heffernan's personal architectural legacy, scores of future masters of Atlanta architecture benefited by studying under him. Bradbury, in the meantime, secured for himself the next major Georgia Tech commission, the Skiles Classroom Building (1959), whose south elevation was styled, ironically, in a Heffernanesque modern aesthetic.
In addition to Skiles, Bradbury also built the Rich Electronic Computer Building (1954-55) at Georgia Tech. A major complex of the next decade, in association with Wilfred J. Gregson and Associates, was the Georgia Mental Health Institute (1962-63), now Emory University's biomedical campus. Bradbury also executed school buildings for DeKalb and Fulton counties and built apartment
Bradbury's most conspicuous government commission was the Governor's Mansion (1964-67) on West Paces Ferry Road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. It was built in the image of Tara, the home of Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With the Wind (1936), an unusual choice for an architect who had specialized in modern design during the previous decade. At the same time, Bradbury designed the Yaarab Shrine Temple (1963-65) on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the romantic, indeed exotic, image of the city's original Yaarab Temple, which was designed by the Atlanta firm Marye, Alger, and Vinour in the late 1920s. (The original temple later became the famous Fox Theatre.) By the mid-1960s, still building around the capitol, Bradbury added the Trade and Industry Building to his state office complex, and in 1962-65 he built the most minimalist of all these stripped-classic structures—a monumental box-on-pedestal housing the Georgia Archives, which has since moved to a new facility in Morrow.
Bradbury sold his firm, which had remained in operation for thirty-five years, and retired in 1978. On November 14, 1992, he died in Atlanta at the age of ninety.
Robert M. Craig, Atlanta Architecture: Art Deco to Modern Classic, 1929-1959 (Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1995).
Robert M. Craig, Georgia Institute of Technology
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