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).

Sources:
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.

3 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Thanks. Great idea for a blog, I look forward to more entries!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, we look forward to researching them!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the post. I used to live on Piedmont for years and I always wondered about its name.

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