Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Vanishing Atlanta

Since moving down here, I've harbored a vague desire to travel the old Chicago-Miami branch of the Dixie Highway. The old named roads hold a certain romance for me, and I've thought it would be interesting to see how the roads have been absorbed into the surrounding communities, once the interstate system rendered them less valuable.

That desire has fallen by the wayside and been trumped by more exotic locations, but as I was up early this morning and had nothing pressing to do, I headed out on one small segment near me -- intending to traverse the route from Acworth (northwest of Atlanta) down to Hapeville (just south), through Atlanta itself.

I'll spare the details but it didn't go as planned -- a lack of adequate research on my part and Atlanta's ever-changing road names sent me on a few wild goose chases, but it was an interesting little jaunt nonetheless.

I would presume (perhaps wrongly) that once upon a time, the bit I took was pretty crucial -- it connected Atlanta to Marietta, before the latter became more of a bedroom community. Now, with I-75 just to the east, it's just another road (albeit one that gets much less traffic than it could handle. In chronically-gridlocked Atlanta, that was a pleasant surprise).

I'd hoped to shoot a bunch of photos, but most of the interesting stuff came on my wrong turns. On the Atlanta-Marietta route itself, it was a mix of foul-smelling industrial plants, dollar stores, and unpleasant-looking restaurants (including an Italian place that seemed to specialize in gyros -- go figure). Further north, into the Vinings/Smyrna/Marietta area, it was much more cleaned up -- all new townhomes and stuff. I realize now, I'll have to get into the rural areas to see remnants of the older community.

Or, again, take a wrong turn. The first of these led me into a neighborhood just a bit west of my target. On old maps, it looks rather more important: traversed by railway lines, just off the Marietta road, near the city center. Now? It's in rough shape. I've lived here six and a half years and never had cause to go -- most of the businesses are no longer extant, and it had a generally hopeless air. It doesn't have the reputation of Atlanta's seamier spots, it doesn't have any sort of artistic community or new projects going on. It's just forgotten. Someday, I'd like to find out more about how Atlanta's neighborhoods have evolved; I've heard that my yuppified little home was a bit less polished about 20 years ago, and the hip Little Five Points to the south was a complete wreck. I've never found a good solid Atlanta history, but if anyone who stumbles upon this site knows of one -- one that goes beyond the "Atlanta: It's a Peach of a City!" crap -- feel free to drop me a line.

(One of the interesting bits seen out there: a large billboard for the mayoral re-election campaign of ... Ray Nagin. The mayor of New Orleans, which, you'll note, is not Atlanta. I was befuddled, but eventually concluded that given the number of N.O. transplants who were forced here, it's actually a canny move.)

After the multiple wrong turns, I scrapped the southern portion of the planned route for today (too bad -- I actually know my way around that one) and just shot the usual old buildings/ghost signs over on Marietta Street. Among them, the shell of a building shown to the left -- amidst all the townhouses and lofts going up was this wreck. What it once was, I don't know, and given the activity in the region, it won't be there for long, so I'm glad I found it while I could.

While on this subject, this is as good a time as any to plug the excellent
Atlanta Time Machine website. The fellow who runs it finds old photos of Atlanta sites -- then goes to the location today, takes a snapshot, and posts the two together. It's good, and interesting, and makes me wish I knew the city better. He's also got a fun collection of Atlanta esoterica -- including all sorts of stuff related to the Clermont Lounge. Good times.


SD said...

That shell of a building is now gone, and has been for a few months.

gsdgsd13 said...

Yeah-- I drove by a month or so ago and couldn't find it, but tried to convince myself I just had the location wrong. Damnation.