By Ann Taylor Boutwell
May 3, 1932: At Dearborn Station in Chicago, onlookers watched as handcuffed gangster Al Capone boarded the Dixie Express bound for the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. In 1931, a federal grand jury convicted him on income tax evasion. While in the Atlanta Pen, Capone manipulated prison guards for cell amenities such as a carpet, mirror, typewriter, personal bedding, radio and a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Urban myths still linger about Capone’s wife, Mae, and hi mob entourage staying on the top floor of the old Briarcliff Hotel (now the Briarcliff Summit building) on Ponce de Leon. On August 11, 1934, Capone along with 53 other prisoners was sent to Alcatraz, which had opened in San Francisco.
May 9, 1967: Atlanta artist Constantin Chatov’s portrait of the late Clark Gable as he appeared in the role of Rhett Butler in the movie version of Gone With the Wind was hung in Mayor Ivan Allen’s office at City Hall. The portrait, which had hung for many years in Loew’s Grand Theater where the film premiered in 1939, had been presented as a gift to the city.
May 9, 1914: The Ford Company submitted a request for a building permit to construct an assembly plant on Ponce de Leon Avenue next to the Southern Railway line. The building still stands as the Ford Factory Lofts, while the railway line is now the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine.
May 12, 1985: Yonge Street was renamed for Rev. William Holmes Borders, longtime pastor of the Wheat Street Baptist Church at 359 Auburn Ave. It first appeared in the 1870 Atlanta City Directory and was originally named for George Yonge superintendent of the Georgia Central Railroad.
May 13, 1905: The new Atlanta Terminal Station, called the Mitchell Street depot by locals, opened to the from 3:30 to 10:00 p.m. Located on what is now the site of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building, the facility designed by Architect P. Thornton Marye and built by contractors Gude & Walker. With the opening of the terminal the Southern Railway announced the discontinuance of several flag stops, namely, Ponce de Leon, Walker’s Mill, Angier Springs, Fair Grounds (Piedmont Park) and Copenhill Park.
May 13, 1880: A catastrophe struck the DeGive Opera House on Marietta Street during the matinee of Paradise and Peri. Just before curtain, the cast, dressed in gauze-robed winged angel costumes, took their seats on the semi-circular, stage-tiers. Maggie Chapman, who played the title character from Persian mythology, rushed on stage enveloped in flames, screaming “Fire!” Others followed with costumes blazing. The stage crew seized the frantic girls and removed their burning clothes. A lighted gas jet in the dressing room caused the accident. Chapman, 24, was a teacher at the First Methodist Sunday School. Inhaling flames seriously affected her lungs and she was horribly burned around the neck, throat and arms. The only child of Sarah E. and Foster Samuel Chapman, she died from her injuries a few days later and was buried in Oakland Cemetery. Her tombstone, located near the Bell Tower, reads “Our Only Treasure.”
May 14: 1928: The Gillespie Auto Laundry System opened on the southwest corner of Ponce de Leon and Juniper Street. Noted in the March issue of the Atlanta Chamber’s City Builder magazine, B.K. Gillespie’s new scientific car washing process service was the first of its kind in Atlanta and the south. Architect Raymond Snow designed the total-care-car-complex. Property owner J. Carroll Payne had purchased the property and leased it to the Gillespie for 99 years. On Feb. 24, 1929, Payne transferred the lease to the Sinclair Refining Company. Currently rising on this corner is Emory’s $225 million cancer treating proton facility.
May 21, 1910: At Atlanta’s Terminal Station, 4-year-old Violet Spencer’s tiny hands unveiled the bronze statue honoring her late grandfather, Samuel Spencer. The Georgia native was the first president of the Southern Railway, now Norfolk Southern. He had died in a car accident on Thanksgiving morning in 1906. From 1910 until 1970, Spencer’s seated-figure—designed by architect Henry Bacon, sculptor Daniel Chester French, and fabricator Piccirilli Brothers Marble Carving Studios—kept watch over the plaza until the station’s closing in June 1970. It was rededicated on July 3, 1970, at Southern’s Peachtree Station in Brookwood and remained until May 1996 when it was relocated by CODA—Corporation for Olympic Development to downtown’s Hardy Ivy Park. It can now be viewed in Midtown where it was relocated May 30, 2009 to the front plaza of the Norfolk Southern Corporation at 1200 Peachtree St.