Monday, October 5, 2009

Atlanta Week

We have lived in Atlanta for nearly 16 years and have come to really appreciate this city and what it has to offer but, to be honest, it took me a while. I'd lived in London and Amsterdam and this city those days seemed such a backwater which it wasn't, of course: it was simply that I had not realized that any city has to be taken on its own terms and not be compared with where one has previously lived.

So, in these years I have watched this city grow, become an enormous heat-island, hold the Olympics, survive one downturn in the economy, beat the effects of the dotcom bubble burst, drain Lake Lanier almost dry, refurbish its then given-over-to-crime midtown, make its suffering downtown a residential neighborhood again, and because of it all and despite the present economic depression Atlanta has retaining its hospitable personality.

It is a truism that southerners are family-oriented and hospitable and though my reaction to that is slightly cynical in that I ask "who isn't?" I really do find Atlanta a great, cultured and hospitable place to live. Oh, people complain about the traffic and I often wonder if they have ever driven in LA, Northern New Jersey, Manhattan, London or Paris? And, I know the rest of the country finds it unbelievable that the city does not own a snow plow - it snows perhaps 10 minutes a year - and that in rain drivers completely throw all sense out of the car window and that Atlanta women seemingly can apply make-up, do hair, talk on the phone and hold a coffee mug, all whilst driving. But, which city does not have its quirks?

As a blogger with the ability to roam the world physically and on the internet it is sometimes too tempting to not look at one's own backyard. I live right on Peachtree Road, Atlanta's spine, and arguably this whole city is my backyard so every post this week will be about my home city, Atlanta.

It is with pleasure thus I turn to an Atlanta hospitality venue of 30-plus years ago - a restaurant called The Midnight Sun. I never went but friends did and it is remembered with affection as a very stylish place to be and to be seen. Part of John Portman's Peachtree Center development on the edge of downtown, The Midnight Sun was one of a number of amenities then novel in Atlanta: office and showrooms, hotels, convention facilities all in skyscrapers connected by aerial walkways, underground pedestrian walkways, landscaped plazas, gardens and fountains. And very exciting and bang-up-to-date it must have seemed and indeed was: see quote below about the then-latest technology!

From the Architectural Digest article about it:

"Inspired by the "land of the midnight sun", Denmark, the restaurant specializes in Danish cuisine at is finest, prepared by Danish chefs and served in a traditional Danish manner. The management of the restaurant is as up to date as its design, being one of the first totally computerized restaurant operations of its kind in the country. All food and beverage controls, cash receipts and accounts are handled electronically.

"The restaurant surrounds a large marble tiered fountain atrium that is open to the sky. At night, lights beneath the marble tiers make the marble slabs translucent, creating an exotic and dramatic effect. Tree-like columns that fan out at the ceiling are an exciting architectural innovation."

An exciting architectural innovation indeed: if the photos really show the majesty of the place it must have seemed like a modern day cathedral - those columns fanning out resembling nothing more than Gothic clustered columns and fan vaulting - albeit a cathedral, squat and slick, that glorified a fully computerized, solid-state deity variously known as Mammon and Moolah.

I can find, unfortunately, no attributions for the photos or the text: they must have been in the front of the magazine, Architectural Digest, (1970s) from which these pages came. If anyone can help me with attributions, I'd be grateful.


  1. Blue, great to see you coming around to our way of thinking! Such truer words were never spoken about where we live and what we discover. We all-if nesters-find a way to make our NEST. Atlanta is a great city-ADAC?(You love I am sure) London beyond-I could do that. I hope the tour is a success-can't wait to see more. GT

  2. I live in Atlanta as well. The Midnight Sun was a legend.. the entire hotel was a treasure... the night that I graduated from high school some time ago we ate there and enjoy the magic, thinking we were so worldly......

  3. And worldly you were to have chose such a beautiful place. The MIdnight Sun was gone when we arrived in the early 90s but my then graduate professor told me about it one night over a glass of wine - in vino reminscens, I suppose. It must have been wonderful to walk into for the firs time and quite a feather in one's cap to take a date there.

  4. My 18 year old daughter is going to the Sun Dial tonight for a Prom dinner. I started wondering what happened to MY prom dinner locale - the Midnight Sun. It was fun to read about it here, read your info about it, read the various comments, and, to my surprise, see a picture from that special place ! Thanks !! AND, as an Atlanta native, I'm glad to see that you love the place too !

  5. Back in 1975 I had my wedding reception at The Midnight Sun. What elegance and what service we had! The cake they made for the reception rivaled any cakes made by any of today's bakeries or hotels. The food they served was excellent. What a great memory!

  6. I loved it. Design, Food , Service

  7. Thank you so much for posting about the Midnight Sun. My co-workers at the Atlanta Public Library (Central), now Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, took me there for my bridal dinner in 1975. Such a great place. The library was just down the street from the Peachtree Center and I used to buy flowers there every week from Spring until Autumn, and for special events, like when out of town family came to visit. The Midnight Sun has a special place in my heart.

    There was another restaurant in Peachtree Center where we lunched frequently but I can't remember it's name.

    I lived there when buildings were being demolished to make room for modern stuff, and when they turned to the Fox Theatre, bulldozer at the ready, I'm proud to say I was part of the successful movement to save it (Friends of the Fox). That gorgeous theatre is still active and giving pleasure and culture to many.

    1. The restaurant might have been The Little Mermaid!! It was right there and wonderful too!

  8. Alexa, thank you! My apologies for the late reply. I wish I could have seen the Midnight Sun restaurant - I heard from my graduate school professor (GA State) who has lived in Atlanta a long time that the place was very beautiful and what is surprising is how contemporary it still looks.

    I only know the modern (to my eye, ugly) Marcel Breuer building but have seen photos of the Carnegie that was pulled down. On all my field trips with students to look at the downtown architecture, never once have I felt like going inside the library. Strange, really.

  9. I proposed to my wife at The Midnight Sun in the summer of 1970. I feel so fortunate to have chosen this place to pop "the big question." Now married 42 years with three wonderful children and two special grandsons, parts of that night are seared in my memory forever. I was so nervous. What I remember most, is asking her to marry me, presenting the ring, her crying, the Captain shooing the strolling violinists to our table, and feeling so embarrassed as everyone around us starred and the violinists played and played..

    We were also fortunate that my parents chose The Midnight Sun for our Rehearsal Dinner.

    What a wonder choice for two important life events. We'll never forget the very beautiful Midnight Sun. It was very, very special to us.

    Wynn & Sharon

  10. In late 1968, I went on a blind date with a co-worker's 46-year-old, never married, visiting friend at the Midnight Sun. I was 24. Eleven months later, we married and were married for 43 years before his death in 2012. He was still the most handsome man. All the great memories, including our two sons, started at the Midnight Sun. The restaurant was stunning and unlike anywhere else we had been in Atlanta.