the histories of our streets

Georgia State University students map Atlanta's past

Tag: Downtown

The Birth of Pride in Atlanta: 20th Century Origins of Gay Rights in Midtown and Downtown

Growing up in repressive rural Georgia hours north of Atlanta, I dreamt of going to Pride in Piedmont Park – a chance to experience freedom, joy, hope, and love in the expression of the queer identity. Now at college and in my third year in the city, I am a few months out from attending my third Atlanta Pride. It has been everything I hoped: the colors, smiles, excitement, compliments, free mom hugs, drag queens swinging from poles on moving floats, seeing old friends, making new connections, and overwhelming emotion at the scale of LGBTQIA+ representation. Pride at Piedmont Park and the larger community provides the most electrifying, knowing, and supportive environment where one can see those both alike and different. Every year the smaller-than-you’d-think community gathers bumping into exes and impending self-realization yet are happy in the light air of the large gathering of a normally stigmatized and disjointed community. Experiencing this I found myself curious as to how such a setting, and Atlanta Pride, were born – what people, places, and ideals coalesced to create the resonant gay culture that midtown has become known for? 

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Development of the Dome

Some people may look at the space now and see the Mercedes Benz, and fondly remember the Georgia dome.  However , many individuals don’t know what used to lie in its place and how the dome’s costly development and how it affected the lives of those around it.

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Underground Atlanta’s History

The Underground sign in Atlanta, GA from the AJC
The Underground sign in Atlanta, GA from the AJC1
Overview of the Underground in Atlanta, GA from the AJC
Overview of the Underground in Atlanta, GA from the AJC2

Atlanta historically served as a connection for railroads and since then has economically boomed. In 1835, the state of Georgia was determined to build a railway to the Northwest, from the Tennessee line to the southwestern bank of the Chattahoochee River, and through Athens, Madison, Milledgeville, Forsyth, and Columbus.3 Eventually, Atlanta became the center for the South. With the consistent growth in population, Atlanta has rapidly developed and evolve from the Civil War to the 1996 Olympics, the existence of the Underground became a result of this.4 The shopping and entertainment district in the heart of downtown Atlanta, also known as “the city beneath the city”, holds rich history and culture. Today it stretches across 50 Upper Alabama St SW which was historically constructed along the zero-mile post sometime during the 1920s.

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The Georgia State Capitol

Western Facade of the Capital Blueprints1

If you were to think of the Georgia State Capitol, the image that would come to your mind would likely be the imposing building sitting just south of the Georgia State University MARTA station. Standing atop Capitol Square Block, the structure gated off from the outside. Several statues adorn the outside along with maintained lawns to give an almost park like appearance. The actual structure itself is four stories tall with four asystematical facades that adorn its outside. Its main entrance, the west main entrance, is the grandest of these facades. Carved into the stone above the west entrance in a relief carving are four figures and the seal of Georgia. On the right of the seal is a man and a woman. The man represents the armed forces with a helmet and sword and the woman represents peace with her horn of plenty. On the left side, there is another man and woman. The woman holds mercury and an anchor to symbolize trade while the man holds a hammer to symbolize industry. Yet, towering above the four figures is a fifth. Standing atop the capitol building at its highest point, standing on a dome of gold, is a robed women holding a sword and a torch representing the idea of liberty.

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How the Expansion of Higher Education Transformed the Fairlie Poplar District

The Fairlie Poplar District is a walkable, pedestrian-oriented business center located in the middle of Downtown Atlanta, with a prevalence in food, shopping, and historic buildings that are concentrated within the heart of Atlanta’s central commercial region. This district and its surrounding areas effectively capture the exciting, diverse, and energetic atmosphere of a bustling inner city, featuring a variety of amenities that authentically serve the Atlanta population. Over the past century, the district as a whole has become a vibrant gathering location for Atlanta residents, with numerous pedestrian friendly qualities that create an inviting space to commence social interaction and establish a greater sense of community in this part of Downtown. While the district has undergone numerous structural changes in recent decades, the area has still managed to remain fairly preserved in terms of vibrance and walkability. Fairlie Poplar’s liveliness is especially apparent in comparison with many other historic regions in Atlanta, which have either been demolished completely or altered to accommodate a car dependent lifestyle. Streets that were once distinguished with unique character and architectural beauty over a century ago have been transformed by contemporary urban design, leaving behind a gray and institutional landscape that has been drained of its energy and culture.

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John Portman’s Development of Peachtree Center

John Portman

John Portman was born on December 4, 1924, in South Carolina. Portman was raised in Atlanta and served during World War II. He attended Georgia Tech where he would study and earn his degree in architecture in 1950. He opened his architectural firm in 1953 and named it John Portman and Associates. This company would transform his company into a real-estate company, and eventually become involved in a home decor wholesaler. Not only would his work be in the city of Atlanta, but also in Chicago, Illinois; California, San Francisco; and Detroit, Michigan. Portman would become an important architect and restate developer figure in Atlanta’s development of Peachtree Center and reviving the decaying city. 1

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Centennial Olympic Park and the 1996 Atlanta Games

Centennial Olympic Park fountains at night. Taken by Georgia State University

Centennial Olympic Park is the centerpiece of Downtown Atlanta, where tourists and locals alike can unwind in the grass, take a stroll through the various Olympic monuments and look at breathtaking views of Downtown’s skyline. As a kid growing up in Atlanta, I always loved the design and location of this park, nestled in the center of a bustling city. I remember always having a blast running through those Olympic rings. But before this urban centerpiece was even a park, there is an interesting history of what was there before.

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Hurt Park

Hurt Park is a two-acre park located at 25 Courtland St SE. Opening in 1940, the park transformed “an area of rambling, obsolete and run-down structures into a rolling stretch of green lawns.”1 Named after Joel Hurt, one of the most influential people in the city’s early history, the park is now co-owned by the City of Atlanta and Georgia State University after a recent renewal. But what was the history behind the land and the man it was named after?

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

The William Oliver in 1930

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flatiron Building

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

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

The Flatiron Building of Atlanta Georgia

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

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Atlanta’s Carnegie Library

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


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George Muse’s Clothing Company

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

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Rialto Center for the Arts

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


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The Secret Mysteries of Kell Hall

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

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


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

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Tringali’s Ristorante Italiano

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

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

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

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Thomas E. Watson

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

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