the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Category: Our Favorite Downtown Places

Chattahoochee River

This image was taken from the Chattahoochee River Wikipedia page
This image was taken from

One of my favorite places in the city is the Chattahoochee River which passes the suburban areas in the northern regions of the city. Though most of the Chattahoochee runs down Georgia’s western border with Alabama, a small section can be found near Cumberland. This part of the Chattahoochee river became somewhat famous for hosting a raft race throughout the 70s and 80s. On Memorial Day weekend, there are still hundreds of people that come to this part of town to “shoot the hooch.” For the past year, I spent a large portion of my time in this part of Atlanta enjoying activities like kayaking, grilling, and attending a few Braves games at Truist Park. I took this selfie at a coffee shop called Chattahoochee coffee company. It is a relatively small coffee shop that is not too well-known, but they make an excellent latte.

La Familia De Pie Statue and Renaissance Park

After moving downtown, Renaissance Park on Old Fourth Ward became my favorite place for my dog and me to go for walks, connect with nature, and meet new people and fur friends. Henry Moore’s “La Familia De Pie’s
Sculpture adds a unique, vibrant, three-dimensional touch to the park’s scenery, especially at night. When I view this timeless sculpture, I feel a sense of connectivity between myself and the natural world. I love when the sun radiates through the tall trees, putting me in a peaceful, euphoric mood. Me and Renaissance park grew a firm connection before I moved in with my brother. Like today, I would listen to meditation music and take walks through the park.

Kendrecus near Renaissance Park.

During my first years of learning at GSU, I became fascinated with art history and sculptures. Henry Moore’s “La Familia De Pie” sculpture expresses humanity as part of nature. However, I have no clue how it shares significance with renaissance park today.

Before Renaissance park’s existence, Buttermilk Bottom slum, an African American neighborhood centered on Atlanta Civic Center during the 1960s, now stands in the Old Fourth Ward. Considered a slum area, Buttermilk Bottom had unpaved streets and no electricity.1 “Black Bottom” coined its name because the downward slope of the sewers in the area caused the backed-up water to have a buttermilk smell.

  1. “Kidddle.”Kids Encyclopedia Facts. February 13th, 2022)

Red Light Café

My favorite place is by far the Red Light Café in Midtown Atlanta’s Amsterdam Walk. It’s a listening room for Americana, Bluegrass, Blues, Jazz, and Rock as well as a comedy and burlesque venue. The building itself is super small, providing a very intimate experience where you feel up close and personal with the musicians/performers. It also has a small food menu and bar for patrons.

Pre-COVID photo of me at the Café

I was introduced to this place in the jazz history course I took a few years ago; we were required to watch live jazz shows and do a write up on the stylization and performers. Every Wednesday night, the Gordon Vernick Quartet performs along with any musicians in the audience that wish to join; Dr. Vernick also happens to be an Associate Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Georgia State University (and the author of the textbook we were using). It truly is a wonderful experience to watch his group perform as he is highly interactive with the audience in between songs.

If you enjoy live music and performances, I highly recommend going to check out Red Light Café!

Mystery House

When I was a senior in high school, I participated in a film program in the Reynoldstown area. I would take Marta then skate around the Inman Park/Reynoldstown area just to pass time before it started. I spent a lot of time by myself my senior year because I did full-time dual enrollment. These moments were the first time where being alone wasn’t a burden. I discovered I had a weird pull towards the houses that I would see. Tall and grandeur, the houses captivated me because the architecture was such a clear and beautiful display of history. Always accompanied by my camera, I would take pictures of the exterior of the houses and imagine myself living in the neighborhood

Today, I walked through the neighborhood with my friend. We fantasized about community living in a gigantic house and a seemingly stress-free life growing up in a neighborhood like this. The house I chose, is my friend’s favorite. While I do love this house, it is not my favorite but it is symbolic to me because about two years ago I took a picture of another one of my friend’s standing in front of this house. This area will probably always symbolize the moment where I felt a little bit of independence and freedom for the first time, no matter how shallow those feelings were in hindsight. I’ll always remember skating the big wide streets, my only care being a car hitting me. It’s weird I’ve associated such strong feelings to a neighborhood and houses I’ve never lived in.

For some reason, this house is the only one blurred out on this street. I’m not sure what that means, but I guess I chose the most mysterious house on the block.

a house in inman park
me standing in front of a house

Peachtree Center MARTA Station

by Ian Samuels

Escalator at Peachtree Center Station and MARTA map

Peachtree Center is one of my favorite train stations in Atlanta. Not only is it Atlanta’s deepest subway station but it also integrates really well with surrounding buildings. The lack of massive bus bays and parking lots typically seen at almost every MARTA station makes the compact entrances to the station feel like you are entering the subway in a city like New York or Chicago.

Peachtree Street Entrance to Peachtree Center Station

The station offers an easy connection to the Mall at Peachtree Center if you want to grab a quick lunch and GSU’s Aderhold Learning Center and College of Law. This station also serves as the hub for tourism in Atlanta with many of Atlanta’s most famous attractions and largest hotels within a close proximity. It is fascinating to watch tourists from all across the world get off trains at this Peachtree Center, suitcases in hand emerging from the station seeing Downtown Atlanta maybe for the first time ever. Something that fascinates me, even more, is a part of MARTA history you can easily overlook while checking your phone going down the station’s steep escalator. At the escalator serving the joint entrance of the post office and train station hangs a MARTA system map rarely seen.

MARTA map up close

The map depicts the same lines and stations present today but with an additional five lines lines with no stations on them. The Tucker North Dekalb, Northwest, Hapeville, Proctor Creek lines, plus one Busway are all depicted. They were planned train lines that never came to fruition. Looking at the direction of the lines on the map, MARTA would serve many more communities today if even just one of the lines was built out as planned. I can only imagine what Atlanta would be like today if train service was expanded past the four lines available today. Unfortuantly, none of these lines were ever built and today MARTA has no plans to expand rail services in these areas. Still, this piece of history is a reminder of what could have been of Atlanta’s public transportation network.

Hurt Building

Image was taken by me 1

The architecture of the Hurt Building has always caught my eye since I’ve been down here. The marble that makes up the outside of the building, the Roman-inspired columns, and the gold detailing around the doors is in stark contrast to the parking garage and attached restaurants across from it. I always find myself looking at the building whenever I pass by and I wonder why it was built the way it was, especially with the different architecture styles of the buildings surrounding it.

  1. This was taken in front of one of the pillars. I tried to rotate it, but (obviously) it didn’t work

The Flatiron Building

A selfie of me in front of the Flatiron Building.

To be completely transparent, despite living within the city limits for the vast majority of my life, until attending class on the main campus I have always avoided Downtown like the plague. I have never been a fan of this section of the city, but my time at GSU has softened my stance towards this neighborhood and I have come to appreciate some of it’s characteristics. One of these is the unique architecture that can be found throughout Downtown that is not present in the rest of Atlanta. In my opinion, the Flatiron Building is unmatched in this regard. I have come to greatly appreciate it’s unique feel; whenever I cross it’s path, it makes me feel as though I have taken a step back in time to the turn of the 20th century. In an era where the urban landscape of this city is rapidly changing, this building and it’s timelessness has become a source of comfort for me.

The Flatiron building, circa 1921. 1

I decided to delve into the history of this building some for this assignment, and was astonished to find out that it was originally called the English-American building. It was named for the English-American Loan and Trust Company, whom architect Bradford Gilbert designed it for. Construction on the building ended in 1897, and it is now considered to be Atlanta’s oldest standing skyscraper. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Atlanta’s Flatiron actually predates New York’s more well-known Flatiron Building by four years, as the latter was not constructed until 1901. Ownership of the building has changed hands 3 times since 1920, and it is currently owned by Historic Urban Equities Limited. While the area around the building has changed over the decades since it’s inception, the Flatiron Building has managed to remain an anchor of the Business district in Downtown Atlanta.2

  1. Ewing Galloway, Atlanta’s “Flatiron” Building, Broad and Peachtree Streets, Atlanta, Georgia, .jpg file,, April 21, 2013, (Accessed February 15, 2022)
  2. “English-American Building.” National Park Service. (accessed February 15, 2022)

The Candler Hotel

Despite living in Atlanta while attending classes at GSU, I have explored Atlanta very little. I basically stick to walking around areas where there are school buildings and leave the rest alone. Because of this, the spot that I chose as my favorite is one right by Aderhold building. The Candler Hotel is a beautiful historic hotel that was built over 100 years ago and still remains a landmark in Atlanta. It’s construction was funded by Asa Candler, the founder of Coca Cola. At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in the city This is my favorite spot because every day when I leave my last class at Aderhold, I get to go out and see this magnificent piece of architecture. My classes end at five in the afternoon and the sun at this time makes the building glow in a stunning manner. There are so many details put into the carvings on the outside of the building that I love to stare at as I pass by. It is an aesthetically pleasing site and I’m glad I get to enjoy it everyday that I’m down as GSU. To be honest I did not even know this building was the Candler Hotel until we learned about the sites of the 1906 riot. I had always just thought of it as some random pretty building. I’m excited that I will get to see the inside soon and hope it is as beautiful as the outside.

Candler hotel building

Piedmont Park

My personal favorite spot near downtown is actually in Midtown and it’s Piedmont Park! I love this park, I think in the Spring and Summer it is one of the most relaxing places where I go and read in an eno. The park is located about 1 mile from downtown and is near Virginia Highlands and Midtown. The park’s land was originally owned by Dr. Benjamin Walker who intended on the land being used for racing horses. Years later, it was redesigned by the son of New York’s Central Park architect. Today, the park serves as a massive green space for people to come go for a run, visit the Saturday market, and admire the beautiful trees and nature. The park also hosts Music Midtown, Gardening classes, and various athletic clubs for Atlantans to enjoy.

Mind The Gap

The intersection of Broad and Poplar downtown might not mean much to most GSU students but it has more to offer than what meets the eye.

selfie of me at my favorite spot on campus

Every day students walk in this spot to get food or to attend class. I never thought that this spot was special. Last month however my view of the sidewalks and the gap between them changed. I have been skateboarding, and snowboarding for years but had knee surgery this summer. I had been feeling very disconnected from these communities because of my injury. Last month my friend Carly, an avid skateboarder, gave me a call. She told me I need to head downtown for a Red Bull Mind The Gap event. I packed up and found myself standing in front of Aderhold watching the competition go down. It was funny for me to think that this place I walked by so often with no second thought was also a place that a Red Bull event could go down at. Funny enough a few of my friends were competing. Skateboarding and its community help me feel like myself. When I’m sad on campus wishing I was skating or snowboarding I feel happy looking back on this day. 

Places like this one by Aderhold are important to skate culture. Skateboarding is creative and thrilling and has no rules. When you participate in this sport you start to see the world around you differently. I look at benches and get angry when I see skate stoppers. I get happy when I see a curb or a ledge with wax on it. I hope that when other people walk by this spot downtown they can see how the world is our playground if we allow it. 

Five Points Plaza: Unusually Underrated

Me, Isaac, standing in on the plaza level of Five Points MARTA Station with Five Points Plaza in the backgroud.

One of my absolute favorite buildings and one of the most underrated buildings in Downtown Atlanta is Five Points Plaza, also known as 40 Marietta Street. This building was designed by Tomberlin and Sheets architecture firm in 1964 for the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Atlanta and now houses the Atlanta offices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

View of the top 14 floors of Five Points Plaza.
Five Points Plaza located at 40 Marietta Street Downtown Atlanta

I love this building due to the unique retro design, which used a design language similar to many of the midrise structures that dominate Tokyo and other large cities in Japan and East Asia. It also reminds me of something that Frank Lloyd Wright would have done if he had the chance to build more highrises. This building serves as a great contrast to the grey brutalist five points station, as well as the lovely brick buildings of the adjacent Farlie Poplar Historic District. I like to look at it and imagine having a large apartment inside that uses the retro-futurism vibe from the exterior for some awesome sci-fi interior potential, perhaps similar to Deckard’s apartment from Blade Runner, but more refined and practical.

Family time @ Ria’s Bluebird

Ria’s Bluebird is one of my favorite places because my family has made many memories there. My dad has always been a foodie, and in 2016, he saw how this breakfast spot was on the Food Network for being one of the best restaurants in Atlanta. So, of course, we made a family trip to Ria’s, and it was one of the best times with my family. This little place sits less than 30 people served by passionate employees —sitting in the tiny corner booth with my two sisters and parents, eating while talking over each other, made for an atmosphere of love. The food was also delicious, and ever since then, my family has made it a mission to take a trip to Ria’s whenever we are all in town.

how to add google map to my website

Lake Claire Community Land Trust: Shared Greenspace and Garden

The Lake Claire Community Land Trust, a 1.7-acre piece of land less than 10 minutes from campus, has been one of my favorite places in Atlanta since I discovered it in high school.

The Land Trust is a nonprofit that serves to preserve greenspace and foster community. The organization was created by community members in the 1970s and is still managed by community members today. The area features a playground, a pond, dozens of community garden beds, and more. There are tables and chairs scattered throughout the property to provide plenty of room for those in the neighborhood to enjoy the space. While it is a neighborhood-based organization, the Land Trust, also home to countless turtles, two ducks, and an emu named Big Lou, welcomes visitors from near and far alike. Before the pandemic, the community regularly hosted drum circles and community events at the Land Trust.

I have found the Land Trust to be a safe place I can go to clear my head, enjoy time outside, say hello to “Big Lou” the emu, and get work done before heading to class down the road. The Land Trust is a unique space because, with all the surrounding greenery and wildlife, it can almost feel like you’re in a forest somewhere until you look out at the skyline and see the skyscrapers standing just a few minutes away. This speaks to what is probably my favorite element of Atlanta, the “city in a forest.”

As a Geosciences (Urban Studies concentration) major with a special interest in sustainability and implementing greenspaces in cities, my “dream world” is one in which every neighborhood has a shared space such as the Land Trust dedicated to preserving wildlife, growing food, and promoting a sense of community.

ATL: Historic Views

  • This is the Hurt Building located in hurt plaza. It is also in the middle of Georgia States main campus. The building now even features a very “historic and elaborate” Starbucks. originally built in 1913 the building needed to fit a certain landsite. Built by Joel Hurt, it features a unique triangle shape. This was an early success for Atlanta’s skyscrapers. Hurt had previously contributed to Atlanta’s growth and expansion in many ways. Seeing this building in person really makes you appreciate the detail and thought put into creation. This is something that does not seem to be focused on as much anymore. This building is a true piece of Atlanta’s history. Below I have attached a map of the building and surrounding areas. Please take a moment to check it out!

Dimitry: Hurt Building in 2022


We Carry the Dreams mural by Yehimi Cambron

Many students walk by this beautiful mural every day without knowing the important history behind it, one of those students used to be me. Painted by artist Yehimi Cambrón in November 2018, the mural depicts a part of Atlanta’s story in immigration and social justice. The mural is located on Piedmont Ave SW right across from the MARTA station and adjacent to the Georgia Capitol building. The location of the mural has a very symbolic meaning to Cambrón because of Georgia’s policy on undocumented students. Up until 2018, Georgia State University and other public universities in Georgia turned away undocumented students in order with state policy. Cambrón was one of the victims of this policy and was turned away from GSU and the Georgia capitol when she was denied accepting a high school art prize she won because at the time she lacked a social security number. The mural showcases the faces of five undocumented people who inspired Cambrón who range from a high school student to a local entrepreneur. The American Flag is seen in the background along with a Monarch butterfly on each person’s shoulder which represents, “…a symbol that immigration activists have identified with for a long time because of its journey that it makes from Mexico to Canada across borders” (Cambrón, 20).

Sources: Muralist Yehimi Cambrón speaks of immigration reform and social justice – The Signal (

Piedmont Park: 200 Years in the making.

Me standing on the Southern End of Piedmont

While I only had time to take a quick selfie on my way to work, Piedmont Park has been one of my favorite places in Atlanta for my whole life. I spent many summer days in the park with either my family or the various summer camps I went to as a kid. Today, I’m lucky enough to be able to live just a 5 minute walk from this beautiful park. Because of its location and size, Piedmont Park has become one of the most popular green spaces in Atlanta. My favorite spot in the park is the long meadow that runs along 10th street (Pictured).

With a history spanning back nearly 200 years, Piedmont Park holds a special place in the hearts of many Atlanteans. Initially, like many other areas in Atlanta, Piedmont Park was just a forest. That is, until 1834, when the land was purchased by the Walker family to start a farm. They were able to purchase the land for $450, which is crazy given that figure is half of my rent. The Walker Family used the space as farmland until 1887, when the Gentlemen’s Driving Club (Horse Riding) purchased the land.[1] After the land was purchased by the Driving Club, an arrangement was made with the Piedmont Exposition Company to hold expositions on the unused parts of the land, turning the unused land into fairgrounds. The fairgrounds were used for 20 years, and eventually grew in to disrepair. In 1909, the city decided to transform the fairgrounds into a park; thus Piedmont Park was established.

While the park has gone through several refresh projects and expansions, some of the original stone structures that were built for the 1895 Cotton State and International Exposition remain present such as the stairs leading up to the tennis courts and ball fields; the same area where Booker T. Washington delivered his Atlanta Compromise Speech. What was once the Gentlemen’s Drivers Club horse track, is now a half-mile running loop.[2] Since Piedmont Park has been present for much of Atlanta’s growth, there are signs of Atlanta’s dark past that remain in the park. The park includes two monuments; the Pioneer Women Monument, dedicated to the Atlanta Pioneer Women’s Society, and the Peace Monument, an early 20th century confederate monument. The Peace Monument has been the subject of controversy in past years and there was even an attempt to tear it down by protesters a few years ago [3]. Because of a Georgia law prohibiting the demolition of confederate monuments, signs have been added in front of the statue to give further historical context to the dark history that surrounds the statue [4]. While this statue is a symbol of a darker time for Atlanta, the park itself represents to me the progress that has been made in our city, as on any given day you will see people of all walks of life, running, walking, picnicking, and playing various sports together.

A Reminder of Atlanta’s Past and Progression

Oakland Cemetery is one of my favorite places near Downtown because even though it is graveyard, I also think it is one of Atlanta’s best public parks. There have been many times when I would get coffee across the street at Java Cats Cafe and then take a stroll in the cemetery with some friends. The cemetery is very scenic with Victorian styled gardens, statues, and of course the many ancient oak and magnolia trees that distinctly shape the overall aesthetic of the place. It definitely sticks out, as it is the oldest cemetery in the city and a reminder of antebellum Atlanta.

Katelynn Rogers in front of Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery is full of history as it was founded in 1850 and where many famous names are buried. If you take a walk through the cemetery you might notice tombstones of household Atlanta names including Ivan Allen Jr., Maynard Jackson, or Margaret Mitchell. However, the Civil War plays a major role in the shaping of Oakland Cemetery, as it is the burial site of many confederate soldiers. Due to this, there have been some instances of vandalism within the space, including the Lion statue which marked unnamed confederate soldiers. Today, the statue has been removed along with a statement released on how the cemetery plans to approach the history of Atlanta in both an equitable and ethical way.

Overall, I think the Oakland Cemetery is a great representation of Atlanta’s more grim past along with the progress the city has made since the cemetery was first established. It really is profound to think about how Maynard Jackson, the first Black mayor of Atlanta, and Hoke Smith, who actively tried to disenfranchise Black voters in the early 20th century, are buried in the same place. It is a reminder of both the racism and segregation once held within city along with the city’s progressions.

The Centennial Park Waterfalls

One of my favorite places in downtown Atlanta is the trail of waterfalls located on the east side of Centennial Park. The atmosphere of trickling waterfalls is quiet and soothing, even though it can be found in the heart of the city. When I was a little girl, I would visit Atlanta every summer to see my mom. We would go to many exciting tourist attractions and around lunch time we would always have a picnic in centennial park. The trail of waterfalls was specifically my favorite section of the park because it offered a scenic feel with city views.

Centennial Park was originally created for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. 1 “The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Billy Payne, recommended that the city create a large gathering space in downtown that would serve as a central gathering space during the games and leave a lasting legacy for Atlantans to enjoy.” After tragedy struck at the 1996 Olympic Games, the park was turned into a memorial. There is artwork, statues, and structures that help keep the memory alive. When tourists visit Centennial Park, they are not only met with fun activities and museums, but also encouraged learn about the rich history of Atlanta.

  1. Kahn, M. (2015, July 30). Downtown’s nucleus, Centennial, wasn’t always a Park. Curbed Atlanta. Retrieved February 12, 2022, from

Broad Street

Broad Street is one of my favorite places in Downtown Atlanta. Located in Downtown’s Fairlie-Poplar Historic District, Broad Street’s historic brick buildings, beautiful trees, wide sidewalks, high pedestrian traffic, low vehicle traffic, and restaurants combine to create an ambience similar to that of a small-town main street.

Broad Street, looking northeast.
Broad Street, looking northeast. Zane Ziegler, February 14th, 2022.

Despite its location next to Peachtree Street and a block away from Five Points, Broad Street can often feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown.

In the summertime, Broad Street comes alive with activity and is a great place to relax under the shade trees while enjoying a delicious, affordable meal from one of the street’s several restaurants. The recently constructed Broad Street Boardwalk pedestrianized a portion of Broad Street, and it greatly enhances the street’s vibrancy. The Boardwalk is currently closed for repairs but should reopen before summer begins.

Broad Street Boardwalk in the summertime.
Broad Street Boardwalk in the summertime. Credit: Atlanta City Studio (click on photo for details about Atlanta City Studio’s work on Broad Street).

Hopefully, in the near future, the northern and southern portions of Broad Street can be reconnected, as they are currently separated by the Five Points MARTA station. And hopefully, the entirety of Broad Street will be a lively as its northernmost portion is currently.

ATL’s history hides in plain sight…

The big concrete plaza in front of 25 Park Place is kind of blah, but every once in a while I stop there to admire the marble columns in front of the building. They remind me that so many of Atlanta’s old and lovely buildings have been destroyed and replaced by more modern architecture. But I also think it’s kind of sly that the city kept these pieces so we might ponder them. What were they? Why are they there now?

Dr. Davis in front of 25 Park Place

These three marble columns (and the façade behind it, inside the Career Services center) were once part of the Equitable building, which stood where GSU’s CMII building is now. When it was built in 1892, it was the tallest skyscraper in the city (eight stories — back then that was a tall building). It was also known as the Trust Company of Georgia building.

When it was demolished in 1971, eighteen columns from the building were scattered around the city. I have no idea why these three are here, or how the building’s arched entrance was preserved and installed inside. But I do think these columns are lovely pieces of craftsmanship. It feels like some weird random piece of old Atlanta has been plopped down on a barren and characterless public plaza. I dig the juxtaposition.

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