Talk of the Town - Wrecking ball rescue February 26 2003

It's difficult to imagine Atlanta without the Fox Theatre. But it may be even stranger to realize that the majority of people living in the city aren't aware that it was nearly destroyed. In the late 1970s, the Shriners mosque and movie palace was slated for the wrecking ball when a group of businessmen and thousands of Fox fans helped rescue it.

Now fast-forward 25 years to the Atlanta Preservation Center's 10-day festival, "The Phoenix Flies: A Citywide Celebration of Living Landmarks." The event highlights Atlanta's efforts to retain its history, and the struggles and successes along the way. The 25th anniversary of the Fox Theatre's new lease on life will be honored with a gala, lectures and tours of 14 other historic venues (including the Flatiron Building, right).

No one can argue that the Fox is a preservation success — the city's "crown jewel," according to Boyd Coons, executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center. But the center's work is far from done; its "most endangered" list includes the legendary Peters House (formerly the Mansion restaurant), and 11 Atlanta public school buildings built between 1907 and 1932. The center is hoping an event of this scope will raise awareness of efforts to save these vital markers of Southern heritage.

Ten-day festival Feb. 28-March 9. Event kicks off with the "Save the Fox" Silver Anniversary Gala, Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $175. For more information on guided tours, lectures and events, call 404-688-3353 or visit www.preserveatlanta.com.