Levenson’s Guide – The Artery (Marietta Street and Howell Mill Road)

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What Is It:

A primary point-of-entry to games for many Hawks fans, Marietta Street carries a lengthy, storied past in the morphing of Atlanta into the undisputed capital of America’s New South. Rebounding from decades of disinvestment and neglect, stretches of Marietta Street, and Howell Mill Road to its north, are among the most bustling areas for modern Atlanta cuisine and nightlife.

(Guide forthcoming in parts)



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PART 1 – History:


“Surrender!” News that things weren’t going so well for the graycoats down in Jonesboro, in September of 1864, was slowly seeping its way north to Atlanta, where several railroad lines converged. After months of ongoing battles in the area, with his citizens fleeing alongside evacuating Southern troops, destroyed supplies and ammunition in their wake, Atlanta Mayor James Calhoun realized the jig was up.



He convened some prominent citizens, including one former-slave-turned-local-businessman, and set out on horseback from Peachtree Street northwest, via what was then called Marietta Road. This was a primary passage for travelers between downtown Atlanta and Marietta Square in Cobb County, paralleling railroad tracks that served both passenger-train and, later, military activity. Adding to this roadway’s prominence, the very first White settlement in what would later become known as Atlanta, established as Thrasherville, was established on this street in 1839.

Calhoun’s delegation hoped that quick intervention, peacefully ceding his city to Federal military control, would spare the lives of noncombatant citizens and save further damage to private property. General Sherman had divergent ideas, but his March to the Sea would not commence for a couple months.

The mayor’s posse met a Union reconnaissance group traveling from the Chattahoochee River into town, roughly where Marietta Street meets Northside Drive today. The Atlanta delegation’s formal offer of surrender at that spot marked a pivotal point in the strategic and political turn of the Civil War toward the Union’s favor. When Federal infantries arrived after the formal surrender, they were met along Marietta Road by welcoming pro-Yankee sympathizers, and otherwise apprehensive citizens and shopkeepers.

After Sherman’s March, the siege-scarred towns of Atlanta and Marietta were left to rebuild. The push toward industrialization and the convergence of repaired railroad lines made Atlanta an ideal location for the emergence of the “New South” after Reconstruction.



No one espoused the virtues of the New South better than Henry Grady, whose 1891 statue now sits prominently in the downtown corridor of Marietta Street, just west of Peachtree. As the editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Grady articulated a vision transforming an “Old South” that “rested everything on slavery and agriculture,” to a more urbanized, industrial “New South,” a “perfect democracy” (for his fellow White citizens, at least), “thrilling with the consciousness of growing power and prosperity.”

Atlanta leaders convened their first world’s fair in 1881, off West Marietta Street, to showcase the American South’s postwar progress. The International Cotton Exposition attracted over 350,000 visitors. Many arrived by way of the city’s first mule-drawn trolley route, having traveled up Marietta Street from downtown Atlanta. After the three-month expo, the massive site alongside the Western & Atlantic Railroad was converted into cotton mills. Accompanying the new textile mills were villages constructed nearby to house the local workers, while trolley services would soon be consolidated and electrified at the site.

Grady perceived an unmet demand for better-educated and trained workers to satisfy the emerging needs of industry, allowing the South to catch up with the industrial revolution up North. To that end, he helped espouse the development of a state-run vocational school in Atlanta. The Georgia School of Technology (now known colloquially as “Georgia Tech”) was sited just east of Marietta Street in Midtown and opened for classes in 1888.



A couple years before, at a boarding house on Marietta Street very close to Peachtree, Dr. John Pemberton figured out the formula. At his lab in this house, the wounded Confederate colonel-turned-pharmacist, seeking a healthier and non-addictive alternative to morphine, declared he concocted a tasty syrup infused with caffeine, one he would call “Coca-Cola”.



This non-alcoholic soda version of his “French Wine Coca” was timely, as the city had just passed Prohibition laws in 1886. A beverage featuring this concoction went on sale at a pharmacy soda counter on the Peachtree-Marietta corner, for one costly nickel per glass. The soda counter’s popularity further established Five Points -- the convergence of Marietta, Peachtree, and Decatur Streets, Edgewood Avenue and Whitehall Street (this latter segment later re-named Peachtree, as well, for commercial purposes) -- as the epicenter of Atlanta commerce, and the starting point for many direction queries from tourists and lost souls, for decades to come.



Within a decade of Pemberton’s new product development, under the auspices of patent purchaser Asa Candler, Coca-Cola would be marketed in every state in the Union; within another five years, Coke sales would go international. Concurrent with consumer demand, the Coca-Cola Company would grow exponentially, moving its headquarters periodically around downtown Atlanta and, eventually, across from Georgia Tech and astride Marietta Street in Midtown.

New industries were moving in north of Coca-Cola. De-monopolized southern spinoff Standard Oil of Kentucky (“Kyso”) constructed offices just off Marietta on Means Street in 1896. Furniture, buggy, and candy manufacturers soon followed. The area became known as the Bellwood industrial district.

The neighborhood shared its name with a massive Quarry, west of Marietta Street, that originally hosted a forced-labor camp for Fulton County’s Black prisoners and convicts, and a viaduct linking Marietta Street to Bellwood Avenue (the future “Bankhead Highway”, now renamed after Donald Lee Hollowell, a Civil Rights-era attorney who previously helped de-segregate UGA, among many other achievements).

North of here, CSX and W&A (Norfolk Southern) rail lines interlock, and Marietta Street converges west at Howell Mill Road near the Exposition Cotton Mills. This transportation advantage positioned Atlanta, the “Gate City,” economically as a vital distribution center for the New South, well into the turn of the 20th century.

Howell Mill Road was named in honor of Clark Howell’s original mill, where the road crosses Peachtree Creek in Buckhead. Well before Buckhead was annexed into the city, this area represented the northern-most part of Atlanta, the edge defined by the municipal waterworks and reservoirs bisected by Howell Mill Road.




Beginning in the 1910’s, the Howell Mill area was known for the Miller-Union stockyard (Federal laws required animals, transported by trains, to be de-boarded for feeding and watering every 8 hours) and, later, slaughterhouses like the South’s first large meat-packing plant, the White Provisions Company.

The clash of urbanization with raw industry became most stark here. Commuter trolleys switching tracks in this area often paused to allow herds of horses, mules, pigs, cattle, and the like across city streets from the trains to the stockyard.



After the turn of the 20th century, Atlanta’s electrified trolley service expanded to allow residents affordable travel across the city and region, at off-street speeds occasionally exceeding 60 miles per hour. The most active and expedient was the Atlanta/Marietta interurban trolley line, along this corridor, connecting downtown Atlanta with the Exposition Cotton Mills and Marietta Square in Cobb County.

Eventually serving over a million passengers annually, the trolley line’s ridership doubled even more during the WWII period, with its access to the Bell bomber assembly plant in Marietta. Residential growth near Marietta Street, north of downtown Atlanta, was attributable to the rising interests of blue-collar workers in making convenient commutes. Retail establishments serving these communities followed in short order on this street.

Hints of this burgeoning Marietta Street-Howell Mill corridor’s demise became evident even before the onset of the Great Depression. In a process which continued for decades on end, hulking enterprises known for industrial “production” either closed outright or sold their properties to businesses interested in using their buildings for less labor-intensive “warehouse” storage operations.

Electric trolley services in the late 1940s, then rubber-tired “trackless” trolley services in the early 1960s, shut down once the automobile became advantageous for individual households, and following investment in the interstate freeways and US Route 41 (Northside Drive), the latter crossing Marietta Street just north of Coca-Cola and Georgia Tech, near the Surrender of Atlanta site.



The once-prosperous cotton mills ceased operation in the early 1950s, and residential communities like the mill villages were eventually demolished. In the 1960s, Georgia Tech began snatching up derelict retail properties along the east side of Marietta Street to expand its campus with lightly-used institutional buildings. That encroachment continued in the 1970s, with the clearance of residential properties built for workers at the Atlantic Steel Mill in neighboring Home Park.



In the late 1970s, Coke’s new sky-scraping world headquarters placed its front gates at North Avenue but turned its backside onto Marietta Street, interfacing the latter with blocks of blank walls, gated fences and secured parking entrances. By this point, the corridor had become the preeminent pass-through route for north Atlanta drivers traveling to, and especially from, downtown Atlanta. There was little justification for stops in-between, aside from auto repair shops and salvage yards.



The economic downturn along the northern stretch of Marietta Street juxtaposed, for a short while, a different story downtown. In the shadow of the Henry Grady statue, the city’s banking elite kickstarted Atlanta’s skyscraper boom in the mid-1950s.




Beginning with Fulton National Bank Tower, constructed in 1958 on the site of the picturesque former U.S. Post Office building and City Hall, continuing through the later decades with One Park Tower/Bank of Georgia Building (1961), the First National Bank of Atlanta Building (1966) and Centennial Tower (1975), many of the Southeast’s tallest buildings were being erected within footsteps of Marietta Street, between the Fairlie-Poplar district to its north and the Five Points area to its south.

As freshly merged news outlets, the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution built their newest joint headquarters in this area, next to the longstanding Federal Reserve Bank. Lunchtime on the 16th floor at Ivan Allen’s prestigious Commerce Club at Broad and Marietta, featuring its signature ice cream, was the place-to-be among Atlanta’s networking corporate and civic elite, including prominent Black leaders seeking to influence the city’s growth through the Civil Rights Movement era.

That upward momentum shifted during the 1970s as a Tech-grad architect, the recently departed John Portman, and other developers began redirecting Atlanta’s centers of commerce off Marietta Street and more decidedly onto points north along Peachtree Street, featuring more distinctive, postcard-friendly buildings like the Peachtree Plaza, Marquis, and Hyatt Regency hotels among his monolithic office towers. As Peachtree became Atlanta’s premier address, downtown Marietta Street was becoming the place that time forgot.

Widescale office-space abandonment, in favor of Peachtree Center, Midtown, and the northern suburbs, became the order of the day in the ensuing decades, perhaps peaking in 2010. That year, the AJC moved its newspaper operations to Dunwoody near Perimeter Mall, and The Commerce Club merged in with another longstanding business-social club at Peachtree Center. The Federal Reserve relocated to a new white-marble enclave in Midtown in 2001.




Construction of the new central passenger rail station for Five Points, in 1979, severed access to the once-vibrant Broad Street commercial district crossing at Marietta Street, hastening the southern downtown area’s decay. The desolate (aside from vagrants, pigeons and rodents) pedestrian plaza, which replaced Broad Street at Marietta, became a signature of the increasingly undesirable nature of this part of downtown.



Such squalor, however, was not a deterrent for Tom Cousins (right). The commercial real estate developer acquired the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA and relocated them to Atlanta, on Georgia Tech’s campus, in 1968. Needing a more permanent home for both his Hawks and his future NHL expansion hockey franchise, the Flames, Cousins set out to build an arena complex, and found ample space near the W&A railroad gulch just south of Marietta Street.




The Omni Coliseum’s siting was no accident. It sat across the street from a truss to a barely-used parking deck that Cousins built, initially, as a link to a future 40-story office tower that never came to fruition. To make his Omni, with its distinctive space-frame roof made of new-age weathering steel, more than just another vapid arena, Cousins enclosed an indoor skating rink around commercial space for offices and consulates next door. Within these environs, he also constructed the Omni International hotel, a standout for lodging in the area, and facilitated what was touted as America’s first indoor amusement park.



The amusement park was designed and inspired by Sid and Marty Krofft (the puppeteer/TV producer sibling duo that brought you 70’s Saturday-morning kid-show classics H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl).

Unfortunately, the increasingly seedy nature of the surrounding areas (along Marietta Street, and in nearby Castleberry Hill) became a sticking point for not just Flames and Hawks fans, but would-be Krofft-World visitors. The lack of bang-for-the-buck for amusement park goers, relative to the hot new Six Flags Over Georgia in Cobb County, did not help matters, either. The whiz-bang fantasy land of the Kroffts shuttered within a mere six months of its opening.

Cousins’ palace adjoining the Omni sat largely vacant for much of the next decade. He also sold his interests in the Hawks to local media mogul Ted Turner in 1976, and then the Flames to businessmen who relocated the hockey club to Calgary in 1980. But he did maintain, at the Omni complex for many years, a multi-screen movie theater that constantly ran Turner’s favorite flick, Gone With The Wind.



Turner was on the lookout for ample business space to suit his growing, around-the-clock, cable news outfit, having outsized his operations near Georgia Tech, and Cousins was happy to accommodate. With the sale of this real estate interest to Ted, Cousins’ beleaguered space was reborn, as CNN Center in 1987. Its ground floor became popular as a food-court hangout, especially during lunchtimes and arena-event days.



Foot traffic to the area was also aided by the construction and expansion of America’s first state-owned convention center. The Georgia World Congress Center was situated just north of the Omni complex in 1976, and would grow to become the nation’s largest convention center through the 1990s. The coalescing of these venues as international draws proved ideal for the Atlanta region’s proposals to host the 1996 Olympics, and it shocked many when its bid was granted in 1990. But where would all the sporting events’ visitors congregate during their stay?



With Atlanta Olympic committee executive Billy Payne leading the charge, the city and state hastily set about clearing a large swath of vacant and run-down industrial businesses and shops across Marietta Street from CNN Center. The initial phase of construction for Centennial Olympic Park was completed just in time for the Opening Ceremonies.



The Omni hosted several medal-winning events. But by this time, the leaking, rust-worn façade and roof, coupled with a lack of luxury suites, made it clear that the arena, not even 25 years old, was already obsolete. As the Hawks’ owner, Turner wanted to accommodate both hoops and a new major-league hockey team in a state-of-the-art venue. Down went the Omni in 1997, and up rose Philips Arena, with its signature ‘ATLANTA’ canopy, largely in the Omni’s place by 1999.



Civic leaders wanted the Olympic park to become much more than a footnote to history after the sporting events concluded. Beginning with the opening of the Georgia Aquarium (2005) and continuing with the opening/relocation of museums like the World of Coca-Cola (2007), the Center for Civil and Human Rights (2014), and the College Football Hall of Fame (2014) all within walking distance from the park, the arena/convention center area, and CNN Center, Atlanta fostered a synergy of its highest tourist activities in and around this downtown area. This, with Marietta Street serving as the conduit for millions of annual visitors. A new “Restaurant Row” and additional eateries and hotels would soon follow, effectively expanding the footprint of what Atlantans would come to define as its Downtown.



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Good stuff @lethalweapon3.  Fascinating! I Love history and Architecture.

I think we should have a stickied thread in Homecourt for 'non-Hawks' items, miscellaneous info (excluding politics and religion) that will be of interest to the Hawks community.

Not many of the regulars will see and read this.

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11 minutes ago, macdaddy said:

Great story!  I miss the Omni honestly.   The reno at state farm has made it a lot better than before though.  The original design of Philips sucked.

Sad to me that an extensive network of streetcars was just thrown away.   

My first Omni memory was the 'Trade of Nique for freakin' Danny Manning' so I don't miss that place one bit.

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The waves of investment and disinvestment bear fruit today in a corridor that has patches of activity between downtown Atlanta and West Midtown, or what is today known as the Westside. Marietta/Howell Mill has become the backbone of the emergent Westside, but we should begin by traveling outward from downtown at Five Points.

If you’re looking to discover signs of the distant past, like Jacob’s Pharmacy at Marietta and Peachtree where Coca Cola was first served, you would be hard pressed when walking around Grady’s statue. If you’re even looking for signs of the recent past, it may be hiding in plain sight. A notable example, the 41-story First National Bank skyscraper at this corner was lopped in half and sheathed in white marble. The former bank office was later remodeled, and it stands today as the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.



The present-day influence of GSU around this stretch of Marietta is unmistakable. A couple blocks north of Marietta along Broad Street, away from the soccer-field-topped MARTA Five Points Station, students and teachers flock to fill the now-platformed street at lunchtime. New school buildings in the vicinity reflect the college’s expansion from Marietta Street all the way east to the interstates, helping generate a livelier, weekday-long activity center in the Fairlie-Poplar District.




The signature of this downtown corridor’s modern turnaround is presented by the Glenn Hotel, a Modern Classic office building from the 1920s at Marietta and Spring Street, redeveloped in the mid-2000s. Now under the Autograph Collection of Marriott Hotels, the Glenn is notable not just for its swanky rooms but its Skylounge, a party-friendly patio that offers arguably the most fascinating rooftop view of the northward skyline that Atlanta has to offer.



The hotel sits diagonally across the Marietta/Spring Street intersection from Centennial Tower, home to the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Dream ownership groups. All of this is situated where Thrasherville, the pre-Civil War settlement, once thrived. A marker stands in front of the old Federal Reserve (now State Bar of Georgia) building on Marietta.

The friendliness of the corridor at a pedestrian scale begins one block west of the Glenn, at Centennial Olympic Park Drive (and Dominique Wilkins Way). The park and the Ferris wheel eye, plus the freshly renamed and remodeled State Farm Arena and CNN Center, are all within a couple blocks walking distance from this point. The park recently expanded, in part to provide a greater face along Marietta Street.

The seas of surface parking lots that once served arena and convention center patrons are all but about gone in what is known locally as the Luckie-Marietta District (Luckie Street formerly stretched from Fairlie-Poplar out to Marietta Street, in the days prior to the Park expansion). Just beyond the convention center and the Omni International hotel is the College Football Hall of Fame. Replacing the parking catacombs that once connected the GWCC and the recently imploded Georgia Dome, decks of auto parking floors are now tucked neatly behind the Hall of Fame.



Another multi-tiered car deck prominently faces across from Restaurant Row. The tourist-trappy (but PPV-event-friendly) sports bar STATS Brewpub was among the first to settle in here, on one side of Marietta Street west of Baker Street. Popular pregame and postgame crash-spots that also serve decent helpings of food and beverages include Twin Smokers BBQ, Der Biergarten, and Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, all jointly owned and managed, along with STATS and the parking deck. The beer garden and the sports bar offer patio dining. Waffle House is among the Row’s latest tenants.

Downtown Atlanta went through a drought of new lodging construction in the post-Olympic age, but the 2008 opening of Hilton Garden Inn across from the aquarium, and the 2015 opening of Hyatt House directly on Marietta marked a shift. For folks that enjoy finer dining to accompany their hotel stays, there is Glenn’s Kitchen on the first floor of the Glenn Hotel. the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse adjoining Embassy Suites at Centennial Olympic Park.

Marietta Street makes a decidedly northward bend beyond the Hyatt House at Marietta and Ivan Allen Boulevard. As travelers parallel the street and the adjacent CSX railway that constrains it, they may not feel like they’re in Kansas anymore, but they’re not in downtown much longer, either. With the street wedged between CSX and the Coca-Cola HQ, the transition from downtown to the West Midtown, or Westside area gets quite desolate. With 30-minute frequencies, MARTA Bus Route 26 runs down Marietta and West Marietta Streets, and may be the best means of traveling while on foot between downtown and West Midtown. Bike and scooter rentals aren’t hard to find here at either end.

Signs of life pick back up where Marietta intersects with Means Street and the Regents Drive entrance to Georgia Tech. Upscale student loft housing has become all the rage in the renaissance of the Westside, and new lofts here are displacing old comedy clubs and stripper bars.



For those into the visual arts, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center on Means Street has free exhibitions during the daytime, every day except when they’re closed on Mondays. There are also year-round performing arts events at the Ferst Center for the Arts at Georgia Tech, which is simplest to access from the Regents Drive entryway. Local black-box theatrical productions and independent art galleries are easy to find in the area. Marietta Street’s neighborhood association adopted the nickname, “The ARTery”, placing emphasis the arts-oriented options north of downtown along this corridor.

Reasonably priced full-service food options are in the immediate area as one travels toward, and north of, Northside Drive. The Florida-based barbeque chain 4 Rivers Smokehouse recently renovated an old firehouse here. It shares the corner with one of Atlanta’s favorite breakfast outlets, the cash-only Thumbs Up Diner, and the Atlanta outpost of Charlotte’s famous Amelie’s French Bakery and Cafe (unlike the original, this one is not open 24 hours, so check ahead for opening times).

One place that IS open 24 hours, on weekends, is Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand, which followed up their popular location in East Atlanta with a second stand here on Marietta, just north of Northside Drive. Delia’s is directly across the street from the Surrender of Atlanta historic marker.



When predicting the next neighborhood renaissance, at least in this town, look for the opening of a coffee shop in the middle of seemingly nowhere. That’s what happened when Octane Coffee Bar set up shop at the industrial junction of Marietta, West Marietta, and Howell Mill in 2003.

Quickly becoming Atlanta’s favorite independent shop for drip coffee and espresso, Octane (now run by Birmingham’s similar Revelator Coffee) drew yuppie crowds from Georgia Tech and places well beyond, drawing the eager eyes of many real estate developers. There is virtually no establishment in this area with a lightbulb on, today, that was operating 15-20 years prior, hardly even a decade ago.

Building upon the Tech nexus, right after Octane came numerous student-oriented apartments and loft housing developments. The most expansive, WestMar (a play on “West Marietta”) Student Lofts, replaced the Exposition cotton mill site, and shuttles pupils around the clock to Tech, GSU and the Atlanta University Center. Now teeming with hundreds of university students and young adults, the upgrade to retail and restaurants in the immediate area would be soon to follow.

Whether you’re seeking out Vietnamese food in an Old Saigon setting (Le Fat), late-night Mexican (bartaco), or one of the city’s lauded gourmet burgers (Bocado), you’ll find an option along this brief stretch of Marietta Street, south of Octane.

The scene begins getting more upscale north of the coffee shop, along Howell Mill Road. Student apartment living here is now joined by rentals of the “luxury” variety, with popular eateries at street level. Folks nostalgic, yet hungry and thirsty, can enjoy grade-school-themed decor at the PS 404 gastropub, the only “Public School” chain restaurant on the East Coast, while a 40s-style office setting sets the scene at breakfast hotspot West Egg Café. Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House (named for its original location across from Oakland Cemetery) has one of its establishments a block east of Howell Mill, the seafood restaurant and bar having one of the best upstairs patio views.



Perhaps a last vestige of the past in this corridor is the corner dive bar, Northside Tavern, where cans of PBR and live nightly blues legends have been in great supply since 1972. The tavern sits awash in construction cranes for new residential towers in virtually every direction, particularly in the area now named the Westside Provisions District.

Fast-casual restaurant YEAH! Burger is a go-to place on Howell Mill for the burgers-and-fries set, touting its locally sourced and organic ingredients, while their veggies-and-grain-bowl cousin Upbeet is across the street. Around the corner from Upbeet, in the Westside Ironworks development, is Barcelona Wine Bar, featuring Spanish tapas and Mediterranean specialties.

Named by Eater Magazine as one of “America’s 38 Essential Restaurants” in 2017, Miller Union keeps a hint of this area’s industrial past in its name while serving South Georgia-inspired dishes. Around the corner is arguably the area’s most well-regarded high-end seafood and oyster bar, The Optimist.



If you’ve never tried your hand at duckpin bowling (smaller pins and balls, three rolls per frame), Belgian feather bowling, or Toad in the Hole (I don’t wanna know), you and friends can find some fun at a gaming parlour called The Painted Duck, in the new Atlanta Stockyards development across from Miller Union. Call ahead for availability and look for the speakeasy-like entrance.



You don’t come to the Westside Provisions District looking for quick pre-game bites. Rather, this hotspot below the Water Works is where to go when you’ve got time to spend and money to burn. Around formally for just over a decade, since its earlier days hosting the famed local restaurants Bacchanalia and Star Provisions, Westside Provisions is now the centroid of Atlanta’s playground for the trust-fund young-adult and upwardly-mobile dating sets, and it’s a go-to spot for the well-established, upper-echelon Atlantans who want to feel as though they’re slumming it on occasion.



“If Blade Runner was a Bar”, is all the catchphrase anyone needs to check out the atmosphere, Asian fusion street food and cocktails at Little Trouble (huge neon sign above). 2016’s “VICE Guide to Atlanta” insists, “the people watching at LT can’t be beat,” although that sentiment could fairly extend all around Westside Provisions.

Local favorite Taqueria del Sol has a longstanding Mexican-inspired eatery here, and speaking of which, expect long standing lines of happy patrons awaiting their turns at casual places like this, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Five Daughters Bakery.

Mainstay JCT Kitchen & Bar, the original eatery from local chef-legend Ford Fry’s restaurant empire, offers patio seating overlooking the busy railroad the bisects the District, and an upstairs bar with a picturesque Midtown skyline view, while serving upscale versions of Southern comfort food classics. There’s also Ormsby’s for more of a neighborhood tavern scene with traditional bar games like darts, shuffleboard and billiards. Across the tracks is Fry’s Marcel restaurant, considered a local standout among steakhouses. Ostensibly for recent security reasons, several higher-end restaurants in this area expressly do not accept cash for payment, so be sure to have a credit or debit card handy.

Retail options abound here as well, for high-end home goods, furniture and clothing. Outlets for chains Anthropologie and lululemon are interspersed across the District, on both sides of Howell Mill Road. Local fashion power couple Sid and Ann Mashburn have a haberdashery and boutique, respectively, tailor-made for men and women. There is both valet and surface lot parking for District shops, as well as a busy-all-night free parking deck on the south end of the railroad bridge. Street parking in the area, particularly of the free variety, is becoming vastly harder to come across.





Excuse all the construction! Following decades of post-industrial neglect, the city of Atlanta continues to invest substantially in the Westside, in this “Artery” corridor, on nearby Northside Drive, Huff Road and beyond. By result, places noted here only scratch the surface of what you can find north and south of State Farm Arena’s and the CNN Center’s doorstep, and what you will find in the coming years. Renderings for mixed-use complexes above are either newly open, or planned to complete construction and open, within the next couple years.

With thousands more residents, commuters and intown visitors finding new accommodations here, the “New South” is rising like a fiery phoenix, on Marietta Street, on West Marietta Street and on Howell Mill Road, in ways Mayor Calhoun, Asa Candler, and not even Henry Grady could have fathomed. Heck, as far as Hawk-fan travelers go, this isn’t even Josh Smith’s Marietta Street anymore.



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    • By lethalweapon3

      Address: 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard, Atlanta, GA 30313


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      On the grounds of curbing discrimination in America, Congress began passing “civil rights acts” after the Civil War. The initial one, in 1866, established that emancipated slaves and anyone born in the U.S. regardless of race (excepting American Indians) are citizens of this nation. Fears that such a bill could not be passed through Congress (one with influential Southern members after the war) led to the development of a 14th constitutional amendment, ratified in 1868. Nearly a dozen subsequent “civil rights” acts were passed by Congress, the most recent made law in 1991.

      History: This museum centers its initial focus on the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) led largely by African-Americans from 1954 to 1968. Widows of two prominent civil rights leaders, Joseph Lowery and Ralph David Abernathy, initially conceived the establishment of an Atlanta-based museum that commemorated the role of Atlanta citizens in the areas of both human and civil rights.
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      At that time, Atlanta was still in the afterglow of hosting the 1996 Olympics, and interest in expanding the Centennial Olympic Park area as a tourist and local visitor center was a civic priority. Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus announced his plans for the Georgia Aquarium in 2001, on land donated across from the park donated by The Coca-Cola Company, whose headquarters looms over the property from nearby. Coke wanted a more modern “World of Coca-Cola” museum than the one that sat beside Underground Atlanta. The company re-designated their bulldozed and purchased land as “Pemberton Place”, named after the founder of Coca-Cola, to host a collection of visitor sites.
      There was considerable push to establish a civil and human rights center on or near the Auburn Avenue site of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, located east of downtown and near the Carter Center. But the likelihood of greater foot traffic from the park, aquarium, hotels and arena/stadium sites was the prevailing consideration. Delta Air Lines and Falcons owner Arthur Blank contributed millions in fundraising, backed by local tax allocation district funds, to help the National Center’s foundation build the museum at Pemberton Place.
      Groundbreaking was delayed, and the design downscaled, during the Great Recession as fundraising slowed. But the National Center finally opened to the public in June 2014.


      Inside the 43,000-square-foot space, particularly amid the CRM gallery, you can’t help but sense a theatrical performance is about to break out. That’s largely because the curator and the lead creative officer guided stage direction and set design for numerous prominent Broadway productions. The exhibitions seek to engage attendees with a blend of historical photography and footage, graphics, 3-D displays, audiovisuals, and interactives that help establish a fuller sense of place and time, and a stronger connection with the movements’ diverse participants.

      Once you’re ushered into the CRM exhibition, “Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement,” you’re presented with two vibrant walls of life in the 1950s South… segregated by race. Much of the presentations feature Atlanta after nearly a century of rising from the ashes, building solid industrial economies along dual tracks of “White” and “Colored.” While there was considerable effort to keep things as separate as possible, backed by “Jim Crow” laws of the day, it becomes clear from the exhibits that things were decidedly unequal.
      The extent of the resistance brought on by the U.S. Supreme Court’s pivotal 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to strike down state-sponsored segregation is powerful and unnerving. The emergence of civic and political leaders pushing for integration runs smack into powerful alliances insistent on maintaining a sense (for them) of “order”.
      Matters weren’t purely Black-and-White (Christian) at the time. The exhibit includes the 1958 bombing of The Temple in Midtown Atlanta, ostensibly an attempt by supremacists to intimidate Jewish citizens from using the synagogue as a center for civil rights advocacy. An echo of this bombing would come to Atlanta about four decades later.
      The roles of White central-city political and business leaders like Mayors William Hartsfield, Ivan Allen, Jr. and newspaper editor Ralph McGill are brought forward as icons of the Atlanta elite’s boosterism mentality to present itself exceptionally as “The City Too Busy to Hate,” foremost for the sake of the local economy. It’s probable that an international airport isn’t sited here, and pro sports teams from places like St. Louis and Milwaukee don’t look to relocate here, without the stances by Atlanta boosters to dampen resistance to the CRM.
      While I won’t give away too much here, the star feature in the exhibit is the interactive “lunch counter sit-in,” modeled after the prominent demonstrations begun in the North in the late 1930s, and applied to places like Greensboro and Nashville during the rise in student participation in the CRM. At the risk of being reductive, for the uninitiated, this “hands-on” interactive shares commonality with the Beverly soda tasting experience at the World of Coke next door. It’s brief and highly discomforting, yet you’ll find yourself hoping friends will share the experience (hopefully, not relive it) during their visits.
      Other strong takeaways include the stories of the Freedom Riders, where you gain a good sense of the magnitude of men and women of many backgrounds contributing to the cause of desegregation in public accommodations like bus terminals, and the heavy tolls inflicted upon them by fellow citizens and law enforcement agencies alike. The exhibits exquisitely detail the covert and overt threats to life, liberty and property during the time, from the church bombing in Birmingham to the assassination and funeral of Atlanta native MLK.
      Along the way you learn of the lives of so many prominent leaders pushing the cause of civil rights, forging new alliances, and ensuring their issues remained front-and-center for debate in city halls, state houses and the White House.
      The CRM exhibits lead museum-goers upwards to “Spark of Conviction: the Global Human Rights Movement”, a transition from the drab and dour scenes of CRM martyrdom toward the light and brighter promises of modernity. The starkness of the shift tends to give the impression that, while deep struggles for rights here and abroad remain, we have come a long way in many respects.
      If you’ve been to more than your share of “national/international” civil rights museums in Memphis, Greensboro, and Birmingham, among other places, it is this permanent human rights exhibit that distinguishes The Center, invoking the museum’s relevance to this Olympic metropolis of global commerce.  The curator for this exhibit worked extensively with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the affiliated Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
      The exhibit seeks to remind attendees that there are human rights being fought for along many lines around the globe, whether it pertains to suffrage and women’s rights, to those for individuals with disabilities, religious minorities, LGBT citizens, children, immigrants, and industrial workers. Audiovisual displays detailing these concerns are presented together in a hall that shines daylight through a global window-map. The resistance to human rights advancement is well-displayed by a “rogues gallery” of murderous dictators and other committers of government-enforced human atrocities from many continents.
      One simple yet effective set of displays challenge users to consider their “ethical footprint,” specifically the products we consume (from flowers to chocolate to sneakers, and so on) whose economies often rest on the suppression of others’ rights.
      I disagree with the notion, presented by then-New York Times arts critic Edward Rothstein, that the inclusion of exhibits centering on human rights “diminishes,” somehow, the significance of the civil rights movement. Rather, Gandhian principles and the efforts to advance women’s and workers’ rights not only helped inform the concepts and practices of the CRM. Together, with the lessons learned from the CRM, they helped form a basis by which sociopolitical gains are being made today. These views are reinforced by the Human Rights exhibit.
      People that come interested in purely a portrayal of civil rights struggles in the American South may find this exhibit off-putting. Yet millions of dollars spent on another museum that starts and ends with the CRM would have been a sadly shortsighted endeavor.
      I do concur with Rothstein that the Global Human Rights exhibit can come across as “arbitrary”: how to properly convey the issues of rights for different classes of people, extensively enough for everyone’s satisfaction, but concisely so visitors don’t tune out? That issue, and the struggle to mesh it with the CRM exhibit, is in part ascribable to the downscaling of the museum design, cut roughly in half due to the Recession.
      It is a “National” Center, and while the international aspects are important, I felt that more focus in this exhibit could be directed toward Americans who have fought for specific human rights causes, both here and abroad, and the instances in which our government and the U.N. use non-violent means to achieve positive ends. In this exhibition, some of the large-table interactives during my visit were either not functioning (unfortunate, for such a new museum) or too vague in their intent to spark interest.
      I concluded my trip by visiting “Voice of the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection.” The central City of Atlanta figure to promote the museum’s development, Mayor Franklin also managed to form a coalition that acquired and preserved many of Dr. King’s papers and letters after his estate elected to sell them via auction. It’s a “rotating exhibit” of MLK artifacts, encouraging visitors to return periodically. In this quiet hall, you’ll find a photographed mural of one of his bookshelves, with items as King left them at the time of his assassination.
      There is ample space for meetings and group events here, as our Atlanta Hawks can attest. Led by the team’s still-fairly-new chief diversity and inclusion officer, Nzinga Shaw, the Hawks are convening a series at the Center called “MOSAIC: Model of Shaping Atlanta through Interactive Conversations.” MOSAIC initiated last month with a panel discussion on Race and Gender in Sports, which incidentally allowed for local activists still sounding off about You Know What to be engaged in frank discussions about the state of the Hawks organization. Board member Grant Hill and his mother, Janet, were among the panelists.
      Hawks big man Mike Muscala, guard Kyle Korver, and former Hawks Justin Holiday and Elton Brand have guided kids through the museum on several occasions.
      You may have heard me mention before that, in July 1996, I was rocking-and-rolling late one evening at the celebratory round-the-clock Centennial Olympic Park concerts. But for a quirk of fate, I had planned to be in the park at the same time one night later -- the night of the park bombing. I stood within feet of the eventual site of the blast just over 24 hours before.
      Through this and subsequent bombing attacks, the perpetrator sought to use violence and mayhem to further his and his colleagues’ objectives, specifically to suppress the rights of women, LGBT citizens and racial minorities through fear and intimidation, and to seize back an increasingly less-complicit government along the way. Standing just a stone’s throw away from the site of the blast 20 years later, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a testament to the fact that his ultimate aims were left to the untidy dustbin of American history.

      Tix are currently $15 a pop for adults, with small discounts available for seniors, students, and educators with photo ID. It’s $10 for kids aged 4-through-12, and free for yung’uns aged 3-and-below. The Center asks that you set aside 75 minutes to take in the museum in its entirety. I’d suggest saving time (roughly 15 minutes) for the Morehouse-MLK collection at the end of the tour. The first-floor gift shop is pretty standard stuff, from koozies and tees to books and portraits. The museum is Closed on Mondays. During the rest of the week, it’s open until 5:00 PM but closes its admissions at 4:00 PM. It’s very possible to swing an afternoon trip and enjoy a post-tour respite prior to an 8:00 PM Hawks game. But call ahead if you’re coordinating a large group. There is a stunningly beautiful fountain, featuring inspiring quotes from Nelson Mandela and Margaret Mead, on the plaza facing Ivan Allen Boulevard near Centennial Olympic Park Drive. With angles of downtown in the background, this plaza is great for picture taking. It is NOT, however, the entrance... That entrance is up a winding set of concrete stairs to the shared Pemberton Place plaza, which should be your starting point across from the Park at Baker Street. Accessibility is more than adequate once you’re inside the museum. But if stairs give you or your fellow patrons trouble, ask a staffer for assistance in accessing the fountain plaza, as the doors back to the museum are locked to the outside. You’ll be encouraged to bring children with you on future visits to The Center. As with any museum with displays of human atrocities and discussions of uncomfortable content, you may prefer to pre-screen your visit if you’ve got kids with you (pre-teens, specifically). The Center maintains an “Across Generations” family guide available for free in PDF format online. The guide includes some discussion items for the family to share during and after their visit. A trip to see all the Pemberton Place attractions (Georgia Aquarium, The Center, World of Coke) all in one afternoon would, frankly, wear me out, especially with kids or larger groups in tow. Take in maybe one or two of them in a day, preferably after lunch. The aquarium + civil&human rights visits feel like it would be a bit much if taken together, but either of the two with World of Coke would work fine. Another option, as a more lighthearted balance, would be the College Football Hall of Fame, a couple blocks around the corner on Marietta Street. An even quicker option is the Studio Tour at CNN Center, on the opposite end of Centennial Olympic Park. If you plan on seeing at least three attractions in one weekend trip, look into the Atlanta CityPASS. You get combined admission for up to five attractions while saving at least 40 percent on current fees. For grub, there’s a café in the Pemberton Place plaza that I didn’t bother to visit as it looked kinda touristy. There are a variety of restaurants around the park (kids always dig Johnny Rocket’s), and along Marietta Street. Mellow Mushroom Pizza is a couple blocks east (toward downtown) along Ivan Allen Boulevard.

      From Philips Arena: Walk north along Centennial Olympic Park Drive, or through the park, to the plaza entrance across Baker Street for the Aquarium and World of Coke (don’t bother asking around about directions to Pemberton Place, as nobody knows the area by that name.) The Center is located directly behind the World of Coke. If you’re driving, take Marietta Street north to Ivan Allen Boulevard and swing a right. Past the first light, there’s a shared Pemberton Place parking deck for these three attractions situated adjacent to the aquarium, although the parking decks along Marietta Street tend to be cheaper.
      From MARTA: From the North/South (Red and Gold) Lines, Civic Center MARTA station is the best means of accessing the museums. Walk toward downtown from the station and turn at the first right down Ivan Allen Boulevard. Including a crossing over the Interstates, there’s three city blocks until you get down to the corner at Centennial Olympic Park Drive. Cross that street, then walk around the World of Coke to reach the common Pemberton Plaza entrance.
      From Peachtree Street: Unless you have the lungs of a hyper teenager, do NOT use the hilly Baker Street to access the museums from Peachtree. Instead, the Atlanta Streetcar loop from Peachtree Center MARTA Station takes you across the street from Centennial Olympic Park, where you can continue by walking on flat land to the museums on the right. The one-way streetcar loop continues from there to the Edgewood and Sweet Auburn sites (like the MLK historic site, a perfect pairing for an all-day civil rights tour). So to save some time returning to Peachtree, walk up John Portman Boulevard (where the Streetcar stop is). Between the museum entrance and Peachtree, it’s just over a ten-minute walk in either direction, with John Portman Boulevard being much more scenic than Ivan Allen Boulevard.

    • By lethalweapon3
      Location: One-half-mile south of “the Gulch”, via Centennial Olympic Park Drive
      What Is It: A pedestrian-friendly (but only once you get there) urban neighborhood with restaurants and shops, best known as Atlanta’s historic visual arts district.


      (illustration by Zohar Lazar, in Atlanta Magazine)
      History: Drunks! Whores! Rowdies! Cockfighters! Such was the prevailing scene around downtown Atlanta… in the 1840s.
      Atlanta’s first person to run for Mayor, Moral Party leader and industrialist Jonathan Norcross, vowed to return law and order to the streets by publicly shaming the miscreants, and the red-light-district establishments that held them, right out of the city central.

      Elected on his second try in 1850, Norcross also became essentially Atlanta’s police chief, and he organized raids of Atlanta’s “shanty town” establishments. Many of the rowdies shifted their activities from Five Points to a more hospitable locale a mile southwest of downtown, a community called “Snake Nation” that the press deemed “devoted almost entirely to the criminal and immoral element”.While times were slithery in and around Snake Nation (at least, until Norcross’ raiders burned down that settlement, too), the area also laid adjacent to the budding railroad lines Norcross advocated, particularly the Macon and Western Railroad flanked by Peters and Whitehall Streets. Soon after the ruffians came the factory builders. By the time the Civil War was underway, Castleberry Hill was teeming with factories producing terra cotta and building materials, along with cotton warehousers, butchers, blacksmiths, meat packers, and grocers.

      One of the grocer outfits was run by the Castleberrys, the family the Snake Nation neighborhood was wisely renamed after. Daniel Castleberry was an early settler who owned land along Walker Street. M.T. Castleberry was a former Confederate Army soldier, shot in the face at Antietam, who wanted nothing to do with “issues of the past,” but instead immersed himself in the revival of Atlanta (during Reconstruction) and the industrializing New South.M.T. and Zach Castleberry were prominent businessmen in the furniture-making and terra cotta production fields in the late 19th century. By this time, a mule-drawn trolley was transporting workers and citizens across the Peters Street Bridge between Downtown, this community, and West End.

      Fast forward over a century later, and deindustrialization began in earnest the process of factory closures. The ghost-town factory settings were ideal for filmmakers searching for dystopian backdrops, as well as the arrival of adventurous urban dwellers, most notably local artists on the hunt for cheap intown loft living.

      Today: Communal interest in economically stabilizing the community around its many art galleries and studios (and many artists that live there) led to the establishment of the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll. Held on the second Friday of every month from 7 to 10 PM, the Art Stroll not only adds vibrancy to the area between Downtown and West End, but helped establish Castleberry Hill (according to USA Today last year) as one of America’s Top 10 city arts districts. Food trucks and bands liven up the street scene between Art Stroll venues.
      The neighborhood maintains its 20th-century warehouse aesthetic, but the streets (particularly Walker Street, the main artery south of Philips Arena, and Peters Street) are walkable and well-lit. And more modern-looking loft developments (with first-floor shops) have since joined the party.


      Grub: Among the busiest eateries in Castleberry Hill is No Mas! Cantina, featuring well-portioned Mexican dishes in a spacious setting loaded with Mexican art décor (some of it, naturally, for sale). A wide range of Mexican brews, margaritas and tequila options will help wash the food down. The space is flexible enough to accommodate parties of all sizes (call ahead with reservations if you’ve got more than five with you). In my experience, wait service can be spotty at lunchtime, so don’t hesitate to grab a nearby server if yours has disappeared for a minute. They’re also a clever option for Mexican-oriented breakfast and brunch.


      The signature hole-in-the-wall neighborhood pub, Elliott Street Deli and Pub, is just as good for its Boar’s Head-centric deli sandwiches as it is for its pub fare. Elliot Street hosts Karaoke in the hours after the monthly Art Stroll. “The 51” is its event stage, and is almost always rocking on mid-week nights. True to the neighborhood’s industrial edge, Atlanta Metal Arts stages an occasional Iron Pour (yes, exactly what it sounds like) and concert outdoors in a neighboring lot, so ask ahead if that intrigues you.
      If sushi is your thing you should try Bottle Rocket, in a much more swanky setting (the burgers and “crab sammiches” are underrated here as well). I’m useless in the sushi department (eel sauce? I’ll pass), but I am told the ones with tempura shrimp in them are yummy.
      About a dozen years ago, the historic Paschal’s Restaurant moved from Clark Atlanta University to newer, airy digs at the Loft at Castleberry Hill, facing Northside Drive. Reportedly, MLK used to enjoy the soup at the former AUC spot. Many eateries in Atlanta have recently fallen in love with special “fried chicken nights” for the foodie crowd, but few offerings compare to Paschal’s “Famous 1947” entree. Menu items are a tad pricey, but you won’t complain about being hungry when you leave.
      Very much not a hole-in-the-wall is Smoke Ring. Rightfully, you’d give pause whenever a woodsy barbecue joint has an Executive Chef. But their “low-and-slow” smoked meats and a plethora of sides and snacks happily take the edge off of their upscale veneer. Last week they catered and co-hosted a season-premiere party for The Walking Dead (a Bob-E-Que. Get It? Okay, never mind!) with Atlanta Movie Tours.

      Arts ‘n Stuff: It would be unfair to try mentioning all of the galleries in Castleberry Hill. But many of them (I’ll call out Besharat Gallery and Marcia Wood Gallery, in particular) have taken up modest 19th- and early 20th-century spaces and created stunning interiors to showcase their exhibits. Many are participating in this month’s Atlanta Celebrates Photography annual festival.
      Castleberry Hill serves as an apt focal point for TV and film production in the metro area. The previously-noted Atlanta Movie Tours has a gift shop and runs tours of just about everywhere filmmakers and TV show producers call for “Action!” in the ATL, from The Walking Dead to Driving Miss Daisy to The Hunger Games. This month, obviously, is big for their Big Zombie Tours. Call well in advance to book a tour. If you’re in need of a cool zombie shirt or some Gone with the Wind knick-knacks for your Aunt Petunia, this is the place for you.
      Whether you dress like Travis Scott or Mike Scott, you’ll find the hip (fly? dope?) apparel and sneaks you need at Fly Kix ATL boutique on Peters Street. If Mitchell & Ness items, Billionaire Boys Club tees, or swaggy New Balance sneakers (did I just type that) are your cup of tea, or you need to up your Sock Game, it’s worth popping in to see what they’ve got in store (they’ve got Hawks/NBA fitteds and related stuff there, too).



      Going south from the arena, Centennial Olympic Park Drive (briefly, “Dominique Wilkins Way,” in front of Philips) becomes Walker Street, which threads through the center of Castleberry Hill. The Gulch, of course, is VERY desolate at night, and even more daunting these days with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium construction going on beside the Georgia Dome. So I’d discourage foot traffic from the Centennial Olympic Park area UNLESS it’s mid-day, there’s good weather, and you’ve good energy to burn and time to kill (all of the above must apply). With your own ride, a rental car, or Uber/taxi, it’s a quick dash to the area where C.O.P. Drive (due to nearby construction, a two-way street, at least for now) becomes Walker Street. Curb parking is minimal, but there are lots behind/near many of the restaurants and galleries. Park at the lofts only while you’re visiting retail there. MARTA rail doesn’t serve Castleberry Hill, but it’s roughly a ten-minute walk south from the Dome/Arena/GWCC Station next to Philips (see my advisory above about walking). Add another five minutes one-way if you’re walking from Centennial Olympic Park or the Streetcar stop on C.O.P. Drive. Bus Route 13 takes riders to the southern edge of Castleberry Hill from Five Points Station – get off at Peters and Haynes Streets, then walk a short couple blocks to Walker Street. Ideal times to visit? Lunchtime, or during idle afternoon hours leading up to Hawks games, or after weekend/holiday Hawks matinees. Most galleries are open during the afternoon and early evening hours, but call ahead or check websites for specifics. More of the bar action is in the evenings, so plan ahead with your transportation. The times NOT to go? Those eight times a year (hopefully a couple more!) when the Falcons are playing at home. Tailgaters abound, and parking just to hang out in the neighborhood is a bear during those times.
      Upcoming Art Stroll Dates: November 13, December 11, January 8, February 12, March 11, April 8, May 13, June 10.

    • By lethalweapon3
      Note: I’m of the opinion that there needs to be something akin to a “Fodor’s travel guide” for Hawks fans needing stuff to do besides merely getting to the arena and going home. To that end, here’s an initial installment of venues and sites within a short walk, ride, or drive of Philips Arena that some may find worth checking out, under the banner of “Levenson’s Guide”.

      Address: 152 Luckie Street, Atlanta, GA 30303
      What is it: Former church, converted into downtown Atlanta’s most popular mid-range concert venue.
      History: Situated on land now occupied by Centennial Olympic Park, Third Baptist Church was bursting at the seams not long after Rev. Len Broughton arrived in Atlanta to pastor at the turn of the 20th century. Several on-site expansions proved futile in meeting demand.
      The North Carolinian fundamentalist minister was vocal on political issues of the day, a tireless advocate for temperance and teetotaling prior to the national Prohibition era. Broughton embarked on a quest to construct a tabernacle closer to the city center and large enough to accommodate all comers.  He worked with noted Chattanooga architect R.H. Hunt to design the building at Luckie and Harris Streets.

      Broughton’s new church opened in 1911, with an auditorium seating 4,000 and Sunday school facilities downstairs for 3,000. The largest Bible Conferences in the South were hosted here, at the new Tabernacle Baptist Church. Churches were at the forefront as cities warmed to caring for the ill outside of their own homes, and one of the services hosted by this church was an infirmary, the predecessor to Georgia Baptist Hospital (now Atlanta Medical Center).

      Broughton didn’t stay at his new church for long, accepting an offer to come to London’s Christ Church. But he returned to America after The Great War took its toll on England and personal health problems mounted. He last led Tabernacle Baptist from 1929 to 1931 and died in Tennessee in 1936. The Tabernacle he left behind continued to prosper for decades.
      With the onset of suburbanization and desegregation, many Atlanta intown places of worship relocated further out to accommodate their longer-commuting congregations. But Tabernacle Baptist held firm. Church membership declined from a peak of 3,000 in the 1950s to 500 in the 1980s. By 1991, its pastor resorted to fasting in a last-ditch attempt to draw sympathetic donations to keep the place open. The 100-member church decided to put the building up for sale later that year, but it would take years to find buyers.
      The 1994 sale went to investors seeking to use the building as an entertainment site during the Olympics, given its proximity to the Olympic Park being constructed just across Techwood Avenue.
      Those plans seemed to finally come to fruition when the place became the host of The House of Blues just in time for the Games. The Blues Brothers were the first act that summer of 1996, followed by James Brown, Johnny Cash, Al Green, Bob Dylan, and other notable acts. Unfortunately, the House of Blues franchise owner had no plans to continue their run in Atlanta beyond that Olympic summer.
      A California developer then invested heavily in what he believed would be “the premier venue in the Southeast.” The Tabernacle became the host for a breakthrough gospel play by a struggling local stage director named Tyler Perry. Its lower floor was rented out to host The Cotton Club, run by local promoters best known for creating Music Midtown.
      Finding the travel distance between Atlanta and home to be too great, the California investor sold his interest in the Tabernacle property to the entertainment group now known as Live Nation in 1999.

      Today: Now managed around-the-clock by Live Nation, the Tabernacle has become downtown Atlanta’s go-to site for SRO music concerts and comedy stands, lauded in Rolling Stone and other magazines as one of the nation’s top concert venues. The palatial design of the former church has proven to offer impressive acoustics and superb sight lines for concertgoers thrilled to see their favorite acts in more intimate and historic settings than run-of-the-mill arena stages. Frequent concertgoers declare that there’s hardly a bad seat in the house, particularly in the tiered balconies above the floor.
      The Tabernacle continues to survive even after the 2008 Tornado that ravaged downtown, ushering in extensive repairs to the roof, windows, wiring, and pipes. A packed concert for the aptly named “Panic! At the Disco” in February of this year had to be evacuated due to fears the stage floor was cracking (the place was promptly inspected, and it’s fine). As one Yelp commenter amusingly noted: “Part of the fun is worrying if the whole place is going to fall in. I kid – but you feel every bass bump and every footfall up in the balcony. GREAT Acoustics.”

      Tabernacle events are NOT for kids. Despite the non-smoking signs posted around the venue, it’s safe to say the smoking rules are liberally enforced once performances begin… and I’m not just talking tobacco. Still, for visiting adult Hawks fans, the Tabernacle can be suitable for postgame fun on matinee days, or as someplace fun for the out-of-town grown folks to go during two-night stays. It’s a far cry from what Len Broughton envisioned for the place, but one century later, there’s plenty of good-natured shouting at the Tabernacle.
      * Purchase tickets to events online (www.tabernacleatl.com) or at a Ticketmaster outlet if possible. The Tabernacle box office is usually open just a couple hours before performances, and the best acts are usually sold out by then.
      * Call in advance if you have ADA/accessibility seating needs. Don’t bring any large purses or bags, and dress light as there’s no coat check.
      * Get to the Tabernacle at least an hour before performances, not only to avoid the long lines around the building, but also to mingle while enjoying the full-service bars ("sorry, Rev. Broughton! Haha.") on the stage floor. The original version of Ted’s (as in Ted Turner’s) chain restaurant known for its bison burgers is situated right across Luckie Street.
      * The Tabernacle has a VIP bar and lounge (“The Room”) on an upper level for season-ticketholders. Do NOT purchase “VIP passes” hawked by vendors or yahoos on the street, as there’s a likely chance they’re invalid.

      From Philips Arena: Cross Marietta Street and walk north along Centennial Olympic Park Drive to the traffic light at Andrew Young International Boulevard (near the park entrance where you’ll find the Fountain of Rings). Cross Centennial Olympic Park Drive and then walk back toward the arena one block to Luckie Street. The SkyView Ferris Wheel is right next door to the Tabernacle.
      From MARTA: Take the North/South train (Red or Gold Line) to Peachtree Center Station, then take the long escalator to the Carnegie Way exit (Main branch of the library is across the street). Walk two blocks down Carnegie Way, cross Spring Street and then walk two blocks to the left along Spring to reach Luckie Street. The Tabernacle is across Luckie, just past Ted’s Restaurant. Alternatively, in a few months you can access the new Peachtree Streetcar from the Ellis Street exit at Peachtree Center. The streetcar travels right in front of the Tabernacle just after it passes Centennial Olympic Park.