Atlanta’s First Buildings In Pictures: 1830-1900

Building Atlanta: 1830-1900


1830’s – 1840’s:

Population 1830:   30 

Population 1850:   2572

The first great inland city in the US was to grow at the intersection of two Native American paths, the Peachtree and Sandtown trails.

Following the Supreme Court decision “that the Cherokees were a “domestic dependent nation” under the protection and tutelage of the United States”, President Andrew Jackson and Congress defied the Court and removed the Cherokees and Creeks from northwest Georgia in 1821. A few miles north, the nations’ first Gold Rush came when gold was discovered in Dahlonega, Georgia in 1828. At this time, a few pioneers were settling the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The towns of Gainesville (1821), Lawrenceville (1821) and Decatur (1822) had already been established.

Major James Montgomery’s ferry was near Fort Gilmer, built at the native American landmark Standing Peachtree on the Chattahoochee River. By 1835,  Charner Humphey had built a whitewashed wooden home that served as a tavern, inn and post office which came to be known as  Whitehall. Anderson Walton built a popular resort near the spring on what would become Spring Street behind the present day Peachtree Plaza Hotel.

Then, a highly eventful decision, in 1837, the Georgia legislature decided to build a railroad from Chattanooga to a point on a ridge about seven miles southeast of the Chattahoochee River which would be a town named Terminus. The granite zero mile marker was placed on Hardy Ivy’s land. By 1842, in addition to the few pioneer families, the area was covered with the shanties of unruly railroad hands and prostitutes.

By 1847, the town had 3 railroad lines, lumber mill, newspaper, school, doctor, and a new name– Atlanta. By 1850, it had improved roads, sidewalks, the telegraph, and Oakland Cemetery.

A typical pioneer cabin from the 1830’s when the Atlanta area was first settled
1450-W-Wesley 1830s
This home was built in the 1830’s, moved from north Georgia in the 1950’s, to 1450 W. Wesley Road and still stands today.
One of the first landmarks was the White Hall Inn & Tavern where the West End MARTA Station is today.
In 1904, the Holland House was the oldest still standing in Atlanta. It was built between 1842 and 1848.
1850 Henry Irby Tavern
Way north, this is Henry Irby’s Tavern where a large Buck’s head was hanging for many years, the area later to become Buckhead.
golden-eagle-brewery 1840s snake nation
Golden Eagle Brewery was in the sleazy Snake Nation area of Atlanta in the 1840’s, now Castleberry Hill.

Almost surprisingly, the George Washington Collier house still exists from 1822 in Sherwood Forest, just north of Ansley Park, midtown.
Almost surprisingly, the George Washington Collier house still exists from 1822 in Sherwood Forest, just north of Ansley Park, midtown.
The Mary Gay House was built in the 1820’s and still remains on Trinity in Decatur.
The Tullie Smith Farmhouse (1840) was moved from the North Druid Hills area to the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead.

There are more antebellum homes in the outer metro areas of Atlanta, especially Roswell (see my blog on Atlanta Historic Districts), as well as Marietta, Newnan, and Jonesboro, Ga.

1850’s – 1860’s

Population 1850:      2572

Population 1860:      9554

Population 1864:   +/- 22,000 (to zero during occupation)

Prior to the Civil War, business-minded city leaders argued against slavery as well as secession or war with the United States.

Summer of 1864, General Sherman and the Confederates battled for Atlanta from July 22. After retreat into the city, for five weeks, Atlanta was bombed. Before surrendering, the Confederate troops burned all the ammunition stores and war industries. After the final surrender, citizens were forced to leave the city on September 7th.

Two months later, Sherman ordered troops to burn the rest of Atlanta, including homes, as they left on November 15th to destroy anything in their path between Atlanta and Savannah.

Surprisingly, merchants sold Steinway pianos, even before the war.
atl b4 war
Newspaper, wholesale wine & liquor and lager deer (whatever that is)! There were 50 gas light lamp posts around downtown.
Sadly, there was a slave market. However, Atlanta was a  railroad, timber, business and industrial center– not the agrarian plantation society which surrounded it.
Marietta Street in 1864. Notice the gas street lamp– one like it was shelled during the siege, killing the first Atlanta citizen, an African-American barber, named Solomon Luckie, namesake of today’s Luckie Street.
Decatur Street
One of the original Atlanta Train Depots, destroyed during the war.
Ellis st looking west to ptree oct 1864
This is Ellis Street looking west toward the Peachtree ridge above the rolling hills.
l m grant house 1858
The 1858 house of L.P. Grant, original settler and philanthropist who donated the land for Grant Park, is now part of Atlanta Preservation Center.
The wagons make it look like the frontier town that is really was.
Atlanta, looking big in 1861.
Wilson House was built between 1856 and 1859 and stands, barely, today. Will Atlanta save it, even though it is one of only a very few antebellum houses left in Atlanta?
The Wilson House, on Fairburn Road, as it looked in the 1960’s.
The Georgia Freight Depot and Roundhouse. This became the Gulch at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Atlanta was the 3rd most protected city by entrenchments, behind Washington DC and Richmond.

Atlanta During the Battles, Bombing, and Occupation

July to November, 1864

This is from the Cyclorama painting, the Battle where Edgewood and Grant Park would be built later.
A ruined marble bank building, can be seen before the war in pictures above.
1864 occupation
The occupied Trouthouse Hotel’s restaurant, before the war, was famous for their fresh fried trout, a popular dish even when I was growing up in the 1960’s.
The ruins of the roundhouse.

tumblr_mdhk2wOkbJ1qfkagro1_1280 ViewOfAtlantaWithRailroadCarsInForeground

1870’s – 1880’s

Population 1870 –    21,789    

Population 1890 –   66,000 

Morris Brown College students walk past the historic Gaines Hall on the campus in Atlanta Thursday, Sept. 10, 1998. A century after it was built to educate former slaves, Gaines Hall was crumbling. A $4 million facelift saved it from the wrecking ball. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
Morris Brown College historic Gaines Hall (1869) is highly endangered due to a massive fire last month. Atlantans are hoping it can still be saved.


1st DeGive_Opera_House_1870
The first DeGive’s Opera House (of 3 ultimately built) in 1870.
Building the State of Georgia Capitol
The first Kimball House Hotel was built the late 1870’s covering an entire city block at Five Points. With 500 rooms, heating, and an elevator, it was destroyed by fire less than 10 years later.
Atlanta built back rapidly after the war. This view was in 1889.
1885 kimb
This is the New Kimball House in 1885. After 74 years,it was razed in 1959.
1924 eb bap
1886 Ebenezer Baptist Church, later to become iconic by Martin Luther King.
1880s whitehall to 5 pts
Whitehall St looking toward 5 Points (water tower) and up Peachtree, in the 1880’s
Looking south on Whitehall St at Alabama Street in 1882. Note the horse-drawn trolley transit.
1881 cotton states expo
The 1881 Cotton States Exposition, attended by General Sherman who burned the city to the ground only 17 years earlier!
where Coke 1st
Jacob’s Pharmacy, where the first Coca-Colas were enjoyed.
The Trolley Barn at Inman Park, still extant today.
inman pk
The Victorian mansions of Inman Park, when they were new.

1890’s – 1900

Population 1890 –    66,000

Population 1900 –    90,000      43rd in US. About the same as Portland OR (1845), Nashville (1779) and Seattle (1851).

Los Angeles (1781) 102,000. NYC (1625) 3.5 million. Chicago (1803) 1.7 million.

Trust Company of Georgia (Equitable Building) of 1892. (Photo taken in the 1960’s)
Atlanta’s Flatiron Building of 1896 predates New York’s by 8 years.
One of the first Rhodes Snook and Haverty Buildings in the 1890’s.
Whitehall Street in the 1890’s with granite paved road.
washington seminary atl
Washington Seminary on Walton Street.
The junction of Peachtree and West Peachtree (near the Hyatt Regency).
pied pk
Amusement ride into Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park.
Piedmont Park 1895 Cotton States & International Exposition
The old Carnegie Library
The Piedmont Hotel
The building in the center can still be seen in Five Points Marta Station.
buckhd tria
This is the Buckhead Triangle where Roswell Road continues north and Peachtree turns northeast.



Atlanta’s W.E.B. DuBois “Negro Exhibit” at the Paris Exhibition of 1900 to show middle-class African-American life in America.
Empire Building (Trust Co., C&S Bank, Ga State Univ.) built in the Chicago style in 1898, later remodeled in neoclassicism with magnificent banking hall.

 Coming up in my next post, Atlanta sizzles from 1900 to the millennium…


22 thoughts on “Atlanta’s First Buildings In Pictures: 1830-1900

  1. I do not believe the photo of the State Capitol under construction is of the Georgia State Capitol. Perhaps the building in the photo is the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia, which was under construction when the Civil War began and later burned during the war.


  2. the 23rd picture, which you call the georgia roundhouse is actually the Western & Atlantic roundhouse and sat in the middle of the intersecton of the 3 rr’s (it is known as a wye). Photog was probably standing on the Broad St bridge.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was born in Atlanta in 1943, many of these buildings still remained standing,
    my misfortune is that I failed to take photos, now very few remain. but I still have fond memories of old Atlanta, Just a note, I love looking at the photos of years gone by.


  4. Outstanding job! The house of Fairburn Road was torn down. I was so sad. I have heard there are slaves buried on that land as well.


  5. I was born in Atlanta in 1952. My family on both sides have been here since the late 1700s to early 1800s. Many of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy. Your photos and history of that era allows me to see what Atlanta looked like during that time. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. Although my ancestors fought for the south as well, probably both of our ancestors fought for the USA for independence as well as WWI and WWII. These are wars we can be more proud of. Slavery was immoral.


  6. Do you have any pictures of the Edgewood area in 1926 – 1935 .. specifically Hardee Street, N. E. My grandfather built a house at 1548 (120 h..old address) my family does not have any pictures..


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