the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Category: Atlanta Stories

Grady Memorial Hospital

One day, I grew curious after seeing the construction workers extending Grady’s complex building. I asked myself, “where Grady’s original building stands and how were the nurses and patients treated in the public institution?” Like any other institution, Grady started with one building. During the early and mid-20th century, the First Public Hospital in Georgia expanded. Grady mirrored the social structures in the south during Jim Crow segregation. Many people are not aware of the hidden story about the Training School of Nursing Program for Caucasian and Colored Nurses. In my report, I will discuss the origin and development of Grady Hospital, the Grady Hospital Nursing Training School, and the nursing training program’s history in the United States. I will also talk about the pioneers who pushed for equality. Unifying Grady Nursing Program created a promising future for the hospital. 

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The William Oliver Building: Atlanta’s Original Art-Deco Highrise

The William Oliver in 1930

Downtown Atlanta is certainly devoid of many of its original prominent buildings. Just a few, such as the comically endearing wedge-shaped Flatiron Building and the lavishly decorated Candler Building sit amongst modernist monuments to an era of Urban Renewal and post-war corporatism. One of these surviving buildings was also the city’s first entry into the Art Deco wave of the late ’20s and ’30s, the William Oliver building.

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The Battle of Atlanta

In a Time Long Ago…

A War Department map detailing the locations of major fighting around Atlanta in July of 1864, with Confederate earthworks in black and Federal Earthworks in red. Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

For many residents of Atlanta’s Eastside, US-23 (or Moreland Avenue) is the backbone of their community. It connects the vibrant cultural hubs of Little Five Points and East Atlanta Village to a myriad of classic Eastside neighborhoods such as Candler Park and East Atlanta. While this route may be a high-traffic residential road today, in 1864 it was little more than undeveloped farmland—unremarkable in every way except its role as the dividing line between Fulton and Dekalb counties. However, as Sherman’s Federal armies made their way towards Atlanta, this undistinguished strip of land would become the site of some of the fiercest fighting experienced by participants of the Atlanta Campaign in the American Civil War. While this clash of arms took place in an area that was, at the time, southeast of the city limits, the action which centered around Federal fortifications at Bald Hill came to be known both to its contemporaries and historians as the Battle of Atlanta. The Battle of Atlanta, though a fierce and bloody contest, would prove inconsequential to the fate of the city and today is a forgotten relic of Atlanta’s past, its historical markers serving as the only testaments to this tremendous folly of war.

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Spelman College

Spelman College is currently regarded as one of the most highly esteemed and respected colleges dedicated to the higher education of African American women. The school has a long history that has led to this achievement.

Gates of Spelman College

Spelman’s beginnings may surprise some due to its distinguishment as an HBCU. Originally named Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman College was founded in 1881 by Sophia Packard and Harriet Giles. Both were white women who hailed from Massachusetts and came to Atlanta with the hope of establishing a school for young black women. Backed by financial support from the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society (WABHMS) and others, Giles and Packard opened a school in the basement of Friendship Baptist Church, an African American church in southwest Atlanta.

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Prohibition and Prejudice in Atlanta

A. Abelsky Saloon in Downtown Atlanta

Prohibition in Georgia has a long history; starting as early as the 1830s, temperance communities had become prevalent. Because of Atlanta’s explosive growth and development post-Civil War, saloons and other entertainment establishments were widespread throughout the city, particularly on Decatur Street. With an ever-increasing number of saloons, public drunkenness became commonplace, and the societal costs of drinking became more apparent. Saloons not only provided space for interracial mingling and intoxication, but they were also a symbol of the growing Black middle-class. These factors only incited tension among the races, further pushed to the brink by inflammatory publications that ultimately lead to a massacre of the Black community. The Riot of 1906 was the catalyst for Georgia’s statewide prohibition act, which sought to further disenfranchise minorities rather than address the societal issues at hand.

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Atlanta Area School for the Deaf and the History Behind Deaf Education in Atlanta

Deaf and hard of hearing children were never allowed the same level of access to education that hearing children received. Up until the early 1900s, Deaf education was overlooked in Atlanta. Deaf and hard of hearing children weren’t allowed to attend public schools and were forced to be homeschooled. Without the proper tools they needed to succeed, such as a form of communication and effective teaching methods, hearing impaired children were given the label of “Deaf and Dumb”.

Georgia School for the Deaf in 1888
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Injustice Hidden Deep in Atlanta’s Forest: The Old Atlanta Prison Farm and the South River

The Old Atlanta Prison Farm has become a strong source of controversy in Atlanta’s political sphere due to the City of Atlanta’s future plans for the land. The prison was located in southeast Dekalb on 1248 acres of forest next to the South River. For some Atlantans, this revelation might come as a surprise. As a native Atlantan who grew up in southeast Decatur 5 miles away from part of the land that is now Cedar Grove Middle School, this discovery was a shock. For others, it’s not so surprising considering Atlanta’s environmental history. It’s hard to imagine trees where there are now buildings, but there are many green spaces inside the perimeter that are clues to this past.

Atlanta plans to sell the land to BlackHall Studios, meaning many trees will have to be cut down to build what Blackhall Studios wants to be the biggest sound stage in the nation. The world is currently in a vulnerable environmental climate; these actions put our city at further risk. The city also plans to allot 300 acres of the land to build an extensive facility as well as a mock city, hence the nicknamed “cop city.” Considering the history of this space as well as environmental issues, these future plans should concern all Atlantans.

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Techwood Homes

Tanyard Creek
Image of Tanyard Bottom

In 1936, Techwood Homes became the first-ever public housing project in the Nation. It was located northwest of Downtown, between the Coca-Cola headquarters and Georgia Tech’s campus. Its construction replaced a de facto integrated low-income neighborhood known as Tanyard Bottom. At the time of its opening, Techwood Homes was established as a “whites only” complex. It would remain this way until white flight infringed on the city after integration was brought on by the civil rights movement. Over the years, federal funding was not properly allocated toward housing projects such as Techwood. As a result, the neighborhood became a blight to the city with failed revitalizations, high crime, and high poverty rates. In 1990, it was announced that the Summer Olympics would be hosted in Atlanta, and thus began the revitalization of poor neighborhoods such as Techwood Homes. Sixty years after its creation, Techwood Homes would be demolished and replaced by a mixed-income housing project called Centennial Place which still stands today. The initial development and then redevelopment of Techwood Homes are both terribly similar as both times business and political leaders sought to replace a blighted neighborhood and, in the process, ended up disproportionately harming some of the city’s most vulnerable communities.

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Dr. King’s Nobel Prize Banquet and Coca-Cola during the Civil Rights Era

African American integration leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, receives a glass bowl inscribed to him as a “citizen of Atlanta, with respect and admiration,” from Rabbi Jacob Rothschild of the Temple Synagogue in Atlanta on Jan. 27, 1965. (AP Photo)

“African American integration leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Rabbi Jacob Rothschild in Atlanta. January 27, 1965.” AJCP552-028b. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photographic Archive. Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library

In January 27th of 1965, a huge dinner banquet was held in Dinkler Plaza Hotel (known as Hotel Ansley until 1953), located alongside Williams street in downtown Atlanta. The banquet was to congratulate and honor an Atlanta native who just won the Nobel Peace Prize in November 1964, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The banquet was a huge success, and was attended by as many as 1,500 people of both black and white races. The New York Times next day reported that “the Dinkler Plaza Hotel was jammed far beyond comfortable capacity with Atlantans” who “stood and sang [We Shall Overcome], the most famous song of the civil rights movement”, and commented that the successful banquet was “symbolic of Atlanta’s attitude on race relations”.[1]

However, though it is not very well known, success of this banquet and the civil rights movement in general, were also closely tied to Coca-Cola, an Atlanta native company that became an international giant. The banquet to honor Dr. King was a symbolic incident which highlighted Coca-Cola Company’s effort to respond to a changing American society, and to the civil rights movement during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Continue reading

Oakland Cemetery Origins

Oakland Cemetery Entrance. Photo by John Chapman (4 April, 2016)

Oakland Cemetery Entrance. Photo by John Chapman (4 April, 2016)

Oakland Cemetery serves as one of the key landmarks of antebellum Atlanta, Georgia. Oakland Cemetery sits in stark contrast to the rest of the city with its towering trees, rather than towering building, and its old brick roads rather than hot black asphalt. Oakland Cemetery serves as a monument to Georgia’s past while simultaneously growing and morphing with the present. It is general knowledge that some of the city’s most influential characters, such as Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones, lay at rest within its walls and it is the oldest cemetery in Atlanta. However, who in the city knows about the erection of the eastern wall or the problems that had to be handled in Oakland’s early years? A great deal of Oakland’s history remains a mystery to the people of Atlanta and throughout this analysis I will shed light on its origin story. Continue reading

The Professional Career of Bobby Jones, Jr.

Despite his relatively brief career, Bobby Jones is universally recognized of one of the greatest golfers of all time. His name, in the minds of the sporting world, does not sound out of place spoken among the names of far more contemporary players such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods or even those whose fame and feats are even more recent than they. The same can be said for few other athletes of his time- Jones retired from golf at the age of 28 in 1930. By that time, he had won 13 major championships. In the year of his retirement, he won all four, making him the only golfer in history to win the impregnable Grand Slam. The very next year, however, he would not compete in one tournament. Wrote the great sportswriter and best friend of Jones, “the greatest competitive athlete of history closed the book, the bright lexicon of championships, with every honor in the world to grace its final chapter.”[1] And yet, Jones never made one penny from playing golf. He was always keen to remind fans that “some things were more important than winning.”[2] This decision spawned from an intense modesty for which he is famed. On several occasions, Jones called penalties on himself in major championships- penalties that would not otherwise been assessed; one of these that cost him a victory.[3] And yet his scrupulous honesty, stringent self-governance and vivacious energy to achieve were not just limited to golf.

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Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium: Mayor Allen’s Impact on Atlanta

Growing up thirty minutes outside of Atlanta has its perks. For me, the best thing about it was going to Braves games. By the age of 10, I considered myself a dedicated Atlanta Braves fan. I’d stay up late fantasizing about inviting Braves players to my birthday party or playing for the team in the big leagues. The main reason I live in Atlanta today is because those games made me fall in love with the city. Atlanta has so much life and energy so I’ve always been intrigued by its history. While Turner Field became the permanent home of the Braves following the 1996 Olympics, I never got the chance to witness a game in the Braves’ former ballpark, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Yet, the remnants of the coliseum still stand tall and firm, casting a long shadow over the infamous Turner Field ‘blue lot’ reserved for commuting fans. My passion for the Braves and curiosity of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium inspired me to identify the party responsible for bringing my favorite team to the city; that search led me to a familiar name, Ivan Allen, Jr. An individual whose impact on Atlanta stands tall and firm much like the memorial wall wrapping around the blue lot today.

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Flatiron Building

Flatiron, Atlanta January 15, 2015. Posted by Taylor Gordon. Atlanta Backstar.

Flatiron, Atlanta January 15, 2015. Posted by Taylor Gordon. Atlanta Backstar.

The Flatiron Building of Atlanta Georgia

            Everyone who drives through Atlanta on interstate-85 will wind through the city passing by a multitude of skyscrapers. Coming south from the north, you will pass the iconic Olympic torch, the Varsity, the Bank of America plaza (the “Pencil building”), the W, and the Westin, among others. Atlanta is ever-growing as cranes are scattered throughout the city, adding more lines and structure to the skyline. But if you drive off the highway and head deeper into the city to find the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District, you can get a glimpse of the elders amongst the giants.

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Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta has gone through different periods of being a top Zoo in the nation. From either being one of the first Zoos in the United States in 1889. To then being one of the first Zoos to have a gorilla. Then in the more recent period being one of four Zoos in the United States to have pandas. What happened between these different show casing is one of many rebuilding projects, as the Zoo has nearly fell apart during multiple different periods. This is the story behind those different phases.

Jennifer Cuthbertson and Phillip Cuthbertson, "Historic Grant Park". Georgia: Arcadia Publishing, 2011. 30

Jennifer Cuthbertson and Phillip Cuthbertson, “Historic Grant Park”. Georgia: Arcadia Publishing, 2011. 30

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John Wesley Dobbs Plaza

Photo shot by author

Photo shot by author

Talking a walk down Auburn Avenue is an experience that many Atlanta residents and tourists have enjoyed. When walking down Auburn, it is easy to be taken aback by how beautiful the birth home of Dr. King is. It is easy for residents and tourist to stop and admire the burial site of Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King. Tourists and residents are blown away when they view the massive mural of civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis. With all of these civil rights giants in one small street it is easy to understand why the John Wesley Dobbs Plaza on the corner of Auburn and Fort Street does not get much attention. Hundreds of people drive or walk pass the plaza on a daily basis and yet one does not find many people stepping inside the plaza and admiring the statue of John Wesley Dobbs. The plaza is overshadowed by the presence of Dr. King’s historical site and John Lewis’ mural, which is an appropriate metaphor as to how the legacy of Mr. Dobbs has been largely forgotten by the mainstream public.

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Atlanta’s Carnegie Library

The history of Atlanta’s Carnegie Library is the story of a building, the story of the people who used its services and the story of the systems that were built to maintain and take advantage of it. Unknown to most Atlantans is that the public library system, seen as an everyday, normal part of life in Atlanta, had its very beginnings in that building. The story of this old building is particularly difficult to grasp because it has been torn down and replaced with the new Atlanta-Fulton Public Library on the same piece of land. In this report, I found it important to embrace the human element by discussing the works of individuals to create the Carnegie Library system, such as Anne Wallace and Andrew Carnegie. But I also did not wish to ignore the social and economic factors that affected it, such as the racial politics of the Jim Crow South. The connections between an international system of Carnegie libraries and the specific Atlanta branches helped to bring historical context and answer questions of continuity and perception.

 

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George Muse’s Clothing Company

Hello! I’m Diana, student at Georgia State University located at the heart of Downtown Atlanta. As a student, I have embraced this great city and its history. One of my favorite buildings in Atlanta is the Muse Building. This structure was once the site of one of the largest retailers in the city, and perhaps, the Southeast. I have had fun researching and learning about this Muse’s and I hope that fellow residents, newcomers, and students enjoy reading.

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Rialto Center for the Arts

Hello fellow theater lovers! My name is Allison, and I live in Atlanta Georgia which is home to the Georgia State University campus, where I am currently studying history. Atlanta has been known as a home for the many beautiful theaters such as the Fox Theater as well as the Loew’s Grand Theater (which unfortunately is no longer a standing theater). My personal favorite theater is located right on the Georgia State Campus known as the Rialto Center for the Arts. I fell in love with the Rialto after going to a few of my school of music friends recitals. I wanted to further my knowledge in the history of this astonishing theater. The Rialto was a wonderful location to research and I hope you enjoy learning about this location as much as I did.

 

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The Secret Mysteries of Kell Hall

Myke Johns, "Georgia History:100 Years of Georgia State University." Atlanta's NPR Station, Nov. 22, 2013.

Myke Johns, “Georgia History:100 Years of Georgia State University.” Atlanta’s NPR Station, Nov. 22, 2013.

UPDATE: KELL HALL WAS DEMOLISHED IN 2019-2020

If you attended Georgia State University, Kell Hall is forever ingrained in your memory. It was the old building where classrooms were frustratingly hidden away in bizarre half-level floors. There was an odd rampway that you climbed arduously to reach science labs on 4th, 5th, and 6th floors. You remember the gray and beige exterior that seems aesthetically questionable. What If I told you that these features were purposely designed by well-renowned engineers? What if Kell Hall was meant to be a beautiful and technological marvel? What if Kell Hall had a secret past in a different life? In search of these answers, let’s journey into the mysteries of the secret past of Kell Hall.

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Turner Field

Growing up, I was a little boy who was in love with the sport of baseball.  Wherever I went, I had a ball and glove close by me.  If somebody had a question about who was leading the league in home runs, or who won the World Series in the most random year, there was a high chance I knew.  This love was sparked by a Major League Baseball team that resided just an hour south of where I grew up: the Atlanta Braves.  Continue reading

Tringali’s Ristorante Italiano

View of 94 Pryor St. in 2015. Photograph taken by Author.

View of 94 Pryor St. in 2015.
Photograph taken by Author.

This building, which is the result of a sequence of viaduct constructions that began in 1899, lies on top of what is currently known as “Underground Atlanta”.[1] A viaduct project commenced in response to the growing traffic problem. The automobile’s growing popularity clashed with the preexisting railroads. The rise in the automobile’s popularity contributed to significant increases in traffic congestion as well as accidents on the city’s roadways.

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Thomas E. Watson

Across the street from the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta lays a small enclosure at the intersection of Washington and Mitchell Street called Talmadge plaza. When you stroll past Governor Herman Tallmadge’s statue there, a twelve-foot tall bronze figure can be seen overlooking the small square. The somber epithet “Honor’s Path He Trod” is chiseled beneath the figure’s feet. It’s the statue of the infamous Southern demagogue himself, Thomas E. Watson. Continue reading

The Road to The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association

The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association was chartered in 1922, in order to Americanize the immigrant Greek population. It was a long road to finally reach a general consensus  that America was to be their home, but the consensus was reached and so began AHEPA.

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The Sweet Auburn Curb Market

The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a historic market located in downtown Atlanta .  In 1918 Atlanta established a “curb market” on land cleared by the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917.  This fire decimated the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta, destroying almost two thousand homes and leaving over ten thousand Atlantans, mostly blacks, homeless.[1] After the fire a tent market occupied the site.

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Dixie Coca-Cola Plant

Buildings come and go as technology and the world around them change, and in Atlanta this trend is not any different. However, some buildings like the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Plant have withstood modernization for almost one hundred and twenty-five years. It’s not the building itself that is important; rather, it’s the history and usage of the building that makes it compelling.

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