The Tabernacle bisects Luckie Street, with Ted’s Montana Grill and the Atlanta Skywheel at either end of the block. These high-expense tourist attractions are further stratified by the cracked pavement and bowed fencing of car lots, and narrow alleys of debris and loose gravel. Two homeless men, both in oversized and soiled shirts, watched from the sidewalk as I took pictures of the exterior of the Tabernacle. The contradictory arrangement of affluence and poverty characterize public proximity to homelessness in Downtown, and its subsequent reputation for crime and violence.
I had to look to know the building was the Tabernacle; there was no grand electronic billboard with its title, only a slim horizontal sign with the name of an upcoming performer. Above the entrances, there were small windows that resembled stained-glass with the venue’s name, an attempt to preserve its history as a church. The building is made of russet colored brick, sometimes tarnished where rain has washed dirt and paint. These grooved bricks are of uneven lengths, and extend outward from the façade at different thicknesses. The upper half of the building is supported by stone columns with white, peeling paint. Between these are long windows with white wooden sills holding single, thick panes of glass. Detailed exterior molding adorns the awnings and roof, towering four floors above the street; only the uppermost carts of the Skywheel are visible from directly beneath the Tabernacle. Scarlett wooden doors with creaking hinges are protected by high iron barricades, which impede the collection of graffiti and names written on bricks near the doors. On the walls between these doors, iron frames that resemble these barricades read “est. 1910,” a fact advertised on the exterior more than the name of the venue. While there is no blatant allusion to the building’s history as a church, its antiquity is evident through the worn and dated architecture and the recurrent emphasis of its age.
The main entrance of the interior is immediately impressible for its ethereal quality. I visited the Tabernacle between four and five on a weekday afternoon, when the venue is not open to the public; besides my guide, the room was vacant. The entrance windows are elevated and minute, and fashioned after stained glass, they produce minimal natural light. The walls are painted a deep purple with dull white stars and small, opaque clouds. Lights hang in isolated rows of small golden bulbs, the structure of which resembles constellations. The spiritual atmosphere created by the dual isolation and infinitude of the dark interior and heavenly walls contextualize the Tabernacle and its history of religion. The lobby is horizontally expansive, but unfurls into a black stairwell that helps manage crowds and direct throngs to the stage. The stairs are small in width, and bow in the middle because of age and use; however, they are sturdy enough that the stairs will never be replaced. Similar staircases lead to four different floors of the building, each with bars and balconies that encompass the stage. The design does not support handicap accessibility, and inhibits the construction of an elevator.