Massive fire engulfs former Atlanta Eagle nightclub site in Midtown

Firefighters spent Thursday evening battling a massive blaze in Midtown Atlanta at the site of the former Atlanta Eagle nightclub. 

The fire broke out shortly before 8 p.m. along Ponce De Leon Avenue at Argonne Avenue. A large plume of smoke could be seen from across the entire city. 

According to Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith, firefighters immediately arrived at the scene and began to fight the fire in the historic section of the building. The more than 100-year-old two-story building behind the street-level facade was the portion on fire. 

The flames became too intense on the second floor and, because of the age of the building, firefighters evacuated as a precaution. 

Three ladder trucks arrived and began to dump thousands of gallons of water onto the blaze. Chief Smith says there were no water issues to deal with, but they were ready.

Ponce De Leon Avenue was closed to allow firefighters to work.

The chief says they will need to evaluate the structural integrity of the buildings. A fire investigator will also be brought in to determine the cause of the blaze.

He noted that this is next to the old Kodak building, which had a similar fire a few months ago. 

"We have had some vagrant occupancy here in the past," the chief said. 

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Firefighters battle a massive blaze at the former Atlanta Eagle nightclub site along Ponce De Leon Avenue in Midtown Atlanta on June 6, 2024. (Austin Hatadis)

Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings in Atlanta: A brief history

The building that housed the Atlanta Eagle until November 2020 dates back to 1989. The neighboring Kodak Building dates to 1905. Both were part of an expansive residential property but were later converted to commercial use by the 1950s. The Atlanta Eagle property had a one-story brick facade added at 603 Ponce De Leon Avenue in the 1960s. 

It went on to become one of the most iconic landmarks in Atlanta's LGBTQ community. The Atlanta Eagle was opened in the summer of 1988, taking over the space occupied by Renegades, Atlanta's first true gay bar, which opened a year earlier.

The site would become notorious in 2009 following a controversial police raid by the now defunct APD "Red Dog Unit," a SWAT-like unit typically targeting high-drug trafficking areas. Although none of the 62 patrons were arrested, eight employees were charged. Most had their charges dropped or were found not guilty. The raid eventually led to lawsuits and the dismantling of the APD specialized unit. Many in the LGBTQ community drew comparisons at the time to the 1969 Stonewall Inn police raid, which led to a riot in New York. 

The Kodak Building, initially constructed as an Italian Renaissance house, underwent commercial alterations in the 1940s with the opening of Star Photo. The building holds historical significance due to its association with the rise of commercial amateur photography in the mid-20th century, and it served as the campaign headquarters for Shirley Franklin, Atlanta's first female mayor. A big Kodak sign continues to hold vigil over the vacant location.

Preservation efforts, such as ones by The Georgia Trust, have been ongoing for several years, but volunteers note their continued vacancy as one of the biggest hurdles. 

The Atlanta Eagle would reopen two years later at a different location at Ansley Square shopping center on Piedmont Avenue.