PHOENIX AND THE MEZZANINE
Atlanta Airport's 1961 terminal featured a central lobby which connected the main ticket lobby to the concourses. This area featured a gift shop and drug store and included a news stand, air travel insurance booth, and waiting area. A security check point was added in the 1970s. An escalator led to the mezzanine level which included the Passport Lounge and the Skyport Cinema, which was little more than a seating area with a single television screen. The focal point of the lobby was a giant abstract mobile depicting the symbol of Atlanta, the Phoenix, the mythical bird that was renewed by fire and rose from its own ashes in much the same way Atlanta rose from the ashes of the Civil War. Designed by Atlanta sculptor Julian Harris, the mobile's $35,000 price tag (approximately $339,000 in 2022 dollars) caused an enormous amount of controversy.
The back of this postcard reads: "Mobile in the interior of Atlanta's new air transportation terminal. Central theme is the Phoenix from the seal of the city of Atlanta. Extending out on three beams are stylized birds representing flight."
Mayor Hartsfield, inspecting the piece when it was hung in March 1961, was a fan of the mobile and brushed off the controversy, insisting that people would appreciate it once they understood the symbolism. "Nothing is as controversial as progress," he told the press. "It will intrigue people all over the nation and make people talk."
No one seems to know what happened to the mobile after the terminal closed. According to an article in 1995, the city claimed that it was damaged before the demolition and was disassembled and placed in storage. Ken Denney, editor of West Georgia Living magazine, wrote an article about Harris and told me, "the people at the airport said it was lost during demolition."
This is the view from the main lobby heading toward the concourses. The Delta counter would be directly to the left of the photographer (out of the frame) and the escalator to the first floor baggage claim is just beyond and below the clock at right. The administration and control tower can be seen through the windows at top. These next few black and white photos were taken September 21, 1961 to show the Oldsmobile display at the bottom of the mezzanine escalator.
A color view from the opposite side of the baggage claim escalator. The end of the Eastern ticket counter is seen at far right.
A slightly closer view from September 21, 1961 shows the doors leading to the "Y" shape concourses C and D in the distance at far right.
The final image from September 21, 1961 showing part of the Phoenix mobile above the escalator. The windows in the background overlooked the ramp between United's gates on concourse D and Delta's concourse E. Georgia State University Digital Collections.
A 1965 view of the same escalator with the added bonus of an Oldsmobile Toronado! New cars were displayed here for the entire 19 year life of the terminal. In the distance is the corridor that led to the boarding gates. To the left were Delta's 2 concourses and slightly to the right were the "Y" shaped concourses C and D. A hard right turn would lead to Eastern's concourses A and B. Courtesy of the Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, Georgia State University Library.
The mezzanine level at the top of the escalator with the Passport Lounge through the doors to the left and the iconic Coca-Cola sign visible at right.
Another photo from the upper level with a better view of the Coke sign. The Skyport Cinema seen here was basically a seating area with a TV at one end.