The Ballrooms, Terrace, and Landmark's Lounge

Since we are on a virtual tour, let's magically be transported back outside to the Arcade. Just before the entrance to the Auditorium on the left is the entrance to the Grand Staircase. This is the main access point to the Fox's two main ballrooms. Between this entranceway and the Auditorium entrance, there is a small box office. this served as the place to purchase tickets to gain entrance into ballrooms.

Once inside, you see this is a very beautiful area made to be quite opulant. The baseboards in the stairway are solid marble. Terrazo tiles top the columns of the stiarcase and upon them sit solid brass lamps. On the far wall from the entranceway are two doors, one serves the ballroom's ticket office while I understand the other serves as a coat or utility closet. On the floor at the base of the stairway is the inlayed seal of the Shriners, making a permanent link to its original heritage. In the inlay are the initials A.A.O.N.M.S. (Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine), today more commonly referred to simply as "The Shriners". The founders of the organization loved mysticism and spectacle. Since the group began as a social group for Masons, a cute nod to that is as an anagram, these initials rearranged spell out "A MASON"!

On the staircase wall, a plaque was inlaid in 1976 commemorating the Fox as a National Landmark by the US Park Service, Department of the Interior. Not only does this distinction recognize the Fox complex as historically important, the special distinction also gives Federal protections to the Fox. I would like to point out that in addition to the Fox Complex, later on, the Ponce deLeon Apartments, Georgian Terrace, and the Cox-Carlton Hotel (now Hotel Indigo) all have been given this special designation. This is the only location in the country where there are four buildings on the Register of National Historic Landmarks that all sit together with in one single block.

Directly in front of the entrance doors, there is now an elevator. That originally was not there and this caused all sorts of problems. Back when the complex was built, no care or regard was really given to people who had mobility issues. In the later part of the Twentieth-Century, the Federal Government imposed what is know as ADA laws in order ot mandate handicapped access for those who needed it. As a National Historic Landmark, the Fox Complex is exempt from those rules as it would impose changes on the building that were not part of it's original design. However, because the Fox is a working building, Atlanta Landmarks has strived to do as much as it can in order to bring the Fox up to as many ADA standards as possible. Therefore, it was deemed quite important to have some form of elevator service added to the ballroom areas. Restoration Director Rick Flinn was able to design a plan that would add an elevator to the Grand Staircase area by using existing space that was not use, nor needed. He further designed the construction plans to seemlessly integrate with the staircase so it would look like it was part of the original building. As you can see, he did a wonderful job in accomplishing that.

As we go up the staircase, you will notice that high above is skylight decorated with stained glass. This skylight often goes un-noticed by many because so few think to look up at it.  When we ascend up to the first floor, there is a large walkway. In front of us are doors that lead into the Egyptian Ballroom. Please note the detail work on the doorknobs of the main doors. They are decorated with the logo of the Shriners. This is yet another detail that shows the Fox's lineage as the intended Shriner's Mosque for the Yaarab Temple long before its was used as a Theatre for the Fox Theatre chain. To the right of the ballroom entrance, there is a hallway that now leads to the elevator. Originally, this space served as the coat check for the Ballroom and Salon.  To the left is the entrance to the Grand Salon.

If we continue to the top floor of the staircase, it leads to the entrance to the balcony of the Ballroom. To the right, once again it leads to the elevator. This section once contained a small area that at one time served as a small dance studio. To the left of the staircase are the restroom lounges for the ballrooms. The lounges are downright spartan compared to the lounges of the Auditorium. To my knowledge, there was no photographic record of how these two lounges were decorated when the theatre opened in 1929. When Atlanta Landmarks took over the Fox, they were nothing more that simple rooms with a simple coat of off-white paint on the walls with no ornamentation, and there was no furniture in the rooms either. In the 1980s, Rick Flinn added large Egyptian glyphs to the walls and placed some of the restored furniture into the lounges to make them more decorative and functional. In the late 1990s, the glyphs were removed and what seems to be more luxurious furnishings were placed in the lounge areas.

Returning to the main floor of the ballroom area, let's enter the Egyptian Ballroom. The Ballroom can accomodate up to 800 people. In its original use as a banquet hall, it can seat up to 520 in comfort. By combining both the Ballroom and the Salon for one function, together they can accomodate up to 1,500 for an event. combined, they can seat up to 720 for a banquet style event.

Originally, this room was referred to as the Great Banquet Hall. Almost from the beginning, the Shriner's Oriental Band sub-leased the room from the Yaarab Temple to stage Saturday night dances at which it performed. The money raised was used to pay for the band's travelling expenses around the country to appear and compete at other Shriner events. In 1939, the Fox was under the management of the Georgia Theatre Company. The decision was made to rename the hall The Egyptian Ballroom and to feature live music acts and dancing that was so popular when it was used for that purpose by the Shrine's musical units. As a ballroom, the hall was very popular and many Atlantans have fond memories of great evenings there. A large neon sign was installed over the main entrance in the arcade that has since been removed and relocated to the hallway just outside the ballroom as an art installation. The snazzy name stuck and the hall has been referred to by this moniker ever since.

The Egyptian Ballroom is a very large hall, complete with its own balcony and performance stage. This is one of the most ornate rooms in the entire complex. The room is 90 feet by 76 feet large and has 6, 840 square feet of floor space. Its design is based on the ancient Egyptian Temples at Karnack. Cartouches on the ceiling contain authentic hieroglyphics, although there is some debate as to the correctness of its Egyptian grammer. The bases of the columns and the dado around the room are decorated with stencils of lotus buds and blossoms. The ceiling is painted with stats typical of Egyptian tomb decorations.

This room was probably the most bastardized room in the Fox Complex when the building was saved from demolition. The Fox, like many of it's movie palace brethren, were extremely expensive to maintain and many cost-cutting measures were taken in order to keep costs to a bare minimum. Of all the rooms in the Fox, the Eyptian Ballroom has the most decorated walls. These decorations were put on the walls with elaborate stencils. According to Fox legend, and we have no way to authenticate this, the original Fox theatre maintenance person decided to take all of the Fox's stencils to his home for storage. The legend continues to say that this person became involved in an adulterous affair. When his wife learned of the affair, she was so enraged that she took all of the man's belongings, including the Fox's stencils, into a pile in the front yard, and burned them!!!

True or not, the original stencils were lost somehow and since it would have been very expensive to recreate them, when the walls became worn and were in bad shape, the walls were painted over with dark brown paint from the floor to about 10 feet high. This is where the first attempt was made to restore the lost artistry of the Fox. Volunteers carefully stripped several layers of brown paint off the wall to reveal the faded remnants of the original stencils. Tracings were made and from that new stencils were constructed and used to return the room back to as it once was. Unfortunately, when the paints were chosen to restore the room, oil-based paint was used instead of latex paint. In a very short time, the paint began to peal from the walls and the walls had to be striped and repainted. But fortunately the hard work of recreating the stencils had been accomplished, so the renovation took much less time than the first restoration attempt. In time every stencil needed to restore the Fox was made and is now kept in a safe place at the Fox for when it is next needed. 

The Ballroom has its own performance stage that is 12 feet deep by 28 feet wide.The backdrop for the stage is a large relief of what is supposed to be a Pharaoh proclaiming judgement, perhaps mercay upon a fallen warrior foe. Behind the fixed curtains that frame the stage are a set of doors that once led down to the Shrine's storage rooms, and musical unit's dressing rooms, complete with their own shower area. In re-purposing the Spanish Room into the auditorium's concession area, a good portion these areas were demolished. Some of the original rooms still remain, but are used for concessions storage.

In 2005, two members of the Atlanta Preservation Society's Fox Tour Guide Group, Dr. Hugh Keenan and Kohen White, met with Dr. Betsey Teasley-Trope, associate curator of Ancient Art and co-curator of their current special exhibit Excavating Egypt, Michael C. Carlos Museum, at Emory University. Dr. Teasley-Trope is a Professor of Egyptology and an expert in Egyptian Art and Hieroglyphics that was asked to give her expert opinion about the Egyptian themed art and hieroglyphics within the Fox Complex.

It had been long-held that the Pharoah figure behind the Ballroom stage was Ramases II, otherwise known as Ramases the Great. She told the two that she was unable to find any thing that would identify the figure as the Egyptian king Ramesses.  In fact, she said, "I don't think Ramesses was ever pictured in a skirt that short."  In fact, the posture and musculature of the figure are not Egyptian as it has been recognized in antiquity.

Dr. Teasley-Trope continued to report that there are no consecutive hieroglyphics in the room that form complete sentences or statements. There are glyphs on the underside of the balcony that supposedly read "Welcome All Who Bring Joy", but once again, the glyphs have no meaning whatsoever, which perishes another long-held myth about the Fox. In fact all of the hieroglyphics in the room appear to be valid, but their combination often has no meaning; i.e. their combinations do not translate as sentences.  Some are isolated prepositions or adjectives; others are single nouns.  In real Egyptian hieroglyphics, only proper nouns (the names of persons or gods) should have cartouches; but this principal is violated frequently in the room by having cartouches around common nouns.
Dr. Teasley-Trope did identify the bird above the intaglio above Ramesses as the vulture "Nrt", sacred to Isis as Mut or "Mother."  This hieroglyph means both "Vulture" and "Mother."   The bird is holding "Shn," the feather of protection and the symbol of eternity in its talons, offering eternal protection to the Pharaoh. The blocks of writing to the side of the figure of Ramesses contain the date 1929 plus an extra 3. She also pointed out that another block contains hieroglyph for the month of a season of the year.  This same block also contains the glyph "Djedu" or backbone of Osiris.  This is used to represent stability. The other glyphs to the far right are just scrambled hieroglyphics.
Looking forward at the stage, to the left corner of the hall, is the Fox's main kitchen area that primarily services both the ballroom and salon. It is capable of serving meals for over a thousand people at one time. Of note, in the 53' X 36' kitchen is a huge 1920s era refrigerator that was once cooled by the continual placement of ice blocks in it's top compartments. In subsequent years, a modern refrigeration system was added to it to allow it to continue to service the Fox.

The ballroom's ceiling is twenty-five feet high, while the Clerestory rises thirty feet and is adorned with the Egyptian calendar with glyphs depicting the Egyptian Zodiac. The lighting of the Clerestory center ceiling section gives the illusion it has a skylight that allows light in, as it was in the Temples of Karnac. Here, this effect is created by electric lights as there is no windows to let the light in.

Originally, the hall was outfitted with a beautiful stained wood floor, but because of acoustic reasons, that is now covered by a carpet that covers the vast majority of the hall's hardwood floor. Ironically, in front of the stage, a square temporary wooden floor section can be placed on top of the new carpet to allow for a dance floor. The carpet was designed by the house staff to incorporate elements that accent the room. In the center of the carpet, the main pattern is a wavy two-tone blue design that is supposed to represent the flowing Nile River. In it are the reflections of stars from the night sky. The main pattern elements with exception to the water and stars were based on elements from around the room. 

The walls around the hall are decorated with columns and stylized Egyptian Death Masks that were made popular thanks to the discovery of King Tut's tomb and his very famous mask. Along the base of the walls are the afore-mentioned decorative stencils. You will notice the use of stylized papyrus reeds and lotus blosssoms. These are very famour for identifying the two regions of Upper and Lower Egypt as well as its Nile River Delta. All of the light fixtures are original to the room and have been restored.

Its balcony is adorned with a metallic red disc with wings and two snakes. this symobl is repeated on the proscenium arch above the stage area and on the edge ballroom's new carpet and represents the Pharoah's favor or protection from the Sun God Ra (or Re as it is spelled either way).  The wings of the sun are not the wings of Osiris as some believe. The Ballroom's balcony is 76 feet wide by 22 feet deep and can hold a little over 100 people. In additon to accommodating people, it is also used to hold spotlights for the ballroom's stage. The ballroom can hold chairs and even tables. It has a very commanding view down onto the ballroom floor and the stage area. Underneath the balcony, the ceiling is decorated with sculptured recesses and brass light fixtures. In the corners under the balcony there are cartouches. These cartouches stand for the three seasons of Egyptian culture: flood season, planting or spring season, and harvest season.  There were four months to each season, composing a full year cycle.  These months are designated by the vertical slashes: example, in the first figure, the representation is of month two of the flood season.  And of course since the seasons are common nouns, they would not have been inside cartouches in real Egyptian hieroglyphics.  

On the western side of the ballroom under the balcony is a small set of riser steps that led up to a terrace. The terrace is directly above the arcade and goes from the ballroom to the "guard house" between the spires of the main entrance to the theatre. That room is a service area where it was originally intened to store the lettering and supplies needed to dress the theater's marquee. Originally, a person would stand above the marquee and with direction from someone on ground level, they would use long sticks to remove or place lettering on the marquee. Today, they guard house is not really used for anything other than storage. Originally, there was a colored tile floor on the terrace with a decorative iron railing. It originally was connected to a second terrace that was in front of the Salon.

Located off the Ballroom is the Grand Salon, originally referred to as "The Lounge". The room is much smaller than the Ballroom and as the name implies, it was originally intended to be the lounge area for relaxation for the Shriner's. Because it was meant to be a private lounge for members to relax in and not a place where Shrine "rituals" would be held, it was not as  heavily decorated in a manner similar to the Ballroom.

To my knowledge, it was kept as a private room for the Yaraab Temple until the 1940s, when the room began to be used as offices for the Georgia Theater Company. Cubicals were installed and you can see places on the floor where those temporary walls were fastened. The room continued to be used in this capacity until 1974 when the Fox was sold to Southern Bell. Once Atlanta Landmarks reopened the Fox to the public, the now-renamed Grand Salon began its current use as a rental event venue. Since that time, it has been the scene of many types of public and private functions, including several weddings. It enjoys a very busy schedule and is constantly booked.

It is a 67' X 50', 3,350sq.ft. room that, depending on how the room is configured for an event, the Grand Salon can hold up to 300 people for a reception or 200 for a banquet or classroom setting. The northern wall of the Grand Salon connects directly to the Egyptian Ballroom. Because of that, it is very common for both spaces to be rented for an event together. It also has its own seperate entrance from the Grand Staircase area so its use by itself. .

Originally, like the Ballroom, it too has a wood floor that now has been overlaid with a in-house designed carpet that was installed in the early 2000s for sound deadning purposes. At the edges of the room, the floor is terrazzo with real inlaid mother of pearl included with the material it is composed of. As in the foyer and the main lobby, there is a fountain by the main entrance that used to be stocked with goldfish., The fountain was intended to replicate the washing fountain found in many mosques where followers of Islam would cleanse their hands prior to entering the Mosque for prayers. In this case, they would be entering into the Great Banquet Hall, now known as the Egyptian Ballroom.

In the center of the ceiling is a large skylight with stained glass. Somewhere along the way, the stained glass skylight was also removed from the room and relegated to laying outside on the Fox's roof. Amazingly, when it was re-discovered in 1975, only one panel was missing. In the 1990s a new skylight was installed over the stained glass, replacing the original. Besides the skylight, the 12 foot high ceiling is decorated with huge wooden beams that, as with the other beams in the building, are made of plaster of Paris. In addition to the wood detail, they are decorated with ornate stenciling. The original chandeliers were removed when the room began its use as an office for the Georgia Theatre Company after 1939. The original chandeliers were lost prior to 1975. Restoration Director Rick Flinn sourced replacements, which are the ones in use today.

To the southern end of the room is a mirrored doorway. Orignally, this was an area that was used as a the offices for the Shriner's Divan (or governing body), Potentate, and Shrine Recorder. In the 1940s, it was used as the executive offices for the Georgia Theatre Company. Today, this is now the private residence of Joe Patten, one of the main forces behind the saving of the Fox and former Technical Director for Atlanta Landmarks, 1975-2004. Mr. Patten is the authority on the workings of the Fox and he has made his home here for over thirty-four years. Back in the early days of the Save the Fox campaign, for insurance purposes it was required to have at least one individual in the Fox complex at all times. Towards the end of the 1970s, Joe was virtually spending all his waking hours at the Fox and he had decided to sell his College Park home and relocate to a residence closer to the Fox. While it is not know who came up with the idea, somebody suggested that the Joe be allowed to convert the Shrine offices into his living quarters. Because Joe had certainly done more for the Fox than any other person, he was given a lifetime lease on the apartment. The one requirement that Joe had to do was to personally finance the cost of the space's renovation into an apartment, which cost around $60,000 in 1980.

To the right of Mr. Patten's apartment is a set of doors that lead to the Mezzanine level of the Auditorium. This is accessway where many have gone from an auditorium event to many receptions that have been held in the Salon or Ballroom.

The Grand Salon is where the loss of the Fox's original furnishings was readily apparent. In photos taken just prior to the opening of the Fox, The Salon is shown fully outfitted with lavish furniture and a large area rug on top of the hardwood floor. Today, this actually benefits the Fox because as a blank canvas, it can readily be adapted to service any form of function.

As with the ballroom, the Salon has it own terrace. Like the other terrace, there was tile flooring and a decorative iron railing but was much larger in size. As I previously mentioned, the two terraces were interconnected by a walkway that has was removed prior to the 1970s. There is only one set of photographs that shows these details from 1939. Both terraces were closed to patrons for some unknown reason before the 1960s and not re-opened until after Atlanta Landmarks secured the building in 1975.

The Grand Salon's terrace was located over the retail storefront in Bays 1 and across the rear of Bays 3,4,5 and 6. Bays 1 through 6 as well as the Salon's terrace area were totally consumed by the 4-alarm fire that took place in April of 1996. After the fire, over two million dollars was spent in reconstructing that section of the Fox. While Bay 2 once again was home to a restaurant (and continues to be to this day), Bays 1,3,4 and 5 were reconfigured to house 2 floors of  the enlarged Fox management offices as well as an expanded box office. Bay 6 became home to the Fox's Box Office. After reconstruction, new terrace area is now referred to as the Grand Terrace and not only compliments the Salon, but can act as a separate rental area with its own seperate entrance and exits to the Arcade.

The Grand terrace measures 53 feet by 24 feet and has 1,272 square feet of usable floor space. A new structure was built on the opposite side of the new terrace across from the Grand Salon that houses the elevator service and part of the new office space. The structure is topped by a huge round skylight that allows daylight into the center of the Fox's management offices. On the terrace's western wall that faces the Georgian Terrace, built-in seats and architectural details were added to integrate the new structure to the original architectural design of the Fox. The Grand Terrace was further walled in by another cement wall on its southern side, slighty back from the edge of the building. These new walls add a certain bit of privacy while still retaining an open-air feel. The walls also keep the illusion of being in a middle-eastern setting by concealing the rest of the Fox's roof and its new modern air conditioning systems for the Fox's offices. Because of the new structure, connecting the two terraces is no longer possible. 

The last rental area in the Fox is its newest and most intimate. Prior to the April 1996 fire, there was a room located off the auditorium lobby by the southern exti doors. This space was totally consumed by the fire and during reconstruction, it was fashioned into the Fox's smallest and most intimate rental space. The room is called the Landmarks Lounge and is a small room capable of holding about 30 people. The concept of the rental room is for people that wish to have some form of gathering such as a birthday, business meeting, or party before, during, or even after an event in the auditorium. The room is appointed with comfortable furniture, a bar service area, and a large flat-screen television that can be used to see what is happening on stage during a performance. With its location directly by the original main entrance for the auditorium, it is very easy to rope off access to the lounge so people can enter the Landmark's Lounge easily without having to navigate through traffic in the Arcade. before the auditorium opens for an event.

This concludes the cyber-tour of the public areas of the Atlanta Fox Theatre. But before the tour fully ends, let's take a "backstage" look at what makes the Fox tick and how the some of the magic is made.
Let's Get Our Hands Dirty, Come See What Makes The Fox Tick!

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