the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Category: Section 5 (south/center)

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.

Koch, Augustus, ect, 1892.

Our first detailed view of the block comes from an illustration of the city of Atlanta during 1892.1 Six blocks south of the capital building, the block easily blends in with its surroundings. There were seventeen homes on this block. An interesting thing to note is that the homes facing Capital Avenue are much larger and wealthier than the rest. In addition, there is a home in the bottom middle of the block.

Sanborn, 1911

This home is gone with the 1911 Sanborn map of the area.2 In its place is a side street cutting through the block, dividing it in two. More housing is popping up on the top and bottom. However, the Capital Avenue facing houses retain large backyards while the Crew Street smaller duplexes and apartments are starting to lose space. Interestingly, a Sanitarium has been placed within the bottom left home. This was likely related to the Piedmont hospital which is a block below this block.

A mere twenty years can bring a lot of change and this block is no exception to this. The 1932 Sanborn map of the block shows a lot more development.3 The area is becoming more lower income as time goes on. We can see this with more housing being constructed in the backyards of the Capital Avenue facing homes and one of the homes being converted into a Duplex. More Apartments are constructed and homes are converted into other things. The sanitorium has become Irving Thomas Memorial Home for Girls and the northeast home has become a Jewish school.

Sanborn, 1932

The presence of a Jewish school signals that the location had a large Jewish population in the area. This is backed up by the Redlining maps which mention Jews and also corroborate information that this area was declining in wealth.4

The block was torn down in the face of highway development in the 1960s. The lot sat empty until 1964 when the Milwaukee Braves moved down to Atlanta and built their new stadium in the area.5 The block became part of the parking lot that serviced the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The stadium was destroyed in 1997 following the development in the area relating to the Olympics. Yet, the parking lot remains. Barren and empty, only holding the ghosts of the past.

  1. Koch, Augustus, Hughes Litho. Co, and Saunders And Kline. Bird’s eye view of Atlanta, Fulton Co., State capital, Georgia
    . [n.p. Saunders and Kline, 1892] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/75693189/. ↩︎
  2. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, FultonCounty, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company, ; Vol.4, 1911 Map. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/browse_maps/11/1377/6155/6525/98068?accountid=11226 ↩︎
  3. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, FultonCounty, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company, ; Vol.3, 1932 Map. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/browse_maps/11/1377/6155/6525/98068?accountid=11226  ↩︎
  4. “Atlanta, Georgia.” Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal Americahttps://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/map/GA/Atlanta/area_descriptions/D12#loc=15/33.7365/-84.3831 (Accessed April 8, 2024) ↩︎
  5. Paul Newberry, Associated Press writer. “It Was Grand Opening for Turner Field.” New Bedford Standard-Times, January 11, 2011. https://www.southcoasttoday.com/story/sports/1997/04/05/it-was-grand-opening-for/50620739007/. ↩︎

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).

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?

1928 Atlas cutout of the area.
1928 atlas (this page discusses the block in the top left corner)

Today, the Convocation Center occupies the block bordered on the south by Fulton Street SW, on the east by Capitol Avenue SE, and on the northwest by Pollard Boulevard SW. Before the downtown connector was built, the same block was bordered on the south by Fulton Street, on the east by Capitol Avenue, on the north by Clarke Street, and on the west by Crew Street.2

1932 Sanborn map
1932 Sanborn Map3

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This block has undergone serious change to bring it to how it looks today. For a long time, this area was almost purely residential. The 1932-1950’s Sanborn maps below show that the block consistently served as a block for dwellings, which are labeled with a “D.” Some of the larger homes had garages (labeled “A”), and the later map shows that a gas station was built in the northeastern corner. Both of these point to the growing importance of automotive transportation in everyday life. 

1932-1954 Sanborn map
1932-1950 Sanborn Map4

The Sanborn maps show that there were mainly duplexes and tight clusters of small homes. They are also marked as frame buildings that were susceptible to fire damage. This layout suggests that it was a working class area. The 1937 redlining maps confirm this, labeling the area’s inhabitants as mainly, “skilled mechanics, factory workers, and laborers.”5

Further information on the residents can be gleaned from the city directories. The city directories from this time designate black households with a (c) for colored. The 1934 city directory shows that while there are a couple black households near Clarke Street, the block was predominantly white. It is also worth noting the amount of vacancies listed; many people were unable to afford their house. 

1934 City Directory entry for Capitol Avenue
1934 City Directory entry for Capitol Avenue6
1934 City Directory entry for Crew Street
1934 City Directory entry for Crew Street7

The Sanborn maps, the redlining document, and the city directory lead to the conclusion that this block was home to white working class Atlantans for several decades. 

1961 City Directory entry for Capitol Avenue
1961 City Directory entry for Capitol Avenue

The 1961 city directory shows a sharp change in how this block was used. A large chunk of the block was taken up by the County Juvenile Court, the County Juvenile Detention Center, and the County Detention Home. In other words, the block had switched from housing residences to housing government buildings. They were still surrounded by vacancies. 

Because of the time frame, it is plausible that the increase and vacancies and the switch to government buildings was a response to the Great Depression.

Eventually, these buildings were phased out as well. The juvenile justice buildings are now on the opposite side of the downtown connector. By 2008, the block was a parking lot. In 2020, construction began. In 2022, the Convocation Center opened its doors to kickoff a new season of GSU basketball.

 

  1. “About the Center.” GeorgiaStateUniversity. https://convocationcenter.gsu.edu/about/ (accessed April 8, 2024). ↩︎
  2. “Explore.” ATL Maps. https://atlmaps.org/projects/explore (accessed April 8, 2024). ↩︎
  3. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, FultonCounty, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company, ; Vol.3, 1932-Aug.1950 Map. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/browse_maps/11/1377/6156/6530/98510?accountid=11226 ↩︎
  4. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Atlanta, FultonCounty, Georgia. Sanborn Map Company, ; Vol.3, 1932 Map. https://digitalsanbornmaps-proquest-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/browse_maps/11/1377/6155/6525/98068?accountid=11226 ↩︎
  5. “Atlanta, Georgia.” Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America. https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/redlining/map/GA/Atlanta/area_descriptions/D12#loc=15/33.7365/-84.3831 (Accessed April 8, 2024). ↩︎
  6. 1934 Atlanta City Directory. (Atlanta: Foote and Davis Co, 1934), 1267-1293. ↩︎
  7. 1961 Atlanta City Directory. (Atlanta: Foote and Davis Co, 1961), 106. ↩︎
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