Inextricably tied to the rising fortunes of the New South was the colorful figure of Swedish architect Gottfried L. Norrman (1848–1909). Sophisticated and adventurous, Norrman quickly established himself professionally in Atlanta upon his arrival in 1881.
Norrman attended the Academy of Design in Stockholm and the University of Copenhagen and also studied architecture and engineering in Germany. After serving in the Swedish Royal Navy, he traveled widely throughout Europe, Central America, and Asia, eventually arriving in the United States through Texas and working for a time in South Carolina.
His remaining career was spent in Atlanta. Norrman’s first major commissions in Atlanta were for the International Cotton Exposition in 1881. Richard Peters, who would later employ Norrman to design and construct his magnificent intown estate, served on the executive committee of the 1881 exposition. The architect continued to work on expositions and park architecture, including the Piedmont Exposition of 1887, the Ponce de Leon Pavilion (1884), the Grant Park Pavilion (1884) and various exhibitions at the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895.
Since Norrman worked for wealthy clients in Atlanta, it is not surprising that more than two dozen of his homes were constructed on Peachtree Street and its neighboring environs, the city’s then most affluent enclave. Of his prolific residential building campaign that shaped Atlanta’s cityscape, only a handful of his remarkable homes remain.
Although based in Atlanta, Norrman accepted architectural commissions throughout the South, particularly in Savannah. Four of Norrman’s projects — three schools and a large bank located in downtown Savannah — were purchased and rehabilitated by the Savannah College of Art and Design. Henry Street School, now Eckburg Hall, was constructed in 1892 and is home to the college’s fashion department. The 1906 Barnard Street School, now Pepe Hall, houses the college’s art history and architectural history departments. Anderson Street School, now Anderson Hall, was built in 1896, and now serves as home to foundation studies. The Citizens Bank building, which was built in 1895 as the city’s first completely fireproof building, is now known as Propes Hall and houses SCAD e-Learning and the college's Information, Management and Technology office.