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Old Posted Feb 20, 2012, 5:32 PM
waronxmas waronxmas is offline
Thought Criminal
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: City of Atlanta Proper
Posts: 34
Originally Posted by testarossa50 View Post
Anyone who is interested in Atlanta history, particularly history of landmarks that once were, should check out this awesome blog:
Great thread idea, man.

Originally Posted by testarossa50 View Post
I've decided to make gifs of them, to make them easy to compare with current aerials from Google Earth. Since each one takes a few minutes to make, I started out with only two areas, both of which have changed dramatically over the last 60 years: West Downtown and Buckhead.

Also, it's simply incredible how dense and built up intown areas were in 1950, basically without a scrap of land going unused, and how completely some of those areas were razed. Below the GWCC used to sit a neighborhood with scores of houses, factories, and a railroad line--which are all but invisible today.
On the area West of Downtown first...

It is remarkable when you look at photographs of pre-1950s Intown Atlanta and how dense it was. Prior to the 1952 annexation it was a city of nearly half a million residents crammed into 36 square miles. This was also before the the highways sliced large sections of the city (and razed several old neighborhoods long forgotten) and was was a built environment influenced heavily by rail and mass transit.

Knowing the popular attitude of people who discuss urban environments, I'm willing to be there are a lot of people who would willing to trade a lot for us just to get back to where we were prior to the highways and "urban renewal". I have two trains of thought on that:

1. Waronxmas approves.

It cannot be discounted how badly the building of the highways affected the City of Atlanta. Had it not been for the fortitude of this city's residents to maintain their neighborhoods in the last few decades, I'm not certain Atlanta as a city would have survived. First there is the obvious fact that the highways have divided the city in to unconnected neighborhoods that cause a loss of cohesion from airs just mere blocks from each other. The other is the hope of the planners of bringing in masses of people to shop/work in Downtown didn't materialize. If anything the highways killed retail in Downtown and nearly killed it as a employment center by spurring the creation of edge cities scattered about the metro (which before the highways were mostly undeveloped forest).

On the other hand, what happened to happened to Atlanta was not unique to Atlanta. The fast adoption of highways and infrastructure geared more towards the automobile than people was an American phenomena that dominated our culture for much of the second half of the 20th century. It is still romantic to think if he had not lost as much as we did.

2.) What are you, nuts?!

While dense neighborhoods are great and all, we must remember that it is a good thing that the majority of these neighborhoods like the ones that used to exist where the Dome is now. There reason for me saying such a thing is that one thing those aerial pictures don't reveal is that those neighborhoods were slums. I'm not talking about your run of the mill "bad neighborhood" we in the 20th century view as a "slum" either. These neighborhoods were basically exactly like those found in the megacities of developing third world nations today.

Thanks to the joyus time known as Jim Crow these neighborhoods lacked running water (and toilets), paved streets, electricity, gas lines, trash removal, and were generally crappy places to live in all regards. Making matters worse, these slums were built often directly next to industrial areas and were the residents suffered all sorts of ill effects from pollution. It was conditions such as these that in fact led to the (often forgotten) Great Atlanta fire of 1917 that destroyed a sizable chunk of the old city.

I can keep going with all the ways these neighborhoods were bad but, as the saying goes, a picture(s) is worth a thousand words:

This is part of the old Vine City neighborhood that stood in your "before" picture above where the Dome is now...sometime in the early 60s!

Slums near Downtown in an neighborhood described as the "Negro Quarter" in 1936!(my guess is it is Sweet Auburn, Vine City, or near the AUC)

Buttermilk Bottom Slum in the Old Fourth Ward (which got it's name from the putrid run off a nearby dairy processing factory. yum!)

Now the question one may ask is how these neighborhoods had fared if urban renewal never came to be? Would they be trendy neighbhoods? My answer would be doubtful. The other side to this coin that I sort of mentioned before is that these slums existed not just because the residents were lower income factory workers but also because, thanks to to Jim Crown, 10s of thousands of the city's Black residents were not allowed to live anywhere else.

While Atlanta escaped the seething battles in the streets during the Civil Rights era of the 50s and 60s, our major battle here revolved around housing equality. As hard as it is to imagine today, Black residents up until the 1950s were essential forced to live in these neighborhoods no matter their economic standing as they were not allowed to purchase homes elsewhere in the city. You can get a bit of an idea of this today if you visit the childhood home of Martin Luther King Jr. While his family was educated and middle class, literally across the alley from their house tenement shanties.

The Black community at all income levels banded together to break out of these squalid areas and demanded public housing for the poor among them, and the ability to purchase homes in other sections of city for those who can afford them. Once the back of Jim Crow was broken after many years of struggle this led to the creation of the Atlanta's massive public housing projects on top of these old slums and the middle and upper class families to bolt for greener pastures in Collier Heights, Lakewood, Cascade Heights, etc.

In other words those neighborhoods would not have survived until today because the residents of them didn't even want to keep them around. Neither did the city as they were blatant reminder of a shameful past.

Don't get me wrong though, this is still a very relevant topic to discuss. I don't think people really understand how different Atlanta is from just 50 years ago in terms of it's built environment and why we find ourselves in the position we do today. Not everything was removed because we knelt at the altar of the automobile (though that is a big reason behind most of it).

As for the Buckhead area, that's an area that immensly interests me as much of the urbanization of the area around Lenox has occurred in just the last 20 years. Had the recession hadn't come along and derailed the plans of developers, there would be standing today another 10 or so high rise condos and offices towers if not more.

Originally Posted by testarossa50 View Post
If anyone wants me to do the same with other neighborhoods, let me know and I'll give it a shot.
Uh, yeah.

Originally Posted by testarossa50 View Post
This is normally something I would have posted on city-data, but that place has become such a hotbed of racism that I decided I had to go. So I'll be posting here from now on, since this forum has a decided more progressive and forward-thinking mindset.
Don't get me started on that place. The seething racism and intellectual vacuousness of the place is enough to make me want to tear what little hair have remaining in my head out.
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