Tuesday, December 27, 2011

27 December 1936: New Social Security Office to Open in Athens

On this day in 1936, more than a year after the act was signed into law, news that the Social Security Board would be opening an office in downtown Athens made the front page of the Athens Banner-Herald

The Social Security Act had been signed into law on 14 August 1935, but Georgia's governor at the time, Eugene Talmadge, had been adamantly against most New Deal programs. However, in 1936, Georgia Speaker of the House Eurith D. Rivers was elected governor with 60% of the vote promoting New Deal programs such as rural electrification, and supported Georgia participating in the Social Security Program.

According to the brief story in the paper, a long-term lease had been signed for offices in Athens, in "a suite of rooms ... next to Lumpkin street" on the first floor of the Holman Hotel. No employee names had been announced, but the office would open after January 1st, 1937.  The paper reported that "it is expected that the office will have charge of Social Security activities for this immediate territory." Today, there are 33 SSA offices in the state of Georgia.

Located on the corner of Clayton and Lumpkin Streets, the nine-story Holman Hotel was built in 1913 by William S. Holman, originally intended to be office spaces. The top floor was arranged for meetings, banquets, dances or other social functions that provided a view of the city. It was converted into a hotel, and "became the major competitor of the Georgian Hotel which had opened in 1908."

Holman came to Athens from Kentucky after the Civil War, was on the Board of Commissioners, helped develop the northwest part of town, and was one the major investors in the Athens Electric Railway Company, which later became the Athens Railway and Electric Company. He died in 1931, and is buried at Oconee Hill Cemetery.

The Holman building was fully renovated in the 1960s when Citizens & Southern National Bank took over the property. In 1991, it became NationsBank, which later became Bank of America, who still has offices on the property.

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