Best Old Building - 2011
Cotton Belt Freight Depot
The Cotton Belt Freight Depot is towering and slender, like a giant book sitting on its binding. In the first half of the twentieth century (and especially the Roaring Twenties), this five-story structure was a bustling hub for Southern cotton. The delivery schedule was so precise, its owners boasted, you could set your watch to it. Almost a century later, it's an airy shell, the entire bottom floor of loading docks wide open and exposed straight through. Birds dart among the rusted sprinkler system overhead, while the graffiti is near tropical in color and diversity (from the giant bird on one wall to "Fuck this sadness" and "Liberate your pussy"). Some of its former glory remains: The huge door marked "OFFICE" is stately. A whole series of copper lion heads still bite onto poles that hold up an awning, which would've kept the rain off the backs of workers unloading freight. And terra-cotta medallions on the top corners of the building bear the words "Cotton Belt Route." It's a proud reminder of why this structure is special — so special, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.