the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Category: Section 4 (south/west)

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. ↩︎
  2. Atlanta City Directory Company. (1953) ↩︎
  3. Map of Atlanta: Negro Residential Areas 1962, Planning Atlanta City Planning Maps Collection, Georgia State University Library. ↩︎

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. ↩︎
  2. “MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD.: HEBREW BENEVOLENT CONGREGATION HELD MOURNING SERVICE AT JEWISH TEMPLE LAST NIGHT.” 1905.The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Dec 05, 10. (Accessed April 7, 2024) ↩︎
  3. “HEBREW BENEVOLENT CONGREGATION WILL CELEBRATE 49TH ANNIVERSARY.” 1916.The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jan 11, 6. (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
Skip to toolbar