Friday, June 14, 2013

Paces Ferry Road

Paces Ferry Road is a road in north Atlanta. It originates at Atlanta Road, near Vinings, and terminates nearby at West Paces Ferry Road. The latter continues through Buckhead, terminating at Roswell Road, where it becomes East Paces Ferry Road. Paces Ferry Road has had its name since the 1830s.

Paces Ferry Road, via Google Maps

Other Names

Variants include East Paces Ferry Road, West Paces Ferry Road, and New Paces Ferry Road.

Name Origins

Paces Ferry Road is named for Pace's Ferry, a ferry service operated by early Atlanta pioneer Hardy Pace (1785-1864). Born in North Carolina, Pace moved to north Georgia as a young man, and by the early 1830s he was operating a flat-boat ferry service across the Chattahoochee River, near Vinings. The road connecting Pace's ferry to Buckhead became known as Paces Ferry Road, and was based on the earlier route traced by the Creeks' Peachtree Trail. From Pace's ferry, the old trail continued east to a fork in Buckhead, where one branch went northeast to Toccoa, and the other veered south towards downtown Atlanta. This latter branch became known as Peachtree Road (and Peachtree Street). Atlantans looking to travel north to Chattanooga or beyond frequently traveled Paces Ferry Road by way of Peachtree Road and Buckhead.

Indian villages and trails in Fulton County, 1878
(Credit: Atlanta and Environs, via Wikimedia Commons)
Paces Ferry Road was a site of strategic importance during the Civil War. In early July, 1864, Confederate cavalry led by Gen. Joseph Wheeler defended a pontoon bridge across the Pace's ferry crossing while their comrades retreated from the Battle of Smyrna. Union troops led by Gen. Thomas Wood overwhelmed the Confederates, who attempted to burn the bridge during their retreat. When that failed, they cut the bridge ropes on their side, but it became lodged nearby. The Union soldiers crossed a few days later on boats and camped in farms along Paces Ferry Road. Hardy Pace's own home would be used as the headquarters of Union Gen. O.O. Howard.

Union soldiers crossing a river on pontoon boats
(Credit: Photographic History of the Civil Warvia The Internet Archive)
The area around the road saw little development from the end of the Civil War until the early 20th century. Starting in 1904, impressive homes erected by well-to-do Atlanta citizens seeking summer refuges began dotting the landscape. That same year, an effort funded jointly by Cobb County and Fulton County to build a steel bridge across the Chattahoochee, near the landing to Pace's ferry, was completed. The bridge was renamed "Hermi's Bridge" in 1974, in memory of Hermi Alexander, who had advocated successfully to preserve it.

Hermi's Bridge in 2007
(Credit: Stephen H. Moore, via Buckhead Heritage Society)

Buckhead Heritage Society. "Hermi's Bridge."
Garrett, Franklin M. (1954.) Atlanta and Environs, Volume I. University of Georgia Press (pp. 108-109).
GeorgiaInfo. "The Errant Pontoon Bridge: Paces Ferry." (Historical Marker)
Tuxedo Park Civic Association. "Neighborhood History."
Williford, William B. (2010). Peachtree Street, Atlanta. University of Georgia Press (pp. 1-4).

Name Sightings

The oldest reference to Pace's ferry I can find is the 1864 "Atlanta & vicinity" map by Merrill and Finegan (courtesy of Tommy H. Jones), where it is misspelled "Paices Ferry." Since the ferry was more than 30 years old at this point, it seems likely to be found on older maps, but I haven't been able to locate any of sufficient detail. Note that Fulton County was created in 1853; prior to this, Pace's ferry was located in DeKalb County.

Related Streets

Paces Mill Road, named for Hardy Pace's gristmill

Friday, May 10, 2013

Williams Street

Williams Street is a street in the Downtown and Midtown neighborhoods. In Midtown, it runs north-south from 16th Street to 4th Street. It reappears Downtown, running north-south from Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard to Andrew Young International Boulevard, then angling southeast and terminating at Peachtree Street. It's had this name since at least 1853.

Part of Williams Street in Midtown, via Google Maps

Other Names

None known.

Name Origins

Williams Street was named for Ammi Williams (1780-1864), an early settler of the Atlanta area. According to historian Franklin Garrett:
One of the most extensive land owners of early Atlanta was Ammi Williams. He was born in Connecticut in 1780; brought up in Virginia, and was attracted to Georgia by the discovery of gold around Dahlonega in the early 1830's. He came to De Kalb County during the same decade and acquired extensive holdings, with Reuben Cone, in Land Lot No. 78, which now includes much of downtown Atlanta. Like Judge Cone, he gave his name to a street originating in that land lot. Mr. Williams died at his home in Decatur on March 30, 1864, survived by his wife, neƩ Laura Loomis, and several children, and lies buried under a large monument in Oakland Cemetery.
Garrett raises a few points worth elaborating. When Williams first arrived in DeKalb County, he constructed a log cabin that became Decatur's oldest building still standing. Known today as the Swanton House (for a later resident, Benjamin Swanton), it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.

The oldest building in Decatur, the Swanton House
(Credit: DeKalb History Center)

Second, like many Atlanta pioneers, Williams raised a large family which came to encompass numerous prominent citizens. His daughter Laura Loomis Williams (1820-1879) married L. P. Grant (1817-1893), a wealthy Atlanta railroad man and namesake of Grant Park. Williams' son Frederick A. Williams (1817-1883), following the Civil War, operated a sawmill and factory, for which Williams Mill Road is named.

Third, Williams and his family are buried in Oakland Cemetery, but their final resting place has not gone entirely undisturbed. In 2010, the brick vault containing Ammi Williams' remains collapsed, partially exposing its contents, while crews were straightening a nearby marble obelisk. The obelisk was relocated and Williams' grave repaired, ending the surprise sunbath.

The naming of Williams Street for Ammi Williams unexpectedly impeded a later Atlantan from receiving the same honor. When James E. Williams (1826-1900) completed his second term as mayor of Atlanta, the City Council wanted to recognize his public service by naming a street for him. Unfortunately, "Williams Street" had already been named for Ammi (no known relation) for at least a decade. Instead, he passed the honor to his young son, Willie Fort Williams, for whom Fort Street is named.

Garrett, Franklin M. (1954). Atlanta and Environs, Volume I. University of Georgia Press (p. 662)
Pioneer Citizens' Society of Atlanta. (1902). Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta, 1833-1902 (p. 108)
Westbrook, David. (2010). "Endangered Marker Saved." The Oakland Herald 25(2)

Name Sightings

Williams Street appears on the oldest known street map of Atlanta, the 1853 Vincent map.

Related Streets

Fort Street, named for Willie Fort Williams because "Williams Street" was taken
Loomis Avenue, named for Ammi's wife's family name, Loomis
Williams Mill Road, named for Ammi's son, Frederick A. Williams

Friday, April 26, 2013

Holtzclaw Street

Holtzclaw Street is a street in Reynoldstown. It runs north-south from Kirkwood Avenue to Memorial Drive. It's had this name since at least 1913.

Holtzclaw Street on Google Maps

Other Names

None known.

Name Origins

Possibly named for James Thadeus Holtzclaw (1833-1893), an Alabama lawyer and Confederate general during the Civil War. Holtzclaw was born in Henry County, Georgia and grew up in Chambers County, Alabama. As a young man, he was accepted to West Point, but instead chose to study law in Montgomery, Alabama. After the Civil War broke out, Holtzclaw served as a lieutenant in a militia group, the Montgomery True Blues, but soon joined the Confederate Army with the same rank. He was promoted rapidly, and by the end of 1861 he held the rank of lieutenant colonel, leading the 18th Alabama Infantry.

James T. Holtzclaw
(Credit: Digital Library of Georgia)

Holtzclaw participated in numerous major battles and was wounded in at least two of them. At Shiloh (1862), he was shot through the lung and thought to be mortally wounded, but he recovered in less than two months; he also received minor injuries at Chickamauga (1863). Holtzclaw was eventually promoted to brigadier general and commanded a brigade of Alabamians under Henry Clayton's division, which was involved in the Atlanta campaign during the summer of 1864. Holtzclaw's brigade is mentioned in numerous historical markers in the Atlanta area, including one in Inman Park, directly north of Holtzclaw Street. After the Civil War, Holtzclaw returned to practicing law in Montgomery, Alabama, where he also worked as a railroad commissioner and for the Democratic party. He died and was buried in Montgomery.

Warner, Ezra J. (1959). Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Louisiana State University Press (pp. 141-142)
Clayton's (Holtzclaw's Brigade), Ohio State University Dept. of History

Name Sightings

The earliest record we could find for Holtzclaw Street is the ACDC's 1913 Atlanta City Directory (p. 245). At that time, Holtzclaw Street extended all the way from Kirkwood Avenue to Glenwood Avenue. Today, a large industrial complex and I-20 stand in the way.

Related Streets

None yet.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Estoria Street

Estoria Street is a street in Cabbagetown. It runs north-south, between Wylie Street (where it becomes Krog Street) and Memorial Drive. It's had this name since 1893.

Estoria Street on Google Maps

Other Names

Estora Street (1892 variant)
New Street (before Estora/Estoria)

Name Origins

Estoria Street was named for Estora Fitzgerald Stephens (c. 1867-1889). She was born in Atlanta to John Stephens (1833-1896), an Irish immigrant, and Annie Elizabeth Fitzgerald (1846-1934), of Clayton County, Georgia. Little is known about Estora's life or even the cause of her death at the young age of about 22. We do know from her obituary that her funeral was held at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, still an active church and downtown Atlanta's second oldest building (built 1869). We also know from the same source that she was buried in Oakland Cemetery, where her headstone can be found today.

Estora Stephens headstone in Oakland Cemetery
(Credit: Find A Grave)

Estora grew up in a prominent family and probably lived the good life. Her father served as a captain in the Confederate army, and after the Civil War, became a successful businessman. Her mother was the daughter of a planter. One of her younger sisters, Mary Isabelle "Maybelle" Stephens, married Eugene M. Mitchell, an Atlanta attorney. Their daughter, Margaret M. Mitchell, penned one of the most famous Southern novels, Gone With the Wind, which features Clayton County and Atlanta during the Civil War. Many believe that Scarlett O'Hara, the book's protagonist, was based on Margaret's grandmother (Estora's mother), Annie Fitzgerald.

Margaret's brother, Alexander Stephens Mitchell, was (among many things) editor of the Atlanta Historical Society Bulletin and a street names enthusiast. His research, some of which is archived at the Atlanta History Center, provided an early reference to the connection between his late Aunt Estora and Estoria Street.

Obituary for Estora Stephens, Atlanta Constitution, November 6, 1889 (transcription)
Stephens Mitchell manuscripts, Atlanta History Center

Name Sightings

Estoria Street first appears in the 1892 Saunders Atlanta City Directory (p. 179) as Estora Street, lacking the "i" and reflecting the spelling of its namesake. Almost immediately, the street became known by its present-day spelling of "Estoria," as displayed in the 1893 Saunders ACD (p. 179) and the 1892 Koch map.

In a 1903 article in the Atlanta Constitution, real estate developer Forrest Adair claimed that Estoria Street was formerly known as New Street, but we could not find any references to this name in older city directories. Perhaps Adair was mistaken or this was an unofficial name for the street.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Calhoun Street

Calhoun Street was a previous name for present-day Piedmont Avenue. One of Atlanta's earliest known street names, it existed from at least 1853 to 1892.

Calhoun Street in the 1850s
(Credit: 1853 Vincent map)

Other Names

Piedmont Avenue (since 1892)

Name Origins

According to Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett, Calhoun Street was named for James Montgomery Calhoun (1811-1875), a four-term mayor of Atlanta who is perhaps best known for surrendering the city to Union Gen. William T. Sherman during the Civil War.
(Credit: Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta)
Calhoun was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina, and by the time he was 18, both of his parents were dead. He moved to Decatur, Georgia, to live with his older brother, Ezkiel, a doctor. Calhoun chose instead to study law. In 1832, he passed the bar and married Emma Eliza Dabney (1810-1860), daughter of Judge Anderson W. Dabney of Jasper County, Georgia, and apparently "a lady of intelligence, education and refinement." They would eventually have eight children together, including William Lowndes Calhoun (1837-1908), another Atlanta mayor.

The 1830s marked the beginning of the Georgia state government's lengthy efforts to encourage white settlement and relocate Native Americans, such as the Creeks. Violence broke out when speculators sought to defraud the Creeks of their land allotments, and the so-called "Creek War of 1836" was launched. Although Calhoun was a practicing lawyer during this time, for unclear reasons he became involved in the conflict, serving as captain in an army led by Gen. William Scott and distinguishing himself in a battle near Stewart County, Georgia.

Calhoun's success as a military leader seems to have encouraged him to try his hand at politics. In 1837, Calhoun won a seat in the Georgia House, representing DeKalb County, and in 1851, he was elected a state senator. A year later, in December 1852, Calhoun moved to Atlanta, which would be his home for the rest of his life. As a lawyer and state senator, Calhoun was a prominent citizen of Atlanta. When the Civil War broke out and Atlanta was transformed into an engine of the Southern war effort, Calhoun sought an influential role. He was elected mayor in 1862, the first of four consecutive one-year terms. As the war progressed, Calhoun drew upon his military experience and organized a militia to protect the city.

Sherman and staff after the capture of Atlanta
(Credit: National Park Service)
However, the siege directed by Gen. Sherman proved to be too much for anyone, including Atlanta's Confederate protectors, who retreated on September 1, 1864. The next day, Calhoun officially surrendered the city at the corner of Peachtree Street and Alabama Street. Sherman ordered all remaining citizens to evacuate, and when Calhoun protested, gave his famous response, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it."

After the war, Calhoun practiced law in Atlanta with his son, Lowndes, until his death in 1875. He is buried with his wife in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery.

Garrett, Franklin M. (1954/2011). Atlanta and Its Environs, Volume I. University of Georgia Press. (p. 300)
Pioneer Citizens' Society of Atlanta, Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta, 1833-1902 (pp. 288-291)
Sherman, William T., Letter to James M. Calhoun et al.

Name Sightings

Calhoun Street appears on the earliest known street map of Atlanta, Vincent's 1853 map. It appears in city directories throughout the 1860s-80s. Its final appearance is Polk's 1891 ACD, after which it is renamed Piedmont Avenue.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Piedmont Avenue

Piedmont Avenue is a street running north-south from Downtown to Piedmont Heights. It originates at Capitol Avenue, near the Georgia State Capitol, and ends at Cheshire Bridge Road, where it becomes Piedmont Road. It's had this name since at least 1892. Before that, it was known as Calhoun Street.

Piedmont Avenue on Google Maps

Other Names

Piedmont Road (north of Cheshire Bridge Road)
Calhoun Street (before 1892)

Name Origins

Piedmont Avenue was likely named for the Piedmont Exposition, held in October 1887, the second of three major expositions in Atlanta in the late 19th century. Earlier that year, the Gentleman's Driving Club (now the Piedmont Driving Club) purchased 189 acres of land from Dr. Benjamin Walker, whose family had farmed it since the 1830s. The Driving Club then leased the land to the Piedmont Exposition Company, a group of Atlanta businessmen seeking to organize a regional exposition. To prepare the land, organizers cleared an entire forest and built several large structures, including a 570-foot-long main building and a horse racing track, in just over 100 days. The event was a marked success, drawing 50,000 attendees to a speech by U.S. President Grover Cleveland in a city whose entire 1890 population was around 65,000. It also set the stage for Atlanta to host a world's fair on the same (improved) grounds in 1895.

The Piedmont Exposition main building
(Credit: Harper's Weekly, October 1887)

But why "Piedmont"? The exposition's purpose, according to Wallace Reed, an early Atlanta historian, was "to collect together the evidences of the resources of the Piedmont region of the Southern States, including Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee." So we can trace the origin of "Piedmont" here, in reference to the Southern Piedmont region of the United States.

In 1904, the Driving Club sold the land to the City of Atlanta, which established it as Piedmont Park. Piedmont Avenue forms the park's western border, and it's considered "Atlanta's Central Park," though it's neither the city's oldest park (Grant Park, established 1895) nor its largest park (Chastain Park, at 268 acres).

Newman, Harvey K. (2010). Cotton Expositions in Atlanta, New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Reed, Wallace P. (1889). History of Atlanta, Georgia. D. Mason & Co. (p. 476)

Name Sightings

The earliest reference I can find to Piedmont Avenue is the 1892 Koch map, where it is incorrectly spelled "Piedmond." It also appears in the Saunders Atlanta City Directory that same year (p. 289). A city directory from the previous year, 1891, has no listing for Piedmont Avenue and shows Calhoun Street extending from the Georgia Railroad to the northern city limits. This suggests that Piedmont Avenue first appeared in 1892, just a few years after the Piedmont Exposition of 1887.

Related Streets

Fair Street, named for another Atlanta exposition.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Elizabeth Street

The inaugural ASNP entry. Let me know what y'all think. Here goes nothing! -Kurt

Elizabeth Street is a street in Inman Park. It runs north-south from Freedom Park to Dekalb Avenue. It's had this name since at least 1889.

Elizabeth Street on Google Maps

Other Names

Elizabeth Avenue (1890s variant)

Name Origins

Elizabeth Street was named for Mary Elizabeth Hurt Jones (1824-1882), who once owned the Joel Hurt Cottage on Elizabeth Street, one of the oldest homes still standing in Atlanta. Elizabeth Jones's first cousin was the father of Inman Park developer Joel Hurt. In the early 1870s, Elizabeth and her husband, James Vickers Jones, moved to Atlanta and built a house in the heart of modern-day Inman Park. James died in 1879 and Elizabeth sold the house and property to Joel Hurt in June 1882. She died just a few weeks later at age 58 and was buried in the Hurt-Jones family plot in Oakland Cemetery.

The Joel Hurt Cottage c. 1890
(Credit: Tommy Jones)

The legacy of Elizabeth's house continued long after her life. In the late 1880s, Joel Hurt enlarged and remodeled the house in the Queen Anne architectural style. It's believed that Hurt and his family lived there from 1887 until 1904, when they moved to a newly built mansion at 167 Elizabeth St. NE. Elizabeth Jones's house, located at 117 Elizabeth St. NE, is known today as the Joel Hurt Cottage.

Jones, Tommy H. Joel Hurt Cottage.
Marr, Christine, and Sharon Foster Jones. (2008). Inman Park (Images of America: Georgia). Arcadia. (p. 12)

Name Sightings

The earliest sighting of Elizabeth Street I've made is in Polk's 1889 Atlanta City Directory (p. 179). It's first listed as Elizabeth Avenue, though by the early 1900s the name settled into the present Elizabeth Street. There's no mention of the street in Polk's 1888 ACD, suggesting the street was first named in 1889. Possibly Joel was moved to name a street in honor of his cousin after she passed away in 1882.

Related Streets

Hurt Street is directly east of Elizabeth Street and runs parallel.

Welcome to ASNP!

Atlantans love to rename their streets. Every few years, going back to at least the early twentieth century, someone has been trying to rename an Atlanta street. The reasons vary. Sometimes people want to recognize a worthy person, place, or thing. Sometimes they want to strip the honor from a recipient deemed unworthy. Other times people rename a street to give it more prestige, or to separate themselves from another group of people. The list goes on.

If we think naming a street for somebody is an honor--and many of us do--then we have to admit that renaming the street strips the honor from somebody, or something, else. And that, in turn, requires us to know something about why the street has its name in the first place. This can be tough. Unlike some other big cities, there is no definitive book or reference for Atlanta street names. There are some great starting points here and there, but for the most part, we're on our own. The history and origins of street names in Atlanta is a big mystery waiting to be solved.

This blog, the Atlanta Street Names Project, is about solving that mystery. Let's discover the stories behind the streets we live, work, and travel on every day. We want to make this a big collaboration, online and offline, involving anyone who's interested in Atlanta streets. In fact, this project is already collaborative, involving folks at the Atlanta History, and other valuable resources.

Our plan is to update this blog regularly with new research on various street names in Atlanta. If possible, each post will contain information about the street name's origins (where the name comes from), its history (when the street was created and how its name has changed over the years), and relevant stories or images. We'll cite sources to keep things scholarly and encourage additional research. Not all of us are professional historians and we view our work as just a starting point. For us, one of the most exciting parts of the project will be getting other folks involved--people like you.

Welcome to the Atlanta Street Names Project. You may want to start by learning how to contribute and checking out the list of resources. Let the discoveries begin!

-The ASNP Team