Image of the Downtown Connector.

The Downtown Connector runs through the heart of Atlanta, conceived during the transformative period of the city. The ambitious project of the connector connects the northern and southern suburbs outside of Atlanta giving into the car culture that was flourishing within the city. Before its construction, residents and businesses lie where there are now strips of interstates. Looking at an illustrative view of a 1911 map, where north was Fair Street (now memorial Drive), East is Capital Avenue, South being Clarke Street, and West was Washington Street we notice how the space’s landscape consisted of residences and commercial establishments. 

Map of Woodward Avenue showing the sanitorium and the Christian & Missionary Alliance Chapel along with duplexes.
Map of Woodward Avenue showing the sanitorium and the Christian & Missionary Alliance Chapel along with duplexes.

In the upper north part of the downtown connector lies Woodward Avenue. Before the 1920s, the northern segment of Woodward Avenue, lying beside Capitol Avenue boasted a rich community life including an old sanatorium (which is another name for hospital) with surrounding duplexes and a church called Christian & Missionary Alliance Chapel. Based on old city directories, Woodward Avenue consisted of white residents until the gradual influx of Black individuals came and integrated themselves into the community which changed the foundation and became a main target of the renewal plan that has yet to come.

Old City directory page In Atlanta from 1922.
Old City directory of Woodward Avenue from 1922.

In the late 1800s, ambitious Christians wanted to provide education to kids, particularly in literacy. This process eventually becomes a Sunday school which evolves into a church called the Fifth Baptist church. The church was established with a mission to serve and uplift the community. This church lies in the space of where the old Christian & Missionary Alliance Chapel used to be. As mentioned earlier there was a growing population of black individuals in the area which impacted the church leaders’ attitude towards a mixing community. This caused the church to sell its property and move to the Grant Park area. The church then decided to rename themselves Woodward Avenue Baptist Church. The church was then displaced later on with the construction of I-20. The story of the Woodward Avenue Baptist church reflects the dynamic between faith, community, and urban development in Atlanta’s history. Its humble beginnings soon shifted due to race changes and a shift in the city social landscape.

1932 Sandburn map of Woodward Avenue. Show the vacant church lot, Atlanta Hosptial, and the Eliza Magnet Home for Girls.

In a 1932 sandburn map, lies a noticeable absence which was once home to a couple of churches now lying vacant. Comparing this picture to old maps still shows the area being congested with apartments and businesses. What was known as the sanatorium in an older map in the area now has a name called Atlanta Hospital. What was really surprising was that the hospital chose to turn the apartment building next to it into a nurse’s home with a tennis court sitting behind it. This choice speaks to the hospital commitment to provide medical services and support the comfort of their staff. Right next to it was housing for displaced girls called Eliza Magnet Home for Girls. These elements of this urban environment paint a vivid picture of institutions and communities addressing the needs and challenges of that time. 

The Downtown connector signifies the city’s evolution and adaptation amidst a shifting culture. Born during a period of culture, it transformed the urban fabric which replaced residential and commercial space with interstate highways. Memories of Woodward Avenue may fade against the background of urban renewal, but it illustrated the intricate relationship between institutions and communities to evolving needs.


Sanborn, D.A., “Atlanta 1931-1932 vol. 3, 1932, Sheet 312,” ProQuest, (ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps ~ Map of Atlanta 1931-1932 vol. 3, 1932, Sheet 312 ( accessed March 8, 2024).

Atlanta City Directory Company. (1970, January 1). Atlanta City Directory Co.’s Greater Atlanta (Georgia) city directory … including Avondale, Buckhead … and all immediate suburbs .. : Free download, Borrow, and streaming. (Atlanta City Directory Co.’s Greater Atlanta (Georgia) city directory … including Avondale, Buckhead … and all immediate suburbs .. : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive : accessed March 8, 2024).

History. Park Ave Baptist. (n.d.). (History | Park Ave Baptist: accessed March 8, 2024).

Explore. ATLMaps. (n.d.). (Explore: ATLMaps: accessed March 8, 2024).

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