the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Author: Tommy FitzGibbon

Buttermilk Bottom

Urban Renewal and Development of the Atlanta Civic Center

‘Buttermilk Bottom’ is a colloquial name given to the Atlanta neighborhood that once existed where the now defunct Atlanta Civic Center was built. The neighborhood was low income, primarily black, and had been neglected in infrastructure such as paved roads and modern sewage systems. Buttermilk bottoms suffered from dilapidated housing conditions and poor drainage (Holliman 2009, 372). The name ‘Buttermilk Bottom’ referred to the smell of the area. It is suggested the area had smelled because of open sewage. 

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Warren Memorial Atlanta Boys Club

402 Pryor Street

The Warren Atlanta Boys Club Campus on Pryor street was initially the Jewish Progressive Club (Kentsmith, 20). This social and athletic facility was two stories tall and had a brick facade upon which a veranda spanned the western face. Amenities included a full sized gym, mess hall, auditorium, indoor pool, and numerous conference rooms (Kentsmith, 20). As the growing Atlanta Boys Club sought a bigger campus this property was sought out and Commodore Virgil. P Warren, president of the Warren Company, offered to purchase the property as a donation to the organization. The Jewish Progressive Club was also looking to relocate their headquarters, and sold the 402 Pryor Street property to Warren for $10,000. This generous deal was half of Warren’s initial $20,000 offer, and one-fifth of the properties $50,000 appraisal (Kentsmith, 21). The campus was named the Warren Memorial Boys Club in honor of Warren’s two sons that had died in infancy (Kentsmith, 21).

The Atlanta Boys Club served as “a place to go and something to do” for boys in the crowded, working class neighborhoods of Mechanicsville and Summerhill (Kentsmith, 37). During the decline of this area in the 1950s, extracurricular activities and a productive social space kept kids from getting into trouble on the streets (Kentsmith, 57). Several alumni of the Warren Memorial Boys Club attest to the fact that the organization offered these young men guidance growing up in these troubled neighborhoods (Kentsmith, 61). The institution was also crucial in providing these boys a consistent meal and cursory medical care (Kentsmith, 60).

Urban renewal came to the area in 1956 as the right of way for the downtown connector was cleared of homes and businesses. This was just 3 blocks east of the campus. The neighborhood served was cut in half by the downtown connector and many families in the area relocated. (Kentsmith, 64). In 1965 the Warrens Boys club relocated to Grant park (Kentsmith, 67). The land was redeveloped and is now the Fulton County Medical Examiners building.

Kentsmith, Frank. History of the Metropolitan Atlanta Boys’ Clubs, 1938-1976. [Boys’ Clubs of America], 1977. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=cat06552a&AN=gsu.994495013402952&site=eds-live&scope=site.

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