Backstory and Context
The Foundry and Graduate Hotel complex, in some ways, is a world of its own. The spa, coffeehouse, motel rooms, music venue, and restaurant make it unnecessary to leave the property. The Graduate Hotel is a motel like any other, but the real intrigue of The Graduate is its centerpiece, The Hoyt House, which provides extra suites for the hotel. The Foundry stays close to its roots by referencing the iron works originally made on the property. However, the buildings on this property have considerable significance that dates back much farther than the conception of The Foundry or The Graduate.
The Hoyt House is believed to be “one of the oldest dwellings in Athens … [some] have dated it as early as the 1790’s, but other evidence … indicated that the original structure was built between 1825 and 1830.1 The house fell into a dire condition shortly after its construction, and it was in great need of repairs. It was “burned and vandalized” and moved “from the top of a hill overlooking downtown Athens to a site on Madison Avenue and Thomas Street across from the Church Brumby house.2 The fate of the house was up in the air for many years, even after the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation saved another old, unnamed building on the same property as The Hoyt House in 1964. In between its construction and renovation, the house was owned by Rev. Nathan Hoyt, James Pittman, C.D., J. H. Booth, and Wilson Blount of Athens.1 The Hoyt House is now renovated, and its rooms are used as suites in The Graduate Hotel.
The Foundry was constructed by the Athens Steam Company or Athens Boiler & Machine Works in 1850.3 The business manufactured wood and cast iron goods, including doors, fittings, boilers, and other machinery. In 1853 the building was destroyed in a fire of unknown cause and subsequently closed.4
In 1854 the company rebuilt the factory and began producing larger goods such as iron fencing and steam engines. During this time the factory was under the management of Reuben Nickerson and later one Thomas Bailey.5 The corporators were William P. Talmage, John S. Linton, Edward Palmer, and Peter A. Summey.5 In 1856 the Athens Steam Company produced iron fencing and the entryway Arch of the University of Georgia to keep cattle off campus.3 Originally the arch included functioning gates, though these were removed some time later.4
In the preceding years of the American Civil War, the company produced goods for other local businesses that were unable to continue due to the material and labor needs of the war effort. In 1863 the name of the factory was changed to Athens Foundry and Machine Works.4 During the war, a local businessman named John Gilleland commissioned the company to produce a one of a kind double-barreled cannon to aid the Confederate effort.4 Gilleland was a member of the “Mitchell Thunderbolts” a group of draft-ineligible men who had formed a militia in Athens.4 The cannon was a failure and never saw any use during the war. It now sits on the lawn of the Athens City Hall.4
In 1901, the company reopened under the new ownership of John H. White of Whitehall, with Audley Morton as General Manager and J.R. Houchin as Superintendent.6 The Athens Foundry and Machine Works company continued to produce iron goods and other products until the 1960’s, by which point the company records are sparse and the building lay empty. In 2001 the building was repurposed into a restaurant and hotel lobby called the Melting Point, featuring live music performances and local cuisine.5 The building was integrated into the Foundry Park Inn & Spa along with the nearby Hoyt House. In 2014 the entire complex was renamed The Graduate Athens, with the Melting Pot changing to simply The Foundry.7 Currently the building houses a restaurant/music venue, as well as the Graduate Athens reception area and Iron Works coffee.
Since the construction of The Graduate’s newer buildings in 2014, the hotel has teamed up with The Foundry to provide meal plans
and entertainment for guests. They also continue to host concerts,
bands, fashion shows, weddings, and plenty of other events for Athens's community.
2Hester, Conoly. "Hoyt House Restoration Keys Project." Athens Banner-Herald(Athens)September 11, 1973.
3Pittman, Meredith. "These Roots Run Deep." Southern Distinction. Southern Distinction. Fall 2017 Issue.
4Athens-Clarke Heritage Room, "5 March 1901: Athens Foundry and Machine Works "Now Running At Full Blast" This Day in Athens, March 5, 2010. http://accheritage.blogspot.com/2010/03/5-march-1901-athens-foundry-and-machine.html
5Morris, Sylvanus. "Athens and Clarke County 1801-1860" History Of Athens And Clarke County. Rowe. 1923
6O'Farrell, James. "The Athens Foundry Starts Up Again" The Athens Daily Banner. March 5, 1901
7Reisigl, Joe. "The Melting Point reconnects with roots, changes name" The Red & Black. February 11, 2015. https://www.redandblack.com/variety/the-melting-point-reconnects-with-roots-changes-name/article_308432b8-b1a5-11e4-9464-3b8f4ac8c709.html