the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Category: Highway Interchange “Excavation”

The Disappearance of the Immaculate Conception Convent and Fulton High Vocational School

The Immaculate Conception Convent was located at 235 Washington Street. The Convent was part of the Catholic church and represented an area of religious work. Before the expressway was built, the building existed right underneath where the express lies today. An entire community existed underneath the expressway which included apartments, houses, and even a vocational school. The disappearance of this area was caused during the building of the expressway but there is evidence that suggests that an entire community existed before.

Atlanta 1932 Sanborn Map

The Immaculate Conception convent was located near many duplexes and in front of the Vocational school. The convent seemed to be a celebrated location in the community as it provided religious services. The Convent represented the catholic church that housed nuns, provided church school, and was mainly dominated by women. The Convent also was referenced in the Atlanta Constitution Newspaper multiple times. The convent seems to be mostly forgotten and erased from Atlanta’s history, but there is limited evidence that proves that this convent once served a community.

The Atlanta Constitution provided newspapers that gave a glimpse of how the convent served the community. An article that was written on June 20, 1891, simply promoted church exercises and mentioned how the services were done mainly by women.1 The promotion’s purpose was to encourage people to show up and attend mass in the evening. On July 5, 1935, the Atlanta Constitution covered the 50 anniversary of Sister Mary Loretta Hogan and her service to the Immaculate Conception Convent.2 The newspaper mentioned how she served as a teacher, nun, and nurse in the convent. Another article that referenced the convent was written on Oct 3, 1937, which covered the celebration of the 60th-anniversary career of Sister M. Elizabeth Donelan.3 The newspaper dedicated a page that covers the sister’s biography and her service to the convent in Atlanta. The articles prove that women dominated the building and that there once existed a convent which was replaced by concrete expressways.

The Atlanta Constitution Newspapers coverage, 1891, 1935, and 1937.

The Fulton Vocational School was located next to the Immaculate Conception Convent and near the Fulton High School. A Vocational school is a trade school that provides programs on multiple careers including electricians or carpenters. The Fulton Vocational School was purposely located near the Fulton High School in order to encourage students to seek technical careers. The Atlanta Constitution barely gives any references to this vocational school, but there is coverage that mentions Fulton County’s attempt to create programs to create jobs. One interesting discovery was that Fulton County was creating these vocational programs to discourage crime and help male students become mechanics, plumbers, electricians, or printing skills.4 A newspaper that was published on August 10, 1957, announced the construction of the expressway that was forcing the community to be moved near Cleveland Ave, near the prison.5 This coverage mentioned how the community was going to be re-established in a new community and would cost about $350,000 to do so. 6

The Atlanta Constitution coverage of the Fulton High Vocational School.

Today, both the convent and vocational school are gone from existence. The only traces of these buildings were poorly recorded in the newspaper and apparent in the Atlanta 1932 Sanborn Map. The area in which these buildings were located has fallen to the expressway.

Citations:

  1. “THE CLOSING EXERCISES: OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CONVENT LAST NIGHT.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jun 20, 1891. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/closing-exercises/docview/193688538/se-2↩︎
  2.  “Catholic Teacher Marks Fiftieth Anniversary.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jul 05, 1935. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/catholic-teacher-marks-fiftieth-anniversary/docview/502277590/se-2↩︎
  3. Land, Maxine. “Sister Marks Her Diamond Jubilee in Celebration at Convent here: 81-Year-Old Nun Attributes Membership in Order to Arrival of Sister in Family; Friends Honor Her Career Sister Marks 60th Anniversary in Convent.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Oct 03, 1937. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/sister-marks-her-diamond-jubilee-celebration-at/docview/502998531/se-2↩︎
  4. FULTON PLANNING SCHOOL OF TRADE, PLACEMENT BUREAU: CENSUS WILL BE TAKEN TO FIND WHAT OCCUPATIONS LACK TRAINED WORKERS URGES CHILD TRAINING. (1938, Jan 23). The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945) Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/fulton-planning-school-trade-placement-bureau/docview/503158200/se-2 
      ↩︎
  5. “Fulton Office Giving Way to Freeway.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Aug 10, 1957. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/fulton-office-giving-way-freeway/docview/1611985467/se-2. ↩︎
  6. “Fulton Office Giving Way to Freeway.” The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Aug 10, 1957. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/fulton-office-giving-way-freeway/docview/1611985467/se-2.
    ↩︎

Jewish Educational Alliance

The area of Summerhill between Capitol Avenue and Woodward Avenue was mostly residential homes and apartments. However, one building that stands out is the Jewish Educational Alliance that was built in 1911. This building was meant to serve the community and a place where everyone could gather. Most of the residents in the area were Jewish, so they could go to services on Sunday and also bring their kids to kindergarten there as well. The facility also had a gymnasium (presumably for the daycare/kindergarten) and an on-site health facility that would also serve residents.

Continue reading

Change Over Time

As has been alluded to in other posts, this area thrived as a predominately Jewish community throughout the early 1900s, with waves of immigration from Eastern European Jews. Several Jewish Synagogues and Congregations could be found in this area. Some of the most notable Jewish congregations in this area included the Beth Israel Synagogue and the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation. However, over time, this Jewish community largely began to dissipate and move to other parts of Atlanta. Many of the Congregations and Synagogues either moved or closed down, and were replaced largely by Christian ones.

Further into the 1900s, we begin to see more and more of these Christian Congregations and Churches popping up throughout the area in the city directories, and a notable increase in the number of standalone shops and apartments. Several of the older Jewish synagogues and congregations in the area were either replaced by Christian congregations as the Jewish population moved out, or they were bulldozed and turned into Apartments.

By the time we reach the 1950s, much of the area consisted of Apartment complexes, including ones which were largely vacant throughout their existence. Many of the original homes also stood, but this notable increase in Apartments is significant in pointing out how the exodus of the Jewish community began changing the landscape of the area.

We also begin to see the City of Atlanta start making notable considerations in how they want to plan the interstate highways towards the middle of the century. In 1945, the City of Atlanta released an Urban Land Usage map that showed much of this area as largely residential with a few commercial buildings dotted throughout the area. However, much of this residential area was deemed as substandard. This designation likely reflected much of the changing demographics of the area and a negative attitude towards the racial makeup of the area, or simply reflected the fact that many of these homes were, at the time, fairly old in comparison to some of the newer neighborhoods in Atlanta. Either way, this designation likely ended up playing a large role in determining where the highways would intersect and bulldoze their way through the landscape.

By the time we reach the 1960s, and once the interstates have already razed much of these neighborhoods, we can see how they were used to create a dividing barrier between communities. In a 1962 Negro Residential map, we can see colored areas representing the areas populated by “Colored” races, and the non-colored areas populated by white people.

Fast forwarding to today, this area does not reflect much of its past. Many of the lots are vacant or empty, and a lot of the area consists of parking lots and parks developed in urban renewal efforts that served to replace the already-gutted community in this area. There are very few symbols of the significance that this area once had for Atlanta’s Jewish Community, or the people that lived here.

  1. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company, Vol. 4, 1911. Map. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/browse_maps/11/1377/6154/6520/97571?accountid=11226 ↩︎
  2. Atlanta City Directory Company. (1953) ↩︎
  3. Map of Atlanta: Negro Residential Areas 1962, Planning Atlanta City Planning Maps Collection, Georgia State University Library. ↩︎

The Southeast Block

If you were to leave the Georgia State Campus going south, you pass on by the Georgia State capital before going over a bridge across I-75 and I-85. What will greet you is a concrete wasteland, filled with rusted idols dedicated to the past glories of the Olympics. While you may be tempted to quickly rush your way on further south to the rapidly gentrifying Summerhill, you may want to walk through the empty parking lots and wonder what came before.

The parking lot south of the convention center did not used to be an empty concrete scar across the Earth. Rather, its history whispers of a bevy of different inhabitants that called this empty lot home. Today we will examine the development of a forgotten block of homes, that lay between Richardson Street, Fulton Street, and Crew Street.

Continue reading

Woodward Avenue

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.

Resources

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 (openathens.net) 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).

Washington_rawson_1911.jpg (4467×9985) (wikimedia.org)

 

Congregation Ahavath Achim

The Sanborn map below contains a view of 4 blocks from the Atlanta, Georgia Sanborn Map of 1932 Volume 3.1 Before the construction of the Downtown Connector, the Congregation Ahavath Achim once sat on the corner of Washington Street S.W. and Woodward Avenue.

Congregation Ahavath Achim first began in 1887 in a small house on Gilmer Street and Piedmont Avenue (where the Georgia State University Student Recreation Center is now!), very slowly expanded to accommodate members, and by 1899 had begun construction on a synagogue on the same lot.2 By 1920, the congregation was servicing over 200 families, and their synagogue on Gilmer Street was not enough to accommodate all their members, so they expanded and began construction on another synagogue on the corner of Washington Street and Woodward Avenue, completed in 1921.3 There were about 800 families being serviced at the congregation by 1940.3 Ahavath Achim is Atlanta’s second oldest Jewish congregation.4

Continue reading

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, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=cat06552a&AN=gsu.994495013402952&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Highway Interchange

The aerial photographs below depict a block of land just Southeast of a highway interchange that forms the intersection of interstates 85 and 20. The image on the top was taken in 1949, two years after the interchange was planned for construction, and the image on the bottom depicts the landscape that remains following decades of expressway construction and redevelopment of surrounding land. While this area once belonged to a compact residential community with a thriving economy, significant changes in land use have reduced the area to being nearly undeveloped. Despite the area’s current state, the residential neighborhood that once existed in this block had undergone over half a century of rich and complex history, with both notable changes and consistencies throughout its lifetime.

Northwest Block, 1949
Northwest Block, 2024

From roughly 1899 to 1913, this block of land was almost entirely composed of small residential units, consisting of either one or two story homes, each housing only one person. Additionally, all residents living within the confines of the block are white, which remains consistent for the duration of the neighborhood’s existence in the following decades. While a few new housing developments arose at around 1913, the block would remain mostly the same at this point until the early 1930s, in which many of the single residences have been transformed into either apartment buildings or duplexes. As a result of these changes in the area’s overall housing density, the neighborhood as a whole could support a significantly higher population. As the residential population continued to grow throughout the 30s and 40s, the community’s economy would thrive, with various new businesses that would surround the block. However, the block itself would remain entirely residential. In this period, additional changes include the replacement of horse stables with private garages for cars as the neighborhood transitioned to a time in which cars have become increasingly popularized among normal residents.

Sanborn, 1899

Other than changes in housing types and transportation methods, this area still remained fairly consistent in terms of its land use and overall character until around 1950, immediately following the proposal for an expressway to run directly west of the block. Demolition would immediately begin after construction began nearby, and the displacement of residents would soon follow. Once the entire interchange was finally constructed, and after decades of variations in land use in this general area, all buildings ended up being demolished, and for years the land was completely vacant. Recently, however, the area became a construction site, and a new parking deck on Fulton Street is expected to be completed by May 2024. The parking deck is planned to have six stories, accommodating nearly 900 new parking spaces. This new building will be located directly west of the GSU Convocation Center, which is the building that the parking is intended to serve.

References

Lynch, M, Atlanta City Directory, (Atlanta, GA: V.V. Bullock and Mrs. F.A. Sanders), p. 236, Internet Archive, (https://archive.org/details/atlantacitydirec1899vvbu/page/236/mode /2up: accessed March 7, 2024). 

Sanborn, D.A., “Atlanta 1899,” ProQuest, (https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy. openathens.net/brow se_maps/11/1377/6152/6515/97070?accountid=11226: accessed March 7, 2024). 

Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation, “Aerial Survey, Atlanta, Georgia, 1949 (Mosaic),” (https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital /collection/PlanATL/id/10766/rec/1 https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/PlanATL/id/10766/rec/1: accessed April 6, 2024).

A Neighborhood Erased

The construction of the highway system erased neighborhoods from Atlanta’s history. Between Capitol Ave. (Now Hank Aaron Drive) to the west, Fraser St. to the east and Fair St. (Now Memorial Dr.) to the north, Rawson St. to the south, existed two blocks of neighborhoods. Primarily a residential area, these two blocks reflect the shift in the racial and business make-up of the entire city.

1899 Sanborn Map
Continue reading

Tracing the Evolution of Terry Street SE: A Journey through Atlanta’s Capitol Gateway

The Capitol Gateway is like the heart of Atlanta. It’s where you find a mix of old and new, with cool spots to hang out and lots of things to do. Terry Street SE is one of the main roads in this area, and it’s been around for a long time, seeing all kinds of changes in the city. From old buildings to new shops, it’s got a story to tell about how Atlanta has grown over the years. So, let’s take a closer look at Terry Street SE and see what makes it special!

For instance, A key aspect of this Area would be the Georgia Supreme Court.

The Georgia Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in the state, responsible for interpreting laws, resolving disputes, and ensuring justice for all citizens. Its presence within the Capitol Gateway district underscores the district’s importance as a center of governance, law, and public service.

The Supreme Court building itself is an architectural marvel, embodying the grandeur and dignity befitting its role in the legal system. With its imposing facade and stately columns, it commands attention and respect, serving as a visual anchor within the Capitol Gateway landscape.

https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d13270.300376494972!2d-84.39054330619705!3d33.745801964258966!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x88f503906a360801%3A0xa13a60a17e9fc9f9!2sCapital%20Gateway%2C%20Atlanta%2C%20GA!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1712634372216!5m2!1sen!2sus

Beneath the Convocation Center

In 2020 contractor Brassfield & Gorrie broke ground to build Georgia State University’s Convocation Center—a state-of-the-art facility used for athletics, graduation ceremonies, and many other events.1 What ground did they break? Was the area always just another one of Atlanta’s many parking lots?

Continue reading

Allen Temple AME

Illustration of Allen Temple AME Original Building

Originally established in 1866, 3 years after emancipation, the Allen Temple AME was located at the corner of Solomon and Fraser which is now still mostly residential. The other side of the street was turned into a parking lot, but this small block survived. This historic congregation serves as a lasting example to what the Summerhill neighborhood looked like before the construction of the highways. This congregation reflected and served the mostly black neighborhood that it was embedded in. The church expanded extensively while in the Summerhill neighborhood and bought property on Fraser Street. With this newly acquired property the congregation built a building costing $75,000 used as an educational building. The church also faced financial burdens in 1948 with a debt of $35,000 that was quickly paid off under the new leadership. Between 1956 and 1965 the congregation was tasked with the responsibility of relocation. The new parsonage and educational building was constructed first with the main sanctuary following shortly after. In 1969 the Allen Temple apartments valued at $6,000,000 were completed and provided housing for those in the surrounding community. The Allen Temple AME’s history is not without complication, there have been cases of division amongst the congregation over speakers invited. Despite the hardship the church has faced throughout the years, the congregation celebrated its 153 year anniversary this year. Though it relocated to Joseph E. Boone in 1956, the congregation still gives attention to their roots in the Summerhill neighborhood.1 

Sanborn Map of The Area at the Time.

The Allen Temple AME hosted many gatherings such as gospel concerts, conferences, birthday celebrations, and hosted revivals for visiting preachers. They even hosted a celebration in remembrance of president Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 18992. When it comes to the political activism that the church served we see examples of black activists visiting the church to make speeches. One example of this is Reverend W.D. Johnson who delivered a message to Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress in 1902.3 Many political activists found their roots in churches such as Allen Temple AME which allowed for leaders to rally a congregation behind a cause. The church also served as an outreach to help the community and facilitated many charity events including the construction of housing for community members, advancement of education, as well as raising money for various causes.

Many black neighborhoods such as Summerhill were centered around the local church. Churches such as Allen Temple AME was much more than just a church, it served as a safe haven for the black community to escape the hardships of the time. In the height of the Jim Crow south the church allowed for the freedom of cultural and religious expression which is something that was suppressed by centuries of slavery. Allen Temple AME and other African American churches paved the way for avenues of religious expressions that we see today. Though the church was relocated for unknown reasons but the church still stands on the same principles as when it was established.

  1. “About Us,” Allen Temple AMEC, accessed April 8, 2024, https://www.allentempleatlanta.org/about-us.
    ↩︎
  2. “The Birthday Of Lincoln,” The Atlanta Constitution , February 4, 1899. ↩︎
  3. “Johnson Speaks Tomorrow ,” The Atlanta Constitution , August 16, 1902. ↩︎

Fulton County High School on Washington Street

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screenshot-2024-04-08-at-11.56.37%E2%80%AFAM-60fb2f6453f9c8f9-1024x964.png
Atlanta Constitution image of Fulton County High School on Washington Street

When construction on Fulton County High School on Washington Street was finally completed after over a year, it was considered “one of the largest and most modern school structures in the entire southeast.” The school in 1925 was built with two stories and fireproof construction to deal with previous congestion in older buildings. The building would also have steel lockers for all its students, a vast cafeteria with 400 students, and an auditorium with 1,200 people. The cost of the building was half a million dollars compared to today’s money, which would cost between eight to nine million dollars. This building would serve all the kids in Fulton County, even those outside Atlanta’s city limits, like East Point and College Park. At the time, there were 740 students enrolled. 1

Continue reading

What Lies beneath the Downtown Connector?

1911 ATL Sanborn map

One may look at the downtown connecter today and may think of it as nothing more than a large highway, however many don’t stop to think what used to be in these locations. After some digging around I’ve found that there is more to these areas than many realize.

Continue reading

Public Schooling on the South Side

The North-Central section of the Downtown Highway Interchange before the advent of the interstate system in the 1950s and 1960s was primarily residential with several noticeable community centers. This post will focus on the history of the Crew St. School from its beginnings and what eventually became of the space after the highways tore through the south side.

Continue reading

South West Atlanta Jewish Life

The Southwestern section of the Highway Interchange project contained mostly suburban neighborhoods. Unlike other residential areas that were densely populated, there was more distance that separated the dwellings. Upon the turn of the 20th century, this area didn’t have many notable structures, but there seemed to be a strong presence of religious life, specifically Jewish life. It was mainly synagogues that locals of this area flocked to for a sense of community.

1899 Sanborn Maps
1899 Atlanta Fire Insurance Sanborn Map 1

Communal Pillars

The Synagogue known as the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, located at the corner of South Pryor and Richardson Streets, served its community in Atlanta and around the world. A memorial service was held in December of 1905, after news spread of Jewish murders by Russian assassins. The ceremony was called by the Central Conference of American Rabbis and was meant as a non-violent protest against the conditions in which Jews suffered in Russia. Congregation Rabi, David Marx, gave a brief speech and announced a national fund that gave proceeds to Jewish communities in Russia. Atlanta Jews contributed $2,000 to this fund.2

1905 memorial service

The Jewish community of these neighborhoods had a lengthy history, long before the interstate construction. In January 1916, The Hebrew Benevolent Synagogue celebrated its forty-ninth anniversary with a communal dinner and congregation meeting. The event was led by Isaac Schoen, president of the congregation, and Rabbi Marx who had been the communal rabbi for twenty years. Markx gave his annual report to the community, urging his congregation to discover, “nobler ideals and works,”. 3 Marx continued to say in his report that the community will never be bankrupt in their spirituality, because new members are constantly being introduced, such as the children of current or previous members. The main idea of this report was to express how much the congregation has grown since being established almost fifty years ago.

1916 article of 49th anniversary

Today, the interstate highway is located where this integral synagogue once resided. The highway impacted Atlanta in countless ways, but its impact on the Atlanta Jewish community will never be forgotten. What used to be thriving residential neighborhoods, full of religious life, is now only recognized as part of the highways’s many lanes.

  1. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, FultonCounty, Georgia
    . Sanborn Map Company, 1899. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01378_005/. ↩︎
  2. “MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD.: HEBREW BENEVOLENT CONGREGATION HELD MOURNING SERVICE AT JEWISH TEMPLE LAST NIGHT.” 1905.The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Dec 05, 10. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/memorial-service-held/docview/495966765/se-2. (Accessed April 7, 2024) ↩︎
  3. “HEBREW BENEVOLENT CONGREGATION WILL CELEBRATE 49TH ANNIVERSARY.” 1916.The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jan 11, 6. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/hebrew-benevolent-congregation-will-celebrate/docview/496920016/se-2. (Accessed April 6, 2024) ↩︎

Hebrew Benevolent Congregation and The Beth Israel Synagogue

The South/West section of the Highway Interchange was mostly residential. The two non-residential lots were both Jewish synagogues, indicating that the residents were primarily Jewish. The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation and the Beth Israel Synagogue were the two Jewish synagogues found in the South/West section. Both of these lots were only a few blocks away from each other.

Continue reading

The Summerhill School

Sketch of the original school house off Martin Street.

Built in 1869, Summerhill School was once the oldest operating school in Atlanta. Though the title would eventually be taken from Summerhill to be shared with three other White schools in 1872 when the Atlanta Public School System purchased the school (for whatever reason the three years it operated before its purchase no longer mattered). It served an almost entirely African-American community in the South Atlanta neighborhood of Summerhill. While parts of Summerhill would be mixed throughout history the school was entirely for the Black children in the communinty.1 Though a segregated, all Black school, it would not be until after 1887 when Black educators and administrators would be able to work at the school and serve their community as well. This was attributed to the continued success of the Black university system the had developed in Atlanta after the Civil War by such people as W.E.B. de Bois and Booker T. Washington and their many contemporaries.2

As the neighborhood grew and the opportunity for the children of Summerhill to receive an education grew with it was becoming obvious that expansion was going to be necessary. In the 1920’s the city commissioned roughly $40,000 to demolish and rebuild a new school on the existing lot due to increased overcrowding. The new school would still be amicably referred to as the Summerhill school even though it would be renamed the E. P. Johnson school after the successful and renowned pastor from the community, Reverend Edwin Posey Johnson.3

Sandborn map from 1899 showing the old Summerhill School to the West.

As seen above this section of the Summerhill neighborhood was still developing and much of the surrounding lots were either undeveloped or de facto parks. But as seen in the image below just more than 30 years later, in 1932, much of the empty spaces surrounding the school. Which at this time had been rebuilt as the E.P. Johnson school.

Sandborn map from 1932 shows the increased development of the Summerhill neighborhood.

Above shows the neighborhood as it is now. The school would eventually move into disuse and would eventually be demolished by in the 1980’s. Where, as stated above, the neighborhood would build over the old lot beginning in the late 1980’s but mostly during the 1990’s with the boom associated with the Olympics.

  1. KGuestH, “Eternally Forgotten Atlanta Public Schools – Pt. 3 – The First schools for African-American students”,Atlanta’s Past Revisited, https://atlantaspastrevisited.com/2017/05/18/eternally-forgotten-atlanta-public-schools-pt-3-the-first-schools-for-african-american-students/ ↩︎
  2. “COLORED TEACHERS TO HAVE: A CHANCE TO APPLY FOR TEACHERS POSITIONS IN THE SUMMER HILL SCHOOL.” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jun 18, 1887. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/colored-teachers-have/docview/495095259/se-2. ↩︎
  3. KGuestH, “Eternally Forgotten Atlanta Public Schools – Pt. 3 – The First schools for African-American students”,Atlanta’s Past Revisited, https://atlantaspastrevisited.com/2017/05/18/eternally-forgotten-atlanta-public-schools-pt-3-the-first-schools-for-african-american-students/ ↩︎

Southeast Section (6): Streets, Stadiums, and Segregation turn a community to a parking lot

The area that is now the “orange lot” directly North of Publix Summerhill has been a face of change throughout the city’s development. In 1898 and 1899 the surrounding streets were Capitol Ave. (S), Fulton St. (N), Frazer St. (W), and Richardson St. (E), and the area was primarily residential. The street names have largely remained the same with Frazer becoming Fraser by 1925 and Capitol Ave. being renamed Hank Aaron in the 1990’s. 1914 and 1898 directories indicate that the area was a mixed-race residential area with several names marked (c) indicative of the Jim Crow Era and had several vacancies.

The MacGregor Institute considered a “south side”1 school at the time of its opening in 1897, was located at 223 Capitol Avenue in the stretch between Fulton St. and Richardson St. It was founded by established educators Clementine and Margaret MacGregor, the grand opening in the Black residential area was of high anticipation and success. Macgregor was a private all-girls institute that originally offered primary courses in science, literature, and art. By 1899 the school was under expansion and soon reopening with boarding and “primary, preparatory, academic, and collegiate departments”2. The institute was seemingly successful into the early 1900’s yet little information exists on it after this point, there was perhaps another institute that began offering such educational services or rezoning that would have made Macgregor unnecessary.

The block was originally on streetcar lines which provided access to the city for residents early on yet came with grim indications – Atlanta’s patterns of new development run on old lines fostering new forms of transport-based discrimination. By the1960’s this community was mostly displaced by the downtown connector. In the 1970’s the incoming Stadium next door meant all residents of this block were displaced as it was fully demolished and became a parking lot. As a parking lot the area has been used as parking for Atlanta-Fulton-County Stadium, the 1996 Olympics, the Braves, Turner Field, and now is owned by Georgia State for what has been rebranded Center-Park Stadium. Residents of still-residential areas continued to protest against further infrastructure through the Olympic Games and Braves Residence in Summerhill to no avail. Today the parking lot serves as a buffer with an expansive parking lot, stadium, and stores to the west and south, an interstate to the north, and a highly gentrified residential area directly to the east.

Besides MacGregor traceable change with the block happened through Sanborn maps from 1899 -1911 with multiple units, presumably houses, being built and the addition of a short-lived lumber yard. In the 1930s the area remained residential, to the southwest it was neighbored by Piedmont Hospital, by the 1950s the institution was relocated and plans for interstates and stadiums were underway. Into the late 20th century the area, as a part of Summerhill, faced ongoing issues of segregation, racial tensions, and financial immobility. Issues of redlining and exclusionary infrastructure continued as property values dropped and vacancies increased. Nearby white churches refused integration, and crime and poverty for residents lingered. 

Citations:

1895-1962 SanBorn Maps. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/about?accountid=11226

Atlanta SanBorn Maps. https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1YltjCdEEE5CgPDvVDiRMeN7oFhEAu_Q&ll=33.761769057084855%2C-84.37966668364004&z=12

1898/1914 Atlanta City Directory Co.’s Greater Atlanta Directory, , Emory University https://archive.org/details/atlantacitydirec1898vvbu/page/148/mode/2up

  1. MACGREGOR INSTITUTE.: New School on the South Side. The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945); Aug 28, 1897; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 5 https://www.proquest.com/hnpatlantaconstitution2/docview/495420311/70BD8DBE1B29444APQ/3?accountid=11226&sourcetype=Historical%20Newspapers ↩︎
  2. MACGREGOR INSTITUTE: Adds Boarding Department–Has Enlarged Plans. The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945); Jun 18, 1899; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 5 https://www.proquest.com/hnpatlantaconstitution2/docview/495509374/70BD8DBE1B29444APQ/2?accountid=11226&sourcetype=Historical%20Newspapers ↩︎

Highway Interchange Southeast Section

Southeast the heart of Georgia, stands an abandoned building that was once a grand hotel, now iron fencing surrounds it indicating the restricted area. A ‘For Sale’ sign sits in front waiting for a buyer that may never come, evoking a sense of loss and history that led to its current state. Observations on the Google Maps Street View photos reveals the hotel at one point was a Holiday Inn, but now remains as an empty shell in the bustling cityscape of Atlanta. It also appears that hotel is not the only infrastructure on this lot, but attached to it is a storage facility or a covered parking lot of some sort.

Atlanta, 1895. AFPL_M0039a, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Digital Collection, Georgia State University. https://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/digital/collection/afpl/id/25/rec/4

From what I could find, in 1895 to 1911, and probably longer, the lot which the hotel lies on was Southwest of the Gulch, the elevated viaduct area which served as Atlanta’s original commercial hub.1 North of the Gulch was where the city’s original residential growth took place.2 Today, it is directly located Southeast of the highway interchange. During this time, the lot housed less then 20 dwellings, a church, and a wood yard. In 1895, north of this lot lied Clarke Street, south lied Fulton Street, west lied Windsor Street, and east lied Cooper Street. Just in 16 years, 1911, the streets to the west and east changed, respectively to Capitol Avenue and Fraser Street. Now, north of the lot lies the entrance to I-20 E, south lies Fulton Street SE, west lies Capitol Avenue SE, and east lies Fraser Street SE. The streets and avenue surrounding the lot are bustling with cars every day, while the quieter, less heavy, street on east provides parking for local visitors and residents of the area.

Yellow & D= Dwelling, Pink= Brick building with brick or metal cornice.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company,; Vol.4, 1911. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn01378_009/.

During the 1950s, the time of urban renewal, this lot was at the cusp of the Rawson Street. By 1960, the third renewal area to start its project and was granted $709,300 which was based on the progress in land acquisition within the Rawson-Washington Street project area.3 Something interesting to note during the period of urban renewal, was the differences in perspectives which I found to be the similar case to the issues and opinions of today. Rather than seeing the issues of urban renewal projects in the past, we are experiencing the adverse effects of gentrification. An article from 1965, discussed the perspectives on whether urban renewal is good or bad. The article stated the positive of clearing bad slums, but also addressed the negatives, one was that the Atlanta Housing Authority was responsible for relocating people displaces by urban renewal but figures showed that 4,166 families and individuals were displaced, while 3,111 were relocated to “some form of standard housing.”4 One opinion found the Rawson-Washington renewal to function as “cleaning out acres of land and letting them lie there,” another similar idea was that most slum areas in Atlanta were essentially waiting to be cleared of housing but lacked the solution to displacement.5 In the end the main perspective is that there are not far enough decent affordable places “to raise a child or live a life.”6

  1. https://www.wabe.org/gulch-past/ ↩︎
  2. https://www.wabe.org/gulch-past/ ↩︎
  3. $709,300 Granted To Rawson Project, The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Nov 23, 1960; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 10. ↩︎
  4. Is Renewal Good or Bad? The Argument Goes On. Simmons, Ted;REMER TYSON The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Jul 29, 1965; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 1 ↩︎
  5. Is Renewal Good or Bad? The Argument Goes On. Simmons, Ted;REMER TYSON The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Jul 29, 1965; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 1 ↩︎
  6. Is Renewal Good or Bad? The Argument Goes On. Simmons, Ted;REMER TYSON The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984); Jul 29, 1965; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Atlanta Constitution pg. 1 ↩︎

What lies beneath a highway interchange?

This is a map of the interchange just south of downtown Atlanta. Today, it’s where the Downtown Connector (I-75 and I-85) and I-20 meet … But what was here before the highways?

Look at the drop-down list for “Highway Interchange Excavation” to see what GSU students discovered about the history of this erased section of Atlanta.

Skip to toolbar