BooksAtlanta and Environs by Franklin Garrett
First published in the 1950s, this remains the definitive history of Atlanta, written by Atlanta's only official historian, the late Franklin Garrett. In particular, the first volume, which focuses on the early history of Atlanta in the 19th century, describes many of the people, places, and events for whom streets would later be named. The book also includes several lengthy lists of street name origins. Unfortunately, the book is not available online and print copies tend to be rare and expensive, but many local libraries in Atlanta will have it.
Georgia Place-Names by Kenneth Krakow
The late Kenneth Krakow of Mercer University put together this authoritative collection of place names within the state of Georgia. Krakow does an excellent job of researching the origins behind these place names and often includes brief biographies and interesting anecdotes. Although the scope is broad and covers the entire state, it's common for more than one place or street to be named for something, and this book offers many valuable clues. It also covers a number of Atlanta place names (and some street names). The third (and last) edition of this book was published in 1999, and luckily it is also available online as a free collection of PDFs.
What's in a Name? by Eva Galambos
This short book, written by Sandy Springs mayor Eva Galambos and published in 1996, contains historical information on many Atlanta place names, including street names. The book can be hard to find, but copies exist in university and public libraries in Atlanta. It also shows up occasionally on Amazon.com at reasonable prices.
The Digital Library of Georgia provides free access to digitized maps of Georgia cities and towns, including Atlanta, between 1884 and 1922. The Sanborn maps, which were originally drawn for fire insurance assessment, provide an incredibly detailed look at buildings and streets, right down to the location of doors and fire hydrants.
More Old Maps of Atlanta
There are a number of 19th century maps of Atlanta with enough detail to show most or all street names within city limits. Here are several that we've found particularly useful:
Other ResourcesAtlanta City Directories
As noted here, the Internet Archive has digitized a large number of Atlanta city directories and made them available online, in many formats, for free. Many city directories contain a street directory, which lists every street name in the city and describes its location relative to other streets and prominent landmarks. One can approximate the beginning (and end) of nearly any street name by simply looking for it in street directories for different years. Some city directories also include abbreviated histories of the city and lists of businesses and citizens. Since many streets are named for nearby businesses or residents, this can be a great resource.
Subject Guides in the Kenan Research Center
The Atlanta History Center's Kenan Research Center (located in Buckhead) has put together an amazing collection of relevant documents in its subject guides. Just ask the extremely smart and helpful librarians for the "Atlanta streets" subject guides. They come in two boxes and include newspaper clippings, letters, manuscripts, notes from Franklin Garrett, maps, and other rare documents relating to Atlanta streets. This is stuff you literally can't find anywhere else. The facility is open to the public and there is no cost to browse its collections, but you'll need to register with them to get access.
Adair's 1903 List of Street Renamings
The October 13, 1903 edition of the Atlanta Constitution contains a detailed list of street renamings up until that point, compiled by Forrest Adair (1865-1936), a Fulton County commissioner and real estate developer. Both the scanned original and a transcription are available for free online.
Everything on Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt, and this article is somewhat disorganized, but it's a starting point. It's worth noting that a Google search for Atlanta street names returns this article as the first result.
If you come across more resources that I can add to this page, please let us know.