District 14, parts of Land Lot 17, 48, and 49
District 17, parts of Land Lots 54 and 106
Fulton County, City of Atlanta
Existing Zoning: predominantly R5, but includes RG3, RG3C, C1, SA3 and SA4 (mostly within SPI-17, the Piedmont corridor Special Public Interest District and the Ponce de Leon corridor)Boundries
The Civil War and Reconstruction
The Mid-Twentieth Century
The Recent Past
The proposed Midtown Historic District encompasses an historic, mostly residential area located within the larger section of the City of Atlanta known as Midtown. The Midtown Historic District (the District, hereafter), which lies generally east of Juniper Avenue, retains a high degree of integrity, with few modern intrusions. Historic resources survive elsewhere in the larger Midtown area, including landmarks like St. Mark’s Methodist Church, the Biltmore Hotel, and Ivy Hall, as well as a variety of other historic residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. . However, these properties are generally no longer contiguous with the District, the boundaries of which are similar to those used to define listing of Midtown in the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout the District, buildings that have lost historic integrity are identified as not contributing to the historic significance of the Midtown Historic District and, therefore, subject to only minimal controls. The proposed District is bounded generally but not exclusively by Tenth Street and Piedmont Park on the north, the Belt Line commercial corridor on the east, Ponce de Leon Avenue on the south, and Juniper Street/Piedmont Avenue on the west. The District is divided into sub-areas that recognize the diverse nature of Midtown and which correspond generally to existing zoning.Back to top
The Midtown Historic District is an approximately 360-acre, mostly residential neighborhood that developed in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century north of downtown Atlanta. The District is located on the eastern slope of the Peachtree Street ridge, with elevation around 960 feet above sea level along the western side of the District and descending to the northeast to a low of around 885 feet near the intersection of Tenth Street and Monroe Drive. Clear Creek, one of the major tributaries to Peachtree Creek, crosses the northeast side of the District; but, south of Tenth Street, it has run entirely in underground culverts since the 1920s.Streets
Most of Midtown’s streets are laid out on what is essentially a grid plan, but because the area was developed by different people at different times, there are irregularities. West of Argonne, which was developed by Richard Peters beginning in the 1870s, the grid is aligned with Peachtree Street, which runs a few degrees east of due north along the western side of the District. As a result, none of the streets in that part of Midtown are oriented to the points of the compass. In contrast Argonne and Tenth are oriented to surveyed land-lot lines, and most of the streets east of Argonne are oriented to the points of the compass. The difference between the two grids is expressed most clearly in the narrow, very short lots on Penn and Argonne in the blocks south of Eighth Street.
Street widths vary considerably, with north-south streets generally wider than east-west streets. Ponce de Leon Avenue accommodates six lanes of two-way traffic and Monroe four lanes, while Juniper has four lanes and Piedmont three lanes, both streets one-way. Portions of the east-west streets are also one-way, some with only one lane for traffic since most streets allow parking on both sides of the roadway. An exception to the District’s general grid plan is Ponce de Leon Avenue, which was originally a rural road with a route defined mostly by the local topography. The Vedado and Glendale Terrace subdivisions are also exceptions, both of which feature the curvilinear streets that became popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Streets in the District are characterized by a planted strip or “greenway” separating the street from sidewalks that line both sides of the District’s thoroughfares. Charles Allen Drive is unique in also having a landscaped center median, making the street reminiscent of a parkway, which in fact was the street’s earlier name. Sections of this median have been removed at both the north and south ends of the street, and historically the median was mostly grass. The remaining sections today are planted with trees, mostly oak and other deciduous hardwoods.
None of the streets’ original paving materials remain exposed, although brick, cobblestone, and other early materials may survive beneath modern asphalt. Occasionally, remnants of cobblestone pavement can be seen in the alleys running through the center of most blocks. Many sidewalks retain their original paving, with the earliest sidewalks, which were installed along Piedmont Avenue and the west side of Myrtle in 1895, paved in red brick. Sidewalks installed before World War II generally used hexagonal concrete pavers, while those installed after World War II used poured concrete.Platting
Lots are typically rectangular but vary in size, with lots in the earliest subdivisions generally larger than lots in the later subdivisions. In some of the subdivisions on the east side of the District, curvilinear streets created a variety of trapezoidal and triangular lots. Many of the earlier residences in the District lack private driveways, but most could originally be accessed by an alley that ran through the center of most blocks. Servant houses and carriage houses, which are typically associated with the high-style residences in the western part of the District, were often located along these alleys, as were many of the garages that began to spring up all over the District after World War I. Building setback lines were typically determined by the developer of each subdivision until more uniform building codes came into effect after World War I. The small size of some of the lots in the District occasionally forced the building line to the sidewalk.Architecture
The District’s buildings are mostly residential, but there are also a number of significant commercial and institutional buildings. The District’s historic commercial buildings are located mostly around its perimeter and are concentrated around the intersections of Tenth and Piedmont, along Ponce de Leon between Piedmont and Penn and east of Charles Allen Drive, and on Monroe north of Ponce and at Eighth. In addition historic commercial buildings are found on Argonne between Fifth and Sixth Streets and on Fifth at Durant Place.
The majority of the District’s historic structures date from the 1890s to about 1930, when the Great Depression brought new construction to a virtual standstill. A significant number of early post-World War II properties, including the stadium stands at Grady High School (1947), are scattered around the neighborhood and many are now eligible for nomination to the National Register. As a rule, the neighborhood developed from west to east and south to north, with the interior part of the District developed last.
Architectural styles range from the exuberant Queen Anne of the 1890s through the eclectic revival styles of the early twentieth century to the Modern designs of the early post-WWII period. The earliest buildings tend to be more high style and are concentrated on Juniper, Piedmont, Myrtle, Penn, and Ponce de Leon. Houses that were constructed later and are located further away from Peachtree and Ponce de Leon tend to be smaller and more modestly designed.
Most of the buildings within the District are wood-framed and represent the wide variety of architectural styles and house types that were constructed in Georgia and throughout the Southeast from the 1880s into the mid-twentieth century. The Midtown Historic District retains many examples of the main house types built during this period, including American four-squares, duplexes and bungalows. Stylistic influences that can be found on these house types include Queen Anne, Craftsman, Italianate, Classical Revival, Shingle Style, Gothic Revival, Mediterranean Revival, Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Jacobean Revival, Renaissance Revival, and early Modern.
In addition to single-family houses and duplexes, the large collection of apartment buildings that were built in Midtown during and after World War I is a significant feature of the District. The three main types of apartments to be found in Midtown are country house-type apartments, garden-style apartments, and hotel-style apartments. The building at 705 Piedmont Avenue, individually listed in the National Register, and one at 790 Myrtle Street are excellent examples of country house-style apartments, because each is designed to appear as a large, single-family residence. A good example of a garden-style apartment complex is the Massellton Apartments, located on Ponce de Leon Avenue. They were constructed in 1924 by Massell Realty Company, and designed by their in-house architect Emil C. Seiz. The Massellton, also individually listed in the National Register, is an outstanding example of a garden apartment, characteristically low (only three stories) and featuring a courtyard that embraces the landscape. Another excellent example of the garden-style apartment is located at 907 Piedmont Road. An example of a hotel-style apartment building, which is usually a large, rectangular block, is located at 691 Juniper Street, and was once known as the Juniper Terrace Apartments. Other examples include 332, 344, and 356-360 Ponce de Leon and The Tyree on Durant Place, which is also individually listed in the National Register.
Historically, the main commercial areas in Midtown were along Peachtree Street, Tenth Street west of Myrtle, Ponce de Leon Avenue west of Argonne and east of Charles Allen Drive, and along Monroe Drive between about Eighth and Coolidge Avenue. Today, Ponce de Leon Avenue is characterized by a few houses altered to accommodate businesses, several early to mid-twentieth century commercial blocks, and an array of modern gas stations and other commercial structures. In addition, historic commercial buildings are found in at least two other locations within the District. Among the District’s buildings are a number of one- and two-building commercial blocks built in the 1920s and featuring ornate cornices, urns, brackets and other elements reflecting the various styles of the period.
The District has three historic institutional buildings, Grace United Methodist Church on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Henry W. Grady High School on Charles Allen Drive at Tenth Street, and a Primitive Baptist church on Monroe Drive. Located just outside the District are St. Mark’s United Methodist Church and the old Ponce de Leon Methodist-Episcopal Church, long the Abbey Restaurant and now St. Paul Presbyterian Church.
Landscaping in the historic District, much of it dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, is extensive. The streetscape is planted with a wide variety of shrubs, shade trees, and flowering trees including water oaks, dogwoods, crape myrtles, flowering almond, and maples. Planted before the days of air conditioning, the dense canopy of poplars, magnolias and other trees towering over the houses in Midtown cooled homes during the summer heat. Individual lawns are mostly small, grassy plots with towering mature trees and flowering shrubs along the edges. In some hilly sections of the area, yards are set off by brick or stone retaining walls.Back to top
Prior to the Civil War, what is now the Midtown Historic District was a rural landscape, much of it gradually cleared for agriculture, especially along Clear Creek on the eastern side of the District. The main roads were Peachtree Road, which was then a winding country road that had developed when the area was first settled in the early 1820s; Plaster’s Bridge Road, which left Peachtree around today’s Eighth Street and ran in a northeasterly direction, following what is now the route of Piedmont Avenue north of Tenth Street; and an unnamed road that crossed the southeast corner of Land Lot 48 and the south side of Land Lot 17, also running in a northeasterly direction toward Williams Mill Road, now Briarcliff Road. East of Peachtree Road, the land fell away to the valley of Clear Creek, which now runs in culverts near the northeast corner of the District. By 1850, three families - the Walkers, the Medlocks, and the Todds - owned all of the land in today’s Midtown east of Penn Avenue, while west of Penn were several hundred acres owned by Richard Peters.
To the north of what would become Eighth Street, Samuel Walker (1791-1864) established a farm (in Land Lot 54, 17th District) in the 1820s and operated a grist mill on Clear Creek near today’s Park Drive bridge. South of Eighth Street, the 200+ acres (in Land Lot 48, 14th District) were owned by John Williams Medlock (1803-1882). Around 1840, he and his wife Sara moved to what was then Dekalb County and built a house near a spring that still flows behind Grace Methodist Church. Both men were slave owners, Walker with five African-Americans and Medlock with ten in 1860. East of the Medlocks, Land Lot 17 was owned by Richard Todd (1792-1852), brother-in-law to Atlanta’s first pioneer settler Hardy Ivy. After Todd’s death, his son-in-law John L. Armistead (1828-1908) inherited the Todd farm and, having sold right-of-way for construction of a railroad (part of today’s Belt Line) through his property, was responsible for the initial development of Ponce de Leon Springs on the south side of the Todds’ old farm.
To the west of the Medlocks were just over four hundred acres, encompassing Land Lots 49 and 80, 14th District, which by the 1850s were owned by Richard Peters (1810-1889). Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, Peters came to Georgia in 1835 as chief engineer for construction of the Georgia Railroad. An early resident of Marthasville, he was instrumental in having the town’s name changed to Atlanta in 1846 and remained one of the city’s major civic figures throughout his life. Significantly he was also a major investor in the city’s real estate beginning in the 1840s. During the Civil War he ran a successful blockade operation and played a major role in rebuilding the state’s railroads in 1865. In 1871, he and George Adair, another of Atlanta’s early entrepreneurs, built the city’s first street railway system, and he became a great proponent of Henry Grady’s vision of a “New South.” Peters also acquired land in Gordon County where he developed a thriving plantation, experimenting with new crops, livestock breeding and the cultivation of fruit. Unlike the Walkers and the Medlocks, who lived on and farmed their land near Atlanta, Peters bought his land as an investment and with the intent of using the timber to fuel the city’s first steam-powered factory, a flour mill that he built close to downtown in 1856. Peters claimed the mill was the largest “in the Cotton States,” but it ran at a loss and the steam engines were sold to the Confederate government during the Civil War. Peters’ investment in land proved to be highly profitable when land he had purchased at five dollars per acre in the 1840s sold for as much as two thousand dollars an acre in the 1880s.
Back to top
Civil War and Reconstruction
By the time of the Civil War, Atlanta was an important railroad junction at the center of the Confederacy’s main food-producing region. As such, it was a major military target as early as the spring of 1862 when “Andrews’ Raiders” commandeered the locomotive General at Big Shanty, northwest of Atlanta, intending to race it north, destroying rail road track and telegraph lines as they went. The Great Locomotive Chase ensued, ending in the capture of most of the raiders. Eight were brought back to Atlanta and executed, including their leader, James J. Andrews. Today the site of his hanging is commemorated by a historical marker at the southeast corner of Juniper Avenue and Third Street on the southwest side of the District.
In late 1863, as it became clear that Union forces in Tennessee might threaten Atlanta, a ring of timber forts and breastworks was built around the city. Crossing Peachtree near today’s Fox Theater before continuing to the southeast, this first ring of fortifications left what is now Midtown outside the protective ring. As anxiety over the Union Army’s approach increased in the spring of 1864, a second and then a third ring of fortifications were hastily thrown across the slopes between Peachtree Road and Clear Creek. Although the actual battles for control of the city in July 1864 were fought north and east of the Midtown District, the Civil War had a devastating effect on the people and the landscape of the entire area. This point is well illustrated by a letter that Sara Medlock wrote her sister in 1866:
We left home in July ‘64. We left our furniture. We took a few chairs and bedding, the best or the most of our clothes--our cattle we sold to the [Confederate] government except three cows and calves. We have one cow and calf is all the stock except 2 mules. We lost our hogs and horses. We refugeed to Washington County [Georgia], stayed there until November ‘65. The fighting was mostly from Peachtree Road around to Decatur. Our houses burned, our timber cut down on the home lot, our shade trees--pretty well all of our fruit trees. There has been thousands of pounds of lead picked up on our land. People supported their family picking up lead. They got 50 cents a pound before the surrender. The bombshells is plenty, many with the load in them.
John and Sara Medlock rebuilt after the Civil War, but Samuel Walker died in February 1864, and his house on Peachtree near Twelfth was burned during the battles for Atlanta in July. By 1872 the land he owned along Peachtree Road (in Land Lot 106, 17th District) was sold to investors, among whom was the noted jurist and Georgia Supreme Court Justice Logan Bleckley for whom Tenth Street was originally named. Samuel Walker’s son Benjamin F. Walker (1836-1899) inherited most of his father’s land in Land Lot 54, encompassing what is now Piedmont Park, and in 1868 built a stone residence on Plaster’s Bridge Road on the site of today’s Piedmont Driving Club. Around that time also, he married the Medlocks’ daughter Sarah Jemison Medlock (1841-1914) and through that union acquired an interest in the Medlocks’ land in Land Lot 48.
In 1868, construction began on the Atlanta and Charlotte Air-Line Railroad, which left the Georgia Railroad east of Boulevard and ran just northeast of the Midtown District. The railroad’s route stimulated early development of an industrial and commercial district that stretched from DeKalb Avenue to just northeast of the Midtown District. The Air-Line became part of a “Belt Line” of railroads that encircled the city by the end of the nineteenth century and that played a major role in the area’s historic development. Although the railroad line is now abandoned, the currently proposed redevelopment of the Belt Line promises to have an equally large impact on the Midtown neighborhood. Coincidentally, construction of the railroad led to the discovery of Ponce de Leon Springs, which soon became one of the city’s most popular recreational destinations and would remain so in one form or another for nearly a century.Streetcars
While Midtown was not developed as a planned streetcar suburb like Inman Park, the importance of streetcar lines in determining the direction of development cannot be overemphasized. Many of the plat maps for new areas opening up in the Midtown area show the streetcar lines, an indication of their importance, and much of Midtown developed because of its proximity to streetcar lines. Streetcars began operation in Atlanta in 1871 when Richard Peters joined with George Adair to form the Atlanta Street Railroad Company. The first line was built to West End, but in August 1872 a line began operation out Peachtree Street to Pine Street, and by 1874, that line continued to Ponce de Leon Avenue and then east to Ponce de Leon Springs, the site of today’s City Hall East.
By then, the western side of what is now Midtown was beginning to emerge.
In the years immediately following the Civil War, a stretch of old Peachtree Road around today’s Tenth Street was notorious for highway robbery and even murder. Law and order were eventually restored in what was known as “Tight Squeeze,” called that for the difficulty one had in getting through the area unmolested, and by 1872 the area was being advertised as “Blooming Hill.” In October 1872, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “a considerable little town” had developed there, with “several fine dwellings, two groceries stores and another building.” There were also “a Temperance Hall just fitted up…and a Lodge of Knights of Jericho organized.” In addition there was a brick yard manufacturing “the finest brick in the county” and the foundations had been laid for Peachtree Church at the intersection of Peachtree and Plasters Bridge Roads.
As Blooming Hill developed to the north in 1872, Richard Peters, having cut down most of the trees on his land in Land Lot 48, laid out what would become Juniper Avenue, Piedmont Avenue, Myrtle Street, and Penn Avenue south of Fifth Street as well as Third, Fourth, and Fifth Streets east of Penn Avenue, all in the southwest part of the District. Some of these “streets” may have remained little more than lines on a map after a major financial panic in 1873 sent the entire country into a severe economic depression that ruined the real estate market and delayed much further development until the 1880s.
In 1887, in response to the increasing popularity of Ponce de Leon Springs, a second streetcar line, also mule-drawn, reached north out Boulevard to Ponce de Leon with a branch line to Piedmont Park. In 1889, Atlanta’s first electric streetcar line began operation from downtown to Inman Park, and the second electric streetcar line began operating the following year. By 1894 all of the city’s streetcars were electric powered. That second electric streetcar line was known as the Nine Mile Circle because of the distance the line ran from downtown out Highland Avenue to the new streets Virginia Avenue and North Boulevard (now Monroe Drive), and back down Boulevard to downtown. By the early 1890s, streetcars were running on West Peachtree, Peachtree, and Piedmont as far north as Eighth, on Ponce de Leon, as well as along North Boulevard up the east side of the District.
The various streetcar lines provided an impetus for Atlanta to grow steadily northward. The original city limit (the one mile radius from the Zero Milepost) ran between Third and Fourth Streets, but by 1897, the city limits had been moved north to Sixth Street and were expanded again in 1904 to include all of Midtown as well as Piedmont Park.
Back to top
Late Nineteenth-Century Development
The years following Reconstruction brought important changes to the city of Atlanta. By the end of the 1870s the city’s population had grown to 37,409, and brick, stone, and marble had become the building materials of choice. With the addition of the streetcar system in 1871, city waterworks in 1875, and the telephone in 1877, Atlanta was well on its way to recovery following its destruction during the Civil War. The population of the city quadrupled between 1870 and 1900, and accommodating that growth, the streetcar lines allowed areas that were once farmland or woods to quickly grow into residential enclaves. By the 1880s, the economy was recovering, and wealthy Atlantans were establishing suburban estates that occupied entire blocks along Peachtree and West Peachtree Streets, in large part due to the efforts of Richard Peters. Under Henry Grady’s New South gospel, Atlanta prospered in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and that prosperity was displayed in the suburban development of what was becoming known as North Atlanta.The Peters Land Company
By platting large lots that he offered at relatively high prices, Richard Peters consciously aimed at attracting the city’s elite toward the north side of town. The streetcar lines that by 1893 ran the entire length of his property along West Peachtree, Peachtree, and Piedmont (changed from Calhoun in 1892), were a crucial part of his plan and, in spite of competing interests from large landowners like Joel Hurt, Lemuel P. Grant, and George Adair in other parts of the city, he largely succeeded in his aim. Richard Peters’ pioneering development of today’s Midtown began a pattern of wealthy white residents being drawn to the north side of Atlanta that has characterized the city’s growth to the present day.
In 1881, West Peachtree Street was extended from the city limits at Third Street due north to intersect Peachtree Road at today’s Pershing Point. That same year, Peters sold his home downtown and built a mansion (no longer standing) on a ten-acre estate that encompassed an entire block on Peachtree at Fifth. By 1884, he had made over $272,000 through the sale of eighty acres in Land Lot 49, most of it between West Peachtree and Piedmont. In 1883, Richard Peters’ son Edward C. Peters built Ivy Hall at 179 Ponce de Leon Avenue on land given him by his father as a wedding present. The following year Richard Peters paid Hannibal Kimball a thousand dollars an acre for 180 acres in Land Lot 80, but Kimball’s proposed residential development on the land, which was to be called Peters Park, failed to materialize. In 1887 Peters donated four acres and sold five more acres in Land Lot 80 as a campus for the newly-formed Georgia Institute of Technology, an institution that would play its own role in the historic development of today’s Midtown.
Edward Peters inherited his father’s still-substantial real estate empire at the elder Peters’ death in 1889 and the following year organized the Peters Land Company, in part to continue the development of what would form the western side of today’s Midtown. Streets were laid out to meet demand, with houses on Myrtle, Penn, and Argonne developed primarily in the first quarter of the twentieth century. This pattern of development resulted in a group of residences that survive today between Juniper and Argonne that illustrates the evolution of architectural fashion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Around 1890, the Peters Land Company began selling land along Ponce de Leon Avenue, but the only structure on the street in Land Lot 48 that appears in Koch’s 1892 map of the city (see Figure 2) is George Hartman’s “Little Tyrol” between Myrtle and Penn. A German landscape gardener, Hartman had created a similar pleasure garden near Grant Park, and in 1890 he created “a quaint little pleasure resort” featuring bridges, “miniature lakes,” and terraced and landscaped hillsides.
The Peters Land Company remained in operation until 1951, and the Edward Peters house remained in the Peters family until Edward’s grand-daughter Lucille died in 1970. Richard Peters’ ventures in street cars, real estate development, and building in Atlanta established him as one of the city’s major pioneers, and much of the western part of the District still retains the imprint of his work.The Walker Farm
As noted above, Land Lot 106 on the northwest side of the District was part of the land acquired by Samuel Walker in 1834, but after his death in 1864, the family sold most of that land lot to a group of investors. By the end of the nineteenth century, much of that part of the District had been subdivided and developed. As early as 1892, a number of lots were platted in an L-shaped parcel in the southeast corner of Land Lot 106, which forms the northwest corner of the District. The developer was George S. May, born in Ohio in 1855, who with his wife Florence moved to Atlanta in 1881. He was president of the Mantel Company on Mitchell Street and prosperous enough to invest in a large parcel of land in booming North Atlanta. May Street (now Ninth Street), appears on early plat maps, and “Mayville” is depicted on a circa 1892 plat of property between Bleckley (Tenth Street) and Eighth Street. Like the rest of the District east of Piedmont and north of Eighth, this area remained mostly undeveloped until the early twentieth century.
Richard Peters’ success in luring Atlanta’s elite whites to the north side of town gave Benjamin Walker the opportunity to cash in on his father’s old farm in Land Lot 54, although in a way entirely different from Peters. In 1887 Benjamin Walker sold most of his father’s old farm in Land Lot 54 to the newly organized Gentlemen’s Driving Club, now the Piedmont Driving Club. They adapted the old Walker house for a club house and built a race track. An agreement was also reached to use a large portion of the property for the Piedmont Exposition, which was held in the fall of that year. Chosen partly for its location on the Air Line Railroad, which ran along the east side of the property, the site of the exposition was quickly dubbed “Piedmont Park.”The Exposition’s success spurred development in the area, including rerouting Plaster’s Bridge Road south of Tenth Street to connect to an extension of Calhoun Street, all of which was renamed Piedmont Avenue in honor of the exposition. Around the same time what became today’s numbered east-west streets from Fifth Street to Fourteenth Street were laid out between Piedmont and West Peachtree, although often under different names.
Along with Fulton County’s construction of Virginia Avenue and North Boulevard, now Monroe Drive, Bleckley Avenue, now renamed Tenth Street, was opened from Peachtree Street to North Boulevard in 1890. Originally named in honor of Judge Logan Bleckley, Georgia Supreme Court Justice and an early investor in the area around what is now Peachtree and Tenth, the street was part of a never-realized plan for a continuous boulevard ringing downtown.
Around that time, too, Benjamin Walker sold the rest of his father’s old farm in Land Lot 54 south of Tenth Street, but a chain of title for the land has not been established. Who and exactly how that part of the District developed is not clear, although most of the buildings date to the early twentieth century.The Medlock Farm
John Medlock died in 1882, but the old Medlock farm remained mostly undeveloped throughout the nineteenth century. The details of how the property was actually dispersed are not known, but it appears that the family had sold the property in Land Lot 48 south of Ponce de Leon and east of Boulevard before 1890. In 1890, seven acres at the northeast corner of Boulevard and Ponce de Leon, part of the Medlocks’ old farm, were reportedly sold for $20,000 as the demand for real estate north of downtown sent land prices skyrocketing. Around the same time the burials in the Medlock’s old family cemetery on North Boulevard near St. Charles Avenue, were removed to Decatur Cemetery so that land could be developed also.
The part of the Medlock farm that is located east of Monroe Drive was platted by three different developers, two of them during the same period that Piedmont Avenue was opened to development in the last decade of the nineteenth century. St. Charles Avenue was a one-block street developed by Averill & Haskins with money reportedly invested by Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company. Perry Averill, a native of Connecticut who served in the Union Army, came to Atlanta in 1887, and served on the editorial board of The Atlanta Journal for several years before becoming involved in real estate and working for the United States Postal Service. He built his house at 542 St. Charles Avenue in 1892, the largest and finest house on the block.Joseph C. Willingham, one of Averill’s friends, owned the Willingham Lumber Company that supplied the heart pine for the houses on St. Charles, and also built three of the houses on the street for himself and his family. According to an 1894 map of the area, the Willingham family owned several large parcels of land as well as the lumber company that supplied the wood for the houses.
Before the turn of the century there were only nine houses on St. Charles Avenue, but by 1910 the street was filled with large, stylish residences. Architecturally, these late-Victorian houses form an interesting contrast to those built at the same time on Piedmont Avenue, which reflected the rising popularity of the Classical and Colonial Revival styles. Four or five carriage houses still remain on an unpaved alley that runs between St. Charles and Greenwood Avenues.
Greenwood Avenue, one block north of St. Charles, followed much the same pattern of development as St. Charles. It is the only street that crosses Monroe Drive in the District, although the other half of the street lies in Edwin P. Ansley’s early twentieth century development “The Vedado.” In an 1892 notice, J. C. Hendrix & Company, T. C. & W. W. Mayson, and T. A. Shelton & Company offered thirty-three lots for sale at Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue, an area that still contains some large nineteenth-century houses.
Another well-known land owner who played a part in the development of the old Medlock farm was William A. Hemphill, a native Georgian who came to Atlanta in 1867 and in the early 1870s built a large house on an estate that encompassed an entire block of West Peachtree at Third. Hemphill, along with J. H. Anderson, started The Atlanta Constitution in 1868, and he later served as Mayor of Atlanta. Hemphill was a driving force behind much of the city’s post-war progress, and invested widely and wisely, including at least two parcels along Ponce de Leon, one near Monroe Drive and another between Argonne Avenue and Durant Place.
In 1893, another major financial panic sent the nation into an economic depression and ruined Atlanta’s real estate market for most of the rest of that decade. Building construction stalled until the late 1890s, and there were no new subdivisions in Midtown until after the turn of the century.Back to top
Early Twentieth-Century Development
The city’s population grew from 90,000 in 1900 to 155,000 by 1910, when there was also a metropolitan area of over half a million. By 1920, the city’s population topped 200,000, and building activity was at a feverish pace. The 1920s saw the birth of the municipal airport, arguably the most important factor in the economic success of the twentieth century city. The decade also was witness to the rapidly increasing influence of the automobile, which was first seen in the city in 1901. While streetcars would remain a major part of the city’s transportation system until after World War II, the growing number of automobile drivers in the 1920s prompted a rapid increase in the paving of city streets and outlying roads and, freeing the city from total dependence on streetcars, set the stage for the suburban sprawl of the second half of the twentieth century.
With the cachet of North Atlanta so successfully created by Richard Peters, the District had some of the city’s most desirable addresses at the beginning or the twentieth century. Soon, however, the larger, garden-style developments in Ansley Park (1903), Druid Hills (1910), and Haynes Manor (1914) were providing more desirable alternatives since the larger estates desired by the city’s white elite were simply no longer available along Peachtree Street and the adjacent thoroughfares. As a result, most of the houses built in the District during the first two decades of the twentieth century were large but not ostentatious, meant to appeal to the city’s growing business and professional class. The large four-square and colonial-revival houses on Myrtle, Penn, Tenth and elsewhere in the District are typical of the period.
A major part of the building boom in the first quarter of the twentieth century was construction of apartment buildings, then a relatively new type of housing for Atlanta. During this period, the city’s booming economy attracted many corporations to Atlanta and well-designed in-town living space, close to streetcar lines, was needed for the thousands of office workers that these corporations required.
In addition, apartment construction was spurred by the greatest disaster to strike the city since 1864. In May 1917, much of northeast Atlanta went up in flames, including parts of the Midtown District. The fire began on Decatur Street and by the time it was brought under control by dynamiting houses along Ponce de Leon Avenue and North Boulevard, the conflagration had burned along Boulevard and Jackson Streets as far north as Vedado Way and Greenwood Avenue, charring 300 acres, destroying 2,000 homes, and leaving 10,000 people homeless. People camped in Piedmont Park for months after the fire, and there was an immediate demand for apartments, a demand that continued to grow after the end of World War I. Multi-family buildings replaced many of the single-family residences destroyed in the fire, and apartment buildings, many of them designed by the city’s best architects, were constructed in the District and all across the city.
As the previously subdivided portions of the western side of the District along Ponce de Leon and east of Monroe continued to develop, a variety of developers opened new subdivisions between Argonne Avenue and Monroe Drive in the early twentieth century. In this area, no single land owner was able to acquire the amount of land needed to develop a garden-style subdivision capable of attracting wealthier Atlantans. As noted earlier, in the early twentieth century, new construction in the District began to cater to the rising business and professional classes.
With each subdivision laid out separately, and without a unifying grid like the Peters development west of Argonne or the master plan found in Ansley Park and Druid Hills, the middle of the District grew into an area of irregularly laid out streets reminiscent of similar developments that sprang up around Joel Hurt’s Inman Park about the same time. After World War I, as the city continued to grow and recover from the losses in the 1917 fire, additional subdivisions opened up the last of the District to development, although building construction continued intermittently until the District was almost completely built out by the early 1950s.
The first of the twentieth-century subdivisions in the District came in 1903, when the estate of William Hemphill, who had died the previous year, sold a parcel in the southwest corner of Land Lot 48. Located on Ponce de Leon between Argonne and Durant Place, it became the site of some of the most architecturally significant apartment buildings in the District.
In 1906, Edwin P. Ansley, the developer of Ansley Park, laid out The Vedado, which with its curvilinear streets and traffic islands at main intersections was a study in miniature of Ansley Park. The subdivision consisted of approximately fifty lots on Greenwood, Vedado Way, the east side of Charles Allen (originally Parkway Drive), and the west side of Monroe Drive. The Vedado has a combination of large four-squares built around 1910 as well as bungalows that date from the 1920s.
In 1909 S. B. Turman and Company, one of the city’s most active developers in the early twentieth century, platted a subdivision described only as “Bedford Place and Eighth Street.” Bedford Place, which begins at Highland Avenue, was the original name of Argonne Avenue before it was renamed in honor of one of the major battles of World War I. Located at Eighth and Argonne, the subdivision consisted of only two blocks, from Argonne to Durant Place (originally Hunt Street) between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and was typical of the small-scale developments that occurred in this part of Midtown. The lots along Argonne Avenue sold quickly but the rest of the subdivision languished with only two or three lots sold. It was not until around 1950 that Durant Place and Glendale Terrace (originally Lynn Street) were opened between Seventh and Eighth Streets. The development that took place on those streets is also different from most of Midtown, with small houses on Durant Place and garden-style apartments on Glendale Terrace.
Around 1910, the S. B. Turman Company began development of a tract of land that included the north half of the block bounded by Piedmont and Myrtle between Eighth and Tenth as well as several lots on the west side of Piedmont. In addition to the commercial buildings, which will be discussed below, Turman platted about two dozen residential lots, and houses were constructed on most of them before World War I.
Two years later, the last of the District east of Monroe Drive was platted when Seals and Peacock laid out Monroe Circle and Seal Place. The area features bungalows with mostly Craftsman details. Ponce de Leon Court and Lakeview Avenue also feature bungalows. This portion of the District sits on low bluffs overlooking what was once the valley of Clear Creek but, in the 1870s, became the site of a lake that was one of the chief attractions at Ponce de Leon Springs. Around 1907, the lake was filled and wooden grandstands were built around a new baseball field for the Atlanta Crackers, a Southern League franchise that had begun playing at Piedmont Park in 1902. The wooden stands burned in 1923, but were rebuilt in concrete the following year. Spiller Field, as the stadium was called, remained home to the Crackers until 1966, when they played their last game at the then-new Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The site of Spiller Field was redeveloped as a shopping center in the early 1970s, but the project failed and the site was redeveloped again in 1987-1988, this time more successfully, and rechristened Ponce Square.
In January 1925, Glendale Terrace was platted. One of the largest subdivisions in the District, Glendale Terrace is an L-shaped tract that adjoins the Turman tract on two sides and comprises three-fourths of the lots in the blocks bounded by Argonne Avenue, Charles Allen Drive, Sixth and Eighth Streets. According to building permits, J. B. Richardson built many of the houses in this area in the late 1920s. This part of Midtown features primarily bungalows and some Colonial Revival houses. Other building types include two-story duplexes and apartment buildings.
Around the same time that Glendale Terrace was being developed, “Vedadodale,” was also being platted. Located just north of The Vedado subdivision, it featured an extension of Vedado Way and the creation of several dozen lots on Charles Allen, Eighth, Vedado, and Monroe. Single-family houses, apartments, and one of the District’s best-preserved early twentieth-century commercial buildings are found in this subdivision, most of them constructed in the late 1920s.Commercial
By the 1920s, within two blocks of the intersection of Peachtree and Tenth Streets, could be found a post office, a dentist, lawyers, a dance studio, a theater, a Kress's “dime store,” Cooledge Paints, a C&S bank, two garages, two plumbers, two electrical companies, two barbers, two hairdressers, two hardware stores, three bakeries, Franco's delicatessen, no fewer than twelve grocery stores, four drug stores, two fish markets, a meat market and a dairy.There was even the three-story Zahner Building, a professional office building. The commercial row that remains on Tenth Street just east of Piedmont near the District’s northwest corner was the eastern end of the large historic commercial district to the west that has now mostly disappeared.
Ponce de Leon also saw some commercial development in the early twentieth century, especially between Myrtle and Argonne and around Boulevard, but the avenue is more noted for the large, architecturally distinguished apartment buildings that were constructed during and after World War I and the early twentieth century commercial buildings that are found at several locations. As early as the second quarter of the twentieth century, some of the early twentieth century residences along the avenue were adapted for commercial use, often by the use of store-front additions built in what had once been front yards.
Automobile service stations became a fixture along Ponce de Leon in the 1920s and 1930s. The oldest that still exists (built in 1939) is at the corner of Ponce de Leon and Argonne, although it is no longer used as a service station.
A third area of commercial development also emerged around the intersection of Tenth Street, Monroe Drive, and Virginia Avenue, where intersecting streetcar lines, the Belt Line, warehouses, and the nearby streetcar maintenance yard and barns sparked commerce and industry in that area as early as the 1890s.
In addition to those areas, which could draw a clientele from all parts of the city, small commercial nodes also developed primarily to serve neighborhood residents. These were located in the middle of the District, on Argonne Avenue at Sixth Street and on Fifth Street at Durant Place. Like similar commercial buildings around the fringes of the District, these buildings provided space for all sorts of neighborhood services.Churches
Two of the District’s four historic churches are no longer standing, Ponce de Leon Baptist and Second Church of Christ, Scientist. Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, the District’s first church, was built at the northeast corner of Ponce de Leon and Piedmont Avenue across from Ponce de Leon Methodist Church in 1906. By the late 1920s, many of the congregation had moved to the newer subdivisions further north along Peachtree Road, and commercial development along Ponce de Leon had increased as well. In 1929, the church bought land for a new church in Buckhead and sold the old building to the Central Congregational Church. That same year, the old Richard Peters house on Peachtree Street was demolished for construction of a new First Baptist Church, which was abandoning downtown. In 1932 the congregation of the old Ponce de Leon Baptist Church merged with the Second Baptist Church, which was also abandoning downtown, to form Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.
Also no longer in existence is the Second Church of Christ, Scientist. Chartered in 1920, the congregation constructed a building at Juniper Avenue and Fourth Street before 1927, but no description of the building has been located.
Among the buildings burned in 1917 was Grace Methodist-Episcopal Church, which was located on Boulevard at Highland Avenue, and in 1919 the congregation bought a lot at the corner of Parkway and Boulevard where they built the present building in 1922-1923. The east and west transepts were not completed until 1954. Charles Allen Drive was renamed in honor of the church’s popular minister in the 1950s.
The fourth of the District’s historic churches is the Primitive Baptist church, now the Victory Tabernacle United Holy Church, Inc., that was built on Monroe Drive opposite St. Charles Avenue before 1927. Because the denomination generally eschews crosses, steeples, and other such symbols, the plainness of their buildings often leads them to be mistaken for schools.Schools
The elementary school that served the District until the 1960s was the Tenth Street School, torn down in the 1960s but located just outside the District on the north side of Tenth between Juniper and Piedmont. After World War I, as the commercialization of the Peachtree corridor continued northward, some of the old residences along Juniper and elsewhere were adapted for use by a variety of institutions and associations. The Atlanta Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) bought the house at the southwest corner of Juniper and Sixth for their headquarters in 1920. A major fixture in the city during the years when the celebration of Confederate Memorial Day still brought Confederate veterans and their families for ceremonies at Oakland Cemetery, the UDC remained a fixture in Midtown for several decades. This trend of adaptive use of historic residential buildings has continued with the recent conversion of several residences on Juniper north of Fifth Street into restaurants. The Children’s School, a private school on Tenth Street west of Charles Allen, has also adapted a number of former residences located on their campus for use as school buildings.
By the mid-1920s, only the northeast corner and a large tract on the interior of the District had not been platted. Part of the reason was that this area corresponded with the bed and steep banks of a tributary of Clear Creek that then flowed in a northeasterly direction from the Medlocks’ old spring behind Grace Methodist Church to its intersection with Clear Creek just south of Tenth Street. In 1923 Boys’ High School, located downtown, burned and, to replace it, the City of Atlanta built what is now Grady High School the following year. The school’s construction required massive re-engineering to put the confluence of the two streams underground, as had already been done on Clear Creek further upstream to the south. With drainage controlled, it was feasible to proceed with subdividing some of the last undeveloped land in the District.
The new school was renamed for the famous spokesman for the New South in 1947 when Atlanta schools were made co-educational. The high school today is a complex of buildings that comprises the northeast corner of the District. The main building faces Charles Allen Drive at Eighth Street and is about two-thirds as long as the building originally designed by Hentz, Reid and Adler. It is a rectangular, two-story brick building with classrooms on a double-loaded corridor.Back to top
The Mid-Twentieth Century
The Great Depression brought construction to a virtual halt, and not until the late 1930s did the Works Progress Administration (WPA) bring new construction to the neighborhood in the form of an addition to Grady High School. In 1938, the WPA provided funds for the construction of an auditorium and gymnasium for the school, both designed by Hentz Adler and Shutze.
Although the pace of growth in the city dropped dramatically from the rates seen in each decade since the Civil War, the city still added 30,000 people during the 1930s, and the demand for housing was often met by subdividing single-family residences, especially the older, nineteenth-century buildings. There was also a proliferation of boarding houses in response to the severe housing shortages that developed during World War II.
After the war, material shortages amid the transition from a war-time economy delayed most building until the late 1940s and early 1950s. Several apartment buildings were built on some of the last vacant land in the interior of the District as the northern part of the Glendale Terrace subdivision was finally developed. During the post-war period, there was more new construction at Grady High School as well, including the stadium and ROTC building that were built in the late 1940s.
In 1947, Richard L. Aeck of the Atlanta architecture firm Aeck Associates (now Lord Aeck Sargeant) acted as structural engineer for the large, poured-concrete football Stadium seating 10,000 spectators in two sets of concrete bleachers. In addition, locker rooms and restrooms are located below the stands as well as the R.O.T.C. armory and rifle range. The tall, poured-concrete light standards are cantilevered and reportedly fitted with B-29 gun sights for accurate positioning. In 1949, new classrooms and a cafeteria were added, and recently another classroom building was constructed on the south side of the campus.
Also in 1947 the city’s last street cars were replaced by “trackless trolleys,” which ran on overhead wires but had rubber wheels instead of tracks in the streets. By the end of the 1950s, these would give way to gasoline-powered buses, and the morass of overhead wires on Ponce de Leon and Monroe Drive disappeared. On the west side of the District, the commercial redevelopment of Peachtree Street continued in 1949 with construction of Peachtree-Seventh, a 300,000 square foot office building, the first of numerous low- and mid-rise office buildings that replaced old residences on Peachtree Street as far north as Brookwood throughout the 1950s.
In 1949 as well, construction began on the city’s system of “expressways,” later incorporated into the Federal system of interstate highways. One of the first segments constructed was the North Expressway, which was completed through the valley of Tanyard Creek a few blocks west of the District in the early 1950s.
In 1952, the city tripled its land area and added nearly 100,000 to its population by annexation of some 83 square miles, including all of the present city north of Twenty-sixth Street, as well as Cascade on the southwest and Lakewood Heights on the southeast. It would be the city’s last major annexation.Back to top
The Recent Past
Automobiles facilitated suburban development further and further away from the center city during the 1950s, and by the end of that decade there would be a five-county metropolitan population of 1,000,000 people. The city’s own population continued to grow until around 1970, when white flight to the suburbs began to drain both the city’s population and its tax base.
Across the District during the 1950s and 1960s, rooming houses and rental property of all sorts increased as disinvestment by absentee landowners allowed many of the oldest houses in the District to deteriorate. A desire to distinguish the residential neighborhoods north of Ponce de Leon, which were predominantly white, from those to the south of Ponce de Leon, which were predominantly black, led to the decision to change the name of North Boulevard to Monroe Drive and that of Parkway to Charles Allen Drive, the latter in honor of the popular minister of Grace Methodist Church at that time. By the 1960s, many of the houses on Juniper and Piedmont were beginning to disappear, several by fire, and by the late 1970s, entire blocks had been cleared. Elsewhere in the District, scattered demolition and redevelopment, mostly with apartment buildings, continued to occur throughout the period. However, buildings were seldom left vacant and abandoned, as they often were in other intown neighborhoods during that period.
In 1964 Ponce de Leon Ballpark saw its last baseball game and was auctioned the next year. Torn down a few years later, it was redeveloped as a shopping center, which itself was torn down and replaced by Ponce Square in 1987-1988. Also in 1964, the Yaarab Temple’s headquarters burned and the organization built a new Mosque at 400 Ponce de Leon, where two or three houses had been torn down before 1950.
Finally, 1964 saw the opening of Ansley Mall at the intersection of Piedmont Road and Monroe Drive, which sounded the death knell for the historic business district centered on Peachtree and Tenth. As the old traditional businesses closed, the cheap rents attracted a new clientele. Nineteen sixty-seven brought the “summer of love” to the District as the changing business district became “The Strip,” and Midtown became a center of the “counter-culture” of the 1960s and early 1970s. Although Midtown escaped the turmoil of white flight that plagued neighborhoods like West End and Grant Park, the drugs and prostitution that replaced the hippies on “The Strip” brought its own kind of turmoil to the District.
By the 1970s few of the old businesses remained on the western side of the District, although a laundry and a diner on Monroe Drive continued to thrive.
Construction of a first phase of Colony Square in 1969 began a long slow period of revival, and by the early 1970s a movement to revitalize residential Midtown had begun, much as it did in Inman Park. Until this time, the area had no unifying name, although the business district along Peachtree at Tenth was often referred to simply as “Tenth Street.” Briefly called Uptowne, until people realized that Buckhead was already becoming the city’s true uptown area, the area gained the moniker of Midtown and the Midtown Neighborhood Association was formed, one of the first of its kind in the city. Property values stabilized and remained high relative to the Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park and some other areas of the city. Rehabilitation of some of the decaying mansions on Piedmont began in the 1970s and there was increased interest by owners and residents in revitalization of the entire area. In 1980, the Midtown Neighborhood Association developed a land-use policy to help preserve the neighborhood character of the District. As a result, high-density building has been contained west of Piedmont, and high-rise buildings west of Juniper. Scattered demolition of historic buildings has continued throughout the District, especially in recent years as the city’s population has once again begun to grow.People
Since its beginnings over 125 years ago, Midtown has been home to a variety of people important in the history of the city and the state. Only a few are mentioned here.
Italian-born musician Alfredo Barili moved to Atlanta after his marriage in 1877 and in his later years lived in Midtown. He was a brilliant pianist who made his musical debut at the age of eight. Upon his arrival in Atlanta, he worked for the Atlanta Female Institute and Washington Seminary before opening his own music school, the Barili School of Music. From 1909 until his death in 1935, he lived at 167 Myrtle Avenue (now 743 Myrtle) in a two-story home designed by his son, Alfredo Jr. Another home on Myrtle Street was occupied by Julian L. Harris, journalist and son of Joel Chandler Harris, who with his wife won the Pulitzer Prize in 1926 for their expose of Ku Klux Klan activity in Columbus, Georgia. Later the house was occupied by Ralph McGill, famed publisher of The Atlanta Constitution, who himself won a Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for his editorials in support of the African-American struggle for civil rights in the 1940s and 1950s.
Wilbur Kurtz (1882-1967), artist and historian and a native of Illinois, had his home and studio on Penn Avenue from the 1920s until his death. In 1911, he married the daughter of Captain William A. Fuller, the engineer of the General in the Great Locomotive Chase, and they settled in Atlanta where he combined his love of history with his artistic talent and created many fine paintings and sketches of early Atlanta, the state and the South. He worked with the WPA in its restoration of the Cyclorama and, in 1938-1939, spent a year in Hollywood as historian and technical advisor for the filming of Gone With the Wind. In 1952, Kurtz wrote copy for the Georgia Historic Marker Commission and later served as consultant in setting up the Little White House Memorial at Warm Springs, Georgia.
Many residents of Piedmont Avenue were prominent citizens of Atlanta during the early twentieth century. Those whose homes are still standing included James S. Akers, Treasurer of the Georgia Tech Board of Directors (806 Piedmont Avenue); Judge Spencer Atkinson (730 Piedmont Avenue); H. C. Bagley, a well-known insurance salesman (793 Piedmont Avenue); Thomas P. Hinman, (923 Piedmont Avenue), Canadian-born dentist and oral surgeon whose daughter Cara occupied the house until the 1970s; and T. A. Hammond, attorney (785 Piedmont Avenue). One of the best-known residents was Dr. William P. Nicolson, a skilled surgeon who reportedly performed the first appendectomy in the South. Nicolson lived at 821 Piedmont Avenue in one of the earliest (1892) homes built in Midtown. The Nicolson House, now the Shellmont Bed and Breakfast, is individually listed in the National Register.Architects
Many of Atlanta’s best-known architects designed buildings in the District. Architect Gottfried L. Norrman (1846-1909) designed one of the first houses in Midtown, the Edward C. Peters House (Ivy Hall) in 1883. Norrman also designed the Reynolds House at 763 Piedmont and the Dargan/Crosby House next door at 767 Piedmont. Norrman designed a number of other buildings in Atlanta, including houses on Ppiedmont that are no longer standing, before committing suicide in 1909.
Many architects who worked in Midtown, like Walter T. Downing (1865-1918), were well-known locally. In 1894, Downing was awarded the contract to design the administration building for the Atlanta Exposition. Downing also designed several public buildings in Atlanta, including Trinity Methodist Church and Sacred Heart Church. The buildings for which he is best known are the houses he designed for Atlanta’s upper class. Downing was known for his attention to detail and his selection of excellent craftsmen and artists. In Midtown he designed the Nicolson residence at 821 Piedmont Street as well as the De Soto apartment building on Seventh Street between Piedmont Avenue and Juniper Street.
Bruce & Morgan, another well-known Atlanta architectural firm, designed the H. C. Bagley House on the east side of Piedmont Avenue just north of Fifth Street in 1897. This firm, which was a partnership between Alexander Bruce (1835-1927) and Thomas Henry Morgan (1857-1940), specialized in institutional and commercial buildings, and is best known for the first buildings on the Georgia Tech campus as well as several early skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta. Thomas Morgan, the dean of early twentieth century architects in Atlanta, lived on Peachtree Street near Eighth until his death in 1940.
Another important figure who designed many buildings in Midtown was Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967). She came to Atlanta with her family from Macon in 1890. She was an apprentice draftsman from 1906 to 1907 in the office of Padgett and Sons (also well represented in Midtown). Wilburn chose residential design as her specialty. In 1909, she opened her own office in the Peters Building. In 1920, Wilburn was one of only two female architects among the 118 registered architects in the state of Georgia. Wilburn’s work can be divided into two distinct periods, an early period from 1908 to 1920 and a later period from 1920 to 1967. In her early period, Wilburn designed at least eighty single-family houses, photographs of which were included in her first plan book. Her practice coincided with Atlanta’s residential expansion and examples of her work can be found in Inman Park, Ansley Park as well as Midtown. She also designed at least six apartment buildings. Beginning in 1914, Wilburn expanded into the mail-order plan business. Her first of seven plan books was called Southern Homes and Bungalows, and contained seventy-nine buildings. Examples of her houses in Midtown can be seen at 826 Penn and 315 Tenth Street. The Chatham Court apartment building at 690 Piedmont Avenue was also designed by Wilburn. She remained active through the 1950s.
Haralson Bleckley, son of Judge Logan Bleckley, the well-known Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, was an architect and designed “Bleckley Plaza,” a grand concept in the City Beautiful tradition which proposed a never-constructed series of public parks covering the railroad tracks in downtown Atlanta. He also prepared a plan for a proposed Civic Center for Atlanta, where state, county, and municipal buildings would form a great municipal complex. However, only the placement of City Hall followed his plan. Bleckley designed many of Atlanta’s public schools, hotels, churches, and the original Brookhaven Country Club. The Tyree in Midtown is one of the few surviving apartment buildings he designed in Atlanta. The Tyree is individually listed in the National Register.
Benjamin R. Padgett was the principal in the firm Padgett and Sons, Architectural and Construction Firm, which offered design services, but was primarily known as a construction firm. Padgett first appeared in the business listing in the Atlanta City Directory in 1886. He was joined by his sons Ben Padgett Jr. and Hardy Padgett under the partnership Padgett and Sons, Architectural and Construction Firm. They specialized in high-style residential architecture and were known to have built more homes in Atlanta than any other contractor. Midtown examples of their work include 700 Piedmont Avenue and 35 Vedado Way.
The partnership of Hentz, Reid and Adler, which designed Henry W. Grady High School in 1924, and the subsequent firm of Hentz, Adler and Shutze, which designed the Grady High School gymnasium in 1937, was a nationally recognized firm that included some the Atlanta’s most prominent architects. Hentz, Reid & Adler and its successor firm designed public, institutional, religious, and residential buildings throughout the city during the first half of the 19th century.
In addition to Samuel D. Turman, the Columbus-born real estate developer, who as noted earlier played a role in the development of at least two tracts in the northwest side of the District, Fitzhugh Knox was one of the most important developers in the District. Active in Atlanta during the first part of the twentieth century, Knox used various architects for his primarily residential projects, and may have designed some of them himself. The apartment building at 705 Piedmont Avenue, individually listed in the National Register, was developed by Knox. Two houses on the northeast and southeast corners of Fourth Street and Myrtle were also built by him in 1908, probably as spec houses. Knox lived in Midtown, but his home at 893 Piedmont was rebuilt as condominiums in the 1980s, and only the original front porch remains relatively unchanged.Back to top
Sources of Information
Atlanta City Directories, 1880-1950.
Atlanta Historical Society. Period photographs and maps.
Atlanta Homes.Atlanta: Byrd Printing Co., 1901.
Coleman, Kenneth, and Charles Steven Garr, eds. Dictionary of Georgia Biography. 2 vols. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983.
Cooper, Walter G. Official History of Fulton County. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Publishers, 1978 reprint of 1934 edition.
Garrett, Franklin. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of its People and Events. 2 vols. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 edition.
“A Short History of Land Lot 105 and 106 of the Seventeenth District
of Fulton County,” Atlanta Historical Journal, vol. XXVII, #1, Spring 1983.
The First Hundred Years: Piedmont Driving Club 1887-1987. Atlanta: Perry Communications, Inc., 1987.
“Necrology.” Atlanta History Center Library.
Yesterday’s Atlanta. Miami: E.A. Seemann Publishing Co., 1974.
Green, Franklin. The Role of the Yankee in the Old South. Athens: UGA Press,1972.
Klima, Don L. “Breaking Out: Streetcars and Suburban Development, 1872-1900,”The Atlanta Historical Journal vol. XXVI, #2-3, pp. 66-82.
Lyon, Elizabeth. Atlanta Architecture - The Victorian Heritage: 1857-1918. Atlanta Historical Society, 1976.
Mitchell, Eugene. “Queer Place Names in Old Atlanta,” Atlanta Historical Society Bulletin, vol. I, #34, April 1931.
Preston, Howard L. Automobile Age Atlanta: The Making of a Southern Metropolis,1900- 1935. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979.
Shingleton, Royce. “Atlanta Becomes the Capital: The Role of Richard Peters.”Atlanta Historical Journal, vol. XXVIII, #4, Winter 1984-1985.
Atlanta History Center, “Personality Files” for Richard Peters, B. F. Walker, Alfredo
Barili, Charles Allen, and Nellie Peters Black.
Atlanta History Center Photographic Archive.
City of Atlanta Building Permits, on microfilm at Atlanta Historical Society.
Fulton County, Georgia, Superior Court Records, Deeds and Mortgages.
United States Census, Dekalb and Fulton Counties, 1850-1880, 1900-1930.
“Midtown Historic District,” National Register of Historic Places.
Abrams Aerial Survey Corporation. “Aerial Survey of Atlanta, Georgia, 1949, for City
Planning Commission.” Lansing, MI, 1949. Original volume at Georgia State
University or accessed on line at <http://www.library.gsu.edu/maps/aerial
Adair Plat Maps on file at the Atlanta History Center (AHC).
Baylor, H. B. “Map of Fulton County, 1872.” Published in Atlanta in 1909. Original in
Ivan Allen Map Collection, Atlanta-Fulton County Library, Main Library.
Davis, Maj. George B., Leslie J. Perry, and Joseph W. Kirkley. The Official Military
Atlas of the Civil War. New York: Fairfax Press, 1978 reprint of 1891 edition.
Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of the City of Atlanta. 1878.
Koch, Augustus, “Bird’s Eye View of Atlanta, Fulton County, State Capital, Georgia.”
Published by Saunders and Kline, 1892.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps of Atlanta, 1928 updated to 1954. Original
volumes at Georgia State University and Atlanta History Center.
United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. “Atlanta and Vicinity.” 1928 survey.
Original in Pullen Library, Georgia State Universitiy.
Phillip’s 1872 Map of Fulton County documents property ownership throughout the District during that period. Numerous references in Franklin Garrett’s Atlanta and Environs confirm the information contained in the map.
Franklin Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. I (University of Georgia Press, 1954), pp. 661-662.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 220.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 531.
See the Nellie Peters Black “Personality File” in the Atlanta History Center (AHC) archives for an intimate look at the Peters family. She was Richard Peters daughter.
Fletcher M. Green, The Role of the Yankee in the Old South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1972, pp. 114-115.
 Alice Smythe McCabe, editor. Gwinnett County, Georgia, Families, 1818-1968. (Gwinnett Historical Society, Inc., 1988), p. 342.
 Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, Vol.. II. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1954, p.136.
See Benjamin F. Walker “Personality File” at AHC.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. I, p. 881-882.
 Atlanta Historical Society Journal. Vol. 26, No. (19 ), pp. 72, 74.
 Don L. Klima, “Breaking Out: Streetcars and Suburban Development, 1872-1900,” The Atlanta Historical Journal vol. XXVI, #2-3, pp. 66-82.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. 1, p. 746.
 Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. I, p. 886.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 191.
Don L. Klima, “Breaking Out: Streetcars and Suburban Development, 1872-1900,” The Atlanta Historical Journal vol. XXVI, #2-3, p. 70.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, pp. 220-221.
 Garrett’s Necrology, Roll 36, #165. On microfilm at Atlanta History Center.
The First Hundred Years: Piedmont Driving Club 1887-1987. Atlanta: Perry Communications, Inc., 1987, p. 5.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 200.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 50.
 Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, p. 220.
The Atlanta Constitution, October 12, 1904, p. 3. See also The Atlanta Journal, May 21, 1976, p. 2-A.
Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, vol. II, pp. 700-706.
Atlanta City Directories, 1920-1930.
The church is indicated as being Christian Scientist on the 1928 United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. “Atlanta and Vicinity.” map of the city.
 The church is indicated as being Primitive Baptist on the 1928 United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. “Atlanta and Vicinity.” map of the city.
 Alfredo Barili Personal File, at AHC.