An Evening in the Private Apartment of Joe Patten at the Fox Theatre
The Phantom of the Fox
A few weeks ago, thanks to dear friend Ron Carter, House Organist at both the Strand Theatre in Marietta, Ga and Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Decatur, Ga, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Atlanta Theatre Organ Society. The meeting was held in the private apartment of Joe Patten. Patten is the man responsible for saving the Fox Theatre here in Atlanta and has lived in the apartment since 1979. Patten is lovingly known as The Phantom of the Fox and is the only person to ever live inside the Fabulous Fox Theatre.
Originally, the agreement stated Patten was to put $50,000 of his own money into restoring the theatre, and in exchange, he would live in the apartment rent free, until he passed. In 2010, the new Board of Directors tried to change his original lease agreement, so he filed a lawsuit. His attorney and friend was present the evening the society held their meeting.
I can’t tell you what a treat it was to be invited, since the apartment is private and not open to the public. Not many people have had such an opportunity. At the age of 89, many had concerns this might be the last time he would entertain in his apartment, and unfortunately, they were correct. The evening included performances by Lloyd Hess, aka Master of the Drawbars, on Patten’s Chickering Piano and Hammond Organ.
There is more information about Patten on the internet, but for this post, I wanted to share images of the inside of the apartment for everyone to enjoy. He had full-time care, and one of the nurses was kind enough to allow me to see the top floor where the bedrooms were located. Out of respect for Patten, I didn’t photograph the top floor or any of his very personal items. I wanted to respect his privacy in his bedroom and bathroom, and the other bedrooms were in desperate need of repair with crumbling walls and ceilings.
The pictures below are of the entrance. The main gate is off the street, giving Patten his own private access. If you’ve been to the Fox, you have probably passed by it many times and never knew it was there.
Once inside the apartment, the study was the first room. Patten’s desk, papers, and bookcases full of his collections and awards were displayed everywhere. In addition to theaters and organs, Patten was an avid car collector. Much of his car memorabilia was displayed, too. It was fairly dim, so pardon the grainy, I-phone pictures. Although pictures were allowed, I was really trying to be a bit discreet about my picture taking.
Through the study was the grand living room and dining room. I was told the two double doors behind the sofa Patten is sitting on in the below pictures have another set of double doors that lead to the Fox’s Grand Salon and that for many years he could walk out and watch a show.
The next room is the kitchen.
Patten also collected x-ray machine parts, and the only picture I took in his bedroom was of a portion of this collection. In his bedroom he also had a large collection of music, too.
You can see many of the architectural details of the Fox Theatre in his apartment. I imagine him moseying around that apartment listening to music on that sound system, having guests over playing that organ, and walking through those double doors from his living room and having his own private balcony to watch each show.
I’m curious to see what they will do with the apartment now. Joe Patten will always be a legend and an icon in Atlanta history. Thank you, sir. You have touched more people than you probably ever realized and have allowed many generations to come, of Atlantans and visitors alike, to enjoy the arts in this city, in the grandest setting.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know what you think.