PHOTOS AND STORY BY ROBIN POSTELL
VALDOSTA – On November 7, 2018, at 11 a.m., Coleman Talley, LLP, held a ribbon cutting to formally introduce its new grand offices located downtown in the historic Southern Salvage buildings. What was once a monolithic reminder of another era, the yellow, orange and green paint was flaked and the building had long since been vacated. Valdostans, young and old, considered it an icon, even if they knew nothing of its history.
But today, it has become renewed, the freshly painted brick exterior emblazoned with the Coleman Talley banner brand. A new chapter of this deeply storied property has begun.
Managing Partner Justin Scott spoke to the crowd gathered for the ceremony, saying, “Our firm began in 1937 with founding partner B. Lamar Tillman, and our offices on Lee Street. We have provided trusted legal services for over 80 years and have been fortunate to be part of the growth and development of Valdosta during this time. We view this location as the start of the next chapter in our own history and are grateful to all who have made our progress possible.”
Scott then invited Coleman Talley capital partners up to the front to participate in the ribbon cutting with representatives of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce.
“About three years ago we finally acknowledged that we had outgrown our two offices located at 908 and 910 North Patterson Street, so we began, once again, looking at our options for a larger space,” Scott said. “While we explored the option of new construction, we preferred the idea of being located in the historic downtown area and saw a unique opportunity ahead of us.”
They explored the various buildings available, realizing that the Southern Salvage buildings would serve their specific needs while also providing a major update to the downtown Valdosta landscape. Combined, the buildings offered 22,000-square-feet, with nothing on either side – a unique and advantageous bonus to accommodate parking, which can be challenging downtown.
“We determined that our money would be best spent by investing it back into the community that has invested in us and made our firm successful,” Scott added. “We view our project here at 109 South Ashley Street as an investment for the City of Valdosta, Lowndes County, the Downtown District, and the future of our firm.”
There were historical aspects they wanted to preserve, Scott said, which was worked out with the Valdosta Historical Preservation Society. They were able to benefit from historic tax credits as well.
“We began in April 2017,” Scott said, “And finished in October 2018.” The plans for the buildings were designed by BFB Gladwin Architects of Valdosta, and the construction was completed by JCI General Contractors. Scott emphasized the importance of making special efforts to utilize local contractors, businesses – and artists – when possible.
The conference room tables are all handmade by Bill Bullard from Morven, where his business Savannah Heart Pine is headquartered. The wooden, plain tables are impeccable additions to the overall interior style, combining traditional and contemporary style seamlessly.
“We believe that the final product reflects the skill and talent available in South Georgia,” Scott said as he gave a tour of the mint offices.
The vibe upon entry of the offices is one of urbanized historical panache. Following certain guidelines necessary to maintain the integrity of the building’s historical relevance, the challenges, Scott said, were worth it. “There are some historic elements that we made efforts to maintain, including an early 1900s fireproof vault in the spacious lobby, hanging gears from the two pre-existing freight elevators, and decorative railing and staircases. Alterations made included adjoining the two buildings with an elevator and staircase providing access to both, as well as the inclusion of modern technology such as digital conference room signage. The building houses 22 of the firm’s 35 attorneys, with the other 13 located in their Atlanta office.
“As you will see, we have a number of conference rooms, many of which are themed to the history of the building,” Scott said. “In addition, a handful of the conference rooms have murals on the walls of photographs that were donated by the Lowndes County Historical Society.”
Other features of note are the restored hardwood floors and exposed brick and heavy wooden ceiling beams which maintain the character of the space while emboldening it with diverse modern flourishes. Many of the desks, such as Scott’s, are variable in height, which gives the option of standing while working.
“The energy is so much better,” Scott said. “Great for the energy not to be spread out over three buildings.”
The three-story building was constructed in 1897 and first occupied by the A.S. Pendleton Company – wholesale grocers. The Pendletons were a prominent family in the early days of the city of Valdosta and Mr. Alexander Pendleton served as a city councilman, investor, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. From 1919 to 1925, the business directory reflected Valdosta Bottling Works – Coca Cola Bottlers. Vadosta was home to one of the first Coca-Cola bottling operations in the U.S., and J.F. Holmes ad E.R.Barber operated the plant during this time. Southern Salvage Company, an Army-Navy surplus store, began occupying 111 South Ashley in 1949 and shared the second floor with the Junior Service League Community Center for a short time. By 1954, Southern Salvage occupied both buildings into the 21st century.
The four-story gray building was constructed in 1902, and recognized as the tallest building in Valdosta. It first appeared on the Sanborn Insurance Maps in 1905 in use by a wholesale pants supplier. From 1908 to 1913, the US City Directory listed B.F. Whittington Furniture as the building’s occupant. Whittington was the mayor of Valdosta from 1885-86, and also served as an attorney, judge, county commissioner, and city councilman. It was also used by the Dorris Seed Company, a plant and seed store. Southern Salvage occupied both 109 and 111 South Ashley Street beginning in 1954.
And today? With 35 lawyers practicing in Valdosta and Atlanta, Coleman Talley continues its tradition since 1937 of providing legal counsel to its clients. Their lawyers are licensed to practice in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
And so it goes, back…to the future.