November 9, 2018
Atlanta’s Ponce City Market opened in the old Sears, Roebuck & Company building to much fanfare in 2014. It had lain mostly abandoned since 1989.
Across from historic Old Fourth Ward Park, the cavernous former warehouse is the largest brick building in the southern USA, and its reincarnation as a mixed-use development has shone a new spotlight on the surrounding neighbourhoods of Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Virginia-Highlands and Midtown.
We’ve written before about the market’s vast central food hall, which quickly won a reputation as a cool culinary destination for its mix of award-winning, homegrown restaurateurs. Since then the Coney Island-inspired Skyline Park and beer garden Nine Mile Station have become fully operational on the building’s roof, and now the historic rooftop tower has been transformed into RFD Social, an eclectic new lounge bar and event space
The landmark tower atop Ponce City Market was once home to a much-loved radio broadcast that captivated Atlantans back in the 1920s. Called Dinner Bell R.F.D (Radio Farmer’s Democracy), the show began with the clang of a bell to remind farmers working in the fields beyond the city it was time for a midday break. While they ate lunch, a mix of agricultural advice and performances by local country artists filled the airwaves, hosted by popular fiddle-playing presenter Dewey Burnett.
Fast forward ninety years and the tower has been restored and repurposed into RFD Social, a lounge bar, event space and private members’ club occupying three of the structure’s four floors. The only way up is via a clanky old freight elevator that delivers you right into the lobby, an airy space anchored by the concrete columns and black steel windows of the original 1926 construction.
Inside, you’ll find a pool table, shuffleboard and assorted parlour games as well as plenty of references to the tower’s broadcasting heyday – everything from stencilled typography on the exposed brick walls to more obvious pointers like the rows of vintage radios and microphones.
The bar itself serves a menu of both classic and contemporary cocktails, as well as frozen drinks, craft brews and snacks. Opening out directly onto Skyline Park, this new venue completes the transformation of the rooftop area from a vast disused space into one of the most diverse entertainment offerings in the city.
Like Skyline Park and Nine Mile Station, the new tower is open seven days a week. Opening times vary so check the website. Entry to The Roof costs $10 for adults and $7 for kids under 12, with an extra charge for amusements, rides and minigolf. Nine Mile Station is also now serving a Southern-style brunch on Saturdays from 11am – 3pm and from 12pm – 3pm on Sundays. The views are great and it’s seriously popular, so book in advance if you can.