Atlanta beginnings as a railroad town center around the depot. Alabama Street, between Peachtree Street and Central Avenue, was the city's center and much of Atlanta’s history stems and continues to grow thanks of the mighty steel. After the Civil War, Atlanta was on the mends to restore the city and with doing so, the main rail head was built with an impressive three-story head house to grown with the demands of the growing population. It continued to be prosperous way into the 1929, when construction of the concrete "viaducts" elevated the street system one level to permit a better flow of traffic. Merchants decided to stay prosperous too, had to move their businesses to the second floor, leaving the old fronts for storage and service underneath. From the 1930 to the 1968 Underground Atlanta laid silent and almost forgotten. It wasn’t till in 1968 that Underground Atlanta was appointed a Historical Landmark, and refurbished and opened with retail shops and businesses. In 1980’s Marta transit lines construction and other various factors forced the Underground to close down once again. Yet, the cities civic leaders had the Underground listed on National Register of Historic Places, so in 1989 the Underground Atlanta reopened with a in 1989 with having complete a $142 million makeover once again creating a center piece of community life.
The Planters Hotel, which served as a Confederate Hospital during the Civil War stood at this site till it burned down in 1882. Within the same year, Frank E. Block constructed the elborate five story building that stills stands. His candy factors was located on the upper floors, while space on the lower levels was rented to other enterprises. The Carlos Soda Company a tenant in 1921, painted this wall advertisement for Coca Cola. The first carbonated Coca Cola was served in 1887 at Jacob's Pharmacy on Peacetree Street, (picture you see on the information plaque)
During Atlanta's pioneer days, the stretch of Alabama Street between Peacetree and Pryor Street was known as "Humbug Square" because of the confidence men, fast buck artist, moonshiners, and snake oil salemen who frequent it. Common sights were traveling medicine shows, trained bears, and fervent political speakers. Photo taken on the information plaque was taken in 1880.
In 1943, a new park, named Plaza Park, was built over the railroad gulch. This park was replaced by a new and larger plaza in the 1960's, Peachtree Fountains Plaza, which has become a major entrance to Underground Atlanta. It is considered to be the absolute center of town.
What is so unique about this square, there are many wonderful things to see. Just beyond the Coca Cola gift shop to the right is the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot and Wyland Whaling Wall.
Wyland Whalling Wall is called :“Atlanta’s Right Whales” It is 450 Feet Long x 50 Feet High Dedicated September 16th, 1993 by Mayor Maynard Jackson.
The Wyland Foundation, non-profit organization founded in 1993 by environmental marine life artist Wyland, is dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s oceans, waterways, and marine life.
The Georgia Railroad Freight Depot was completed in April of 1869 and is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Atlanta. The building served as the main freight depot for the Georgia Railroad and was restored by the Georgia Building Authority in 1981 for public use. Most of the original brickwork and freight bays remain in place to give the facility a unique setting for special occasions. It is located right under the Wyland Whaling Wall Mural
If you want to learn more about the area, taking one of these tours will enlighten you to some of the forgotten history that locals usually know about. It is always fun and fascinating to learn. “From Civil War to Civil Rights”
Friday: 11am,1pm and 3pm
Saturday: 11am, 1pm and 3pm
Sunday: 1pm and 3pm
Price:$6.00 per person
Tickets can be purchased at the Customer Information Booth (404.523.2311 ext. 7019).
Since the late1960's, when the concept was first made to bring back tourism and people to downtown, the Underground has had a couple of bouts to revive and survive. It closed in 1980, and they city revived it in 1989, but riots trashed the area in 1992, and again nearly closed. Then another revival with Coke as tour anchor. They are gone, and so is the popularity. The migration of the Coke museum from this area, has again created a concern about decline and possible wrong elements hanging out down under. Not a good scene for the city.
The latest while we were there in Feb 2009, was to have a proposed $400 million casino at the underground.
Unfortunately, I got to the Underground Atlanta a bit late and much of it was closed. There are nightclubs and bars, but I didn't visit them. Despite the appear of hip hop style African-American kids hanging around, I didn't feel too worried by their bluff. Police to frequent the area. This place is right at the Five Points MARTA Station.
This is always on the list of tourist's Must-See's and many first time tourists ask What is it? and Why?
Answers: What is now the Underground was originaly street-level Atlanta with Train tracks and trolley cars. When the city modernized it was decided to build streets up on on a network of bridges and viaducts to get out of the way of the trains and trolleys. The elevated street provides the ceiling for the Underground and the whole 4 block area is now a climate-controlled street fair. There are many touristy shops, food outlets, and several late-night music/dance clubs. As many VTer tips indicate, late at night and on Summer weekends this place can get a heavy "Ghetto" vibe and makes some people uncomfortable. It is well patrolled and there are surveillance cameras, so it's not unusually dangerous- just use normal precautions and trust your instinct.
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