The Atlanta Historical Society was founded in 1926 when a group of fourteen civic-minded Atlantans were called together by prominent attorney, Walter McElreath, with a desire to preserve the regional history by collecting manuscripts and photographs. With this storehouse of primary source information, the group was able to provide a rich cache of materials to scholars and general researchers. As the collections continued to grow, so did the scope and vision from those original founding members. The Atlanta History Center officially formed in 1991, encompassing over thirty-three acres of land with a newly constructed state-of- the-art museum, two interpreted historic home sites and a projected separate archives research center.

By 2001, the archival collections were stretching the seams of McElreath Hall with such major collections as the Philip T. Shutze & Harvey M. Smith libraries of architecture, decorative arts and design; the Cherokee Garden Library; the Sons of the American Revolution genealogical collections; the Beverly M. DuBose, Jr. and Thomas S. Dickey libraries; Franklin Garrett Necrology and Library; and the Civil War & military ordinances. It was time for a renovation. With the construction of the new museum completed, renovations to McElreath Hall would relieve the storage issues for the Archives and the entire building would be dedicated to the Archives.