Underground Atlanta is a shopping and entertainment district that opened in 1969, it takes advantage of the viaducts built over the city's many railroad tracks to accommodate later automobile traffic. Each level has two main halls, still called Upper and Lower Alabama and Pryor Streets.
The buildings comprising Underground Atlanta were constructed during the city's post-Civil War Reconstruction Era boom, between 1866 and 1871, when the city's population doubled. In 1869, the Georgia Railroad freight depot was constructed to replace the one destroyed by Sherman's troops in 1864. The depot, which stands at the entrance of Underground Atlanta, remains the oldest building in downtown Atlanta. Originally there were hotels, banks, law offices, and saloons. An electric streetcar was installed in 1889 to points South, and by 1900 the depot was serving 100 trains per day with direct service between Atlanta and New York City; Cincinnati, Ohio; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Knoxville, Augusta, Georgia; Macon, Georgia; and Columbus, Georgia. By 1910, several iron bridges had been built to cross the railroad tracks at Union Street.
In 1969, "Underground Atlanta" officially opened with new restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and music venues installed in the old individual storefronts. At the time, Fulton County was the only county in the state of Georgia that permitted mixed alcoholic beverages to be served, provided that men wore coats and ties in places that served them. As a result, Underground Atlanta quickly became the center of downtown Atlanta nightlife. Among the more popular spots in Underground Atlanta were Dante's Down the Hatch, Scarlet O'Hara, The Blarney Stone, The Rustler's Den, The Pumphouse, The Front Page, The Bank Note, and Mulenbrink's Saloon, where Atlanta's Piano Red, under the name Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, played from 1969 to 1979. Other attractions included a souvenir shop owned by governor Lester Maddox and a wax museum. With the old-style architecture lending considerable charm to the district, Underground Atlanta was compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Today Underground Atlanta looked empty, old, sad and dated. There has been talk about it being sold for mixed use commercial and residential space. Plans have been delayed due to funds.
Atlanta has many interesting sculptures all over town. This exceptional and unsual scultpure called Threshold (1996) is by Spanish artist Robert Llimos. It is not located too far from Underground Atlanta.
This place was once kind of neat. I had been here years ago, took my wife and niece since they had never been. What a disappointment this turned out to be. We visited on 9-6-2014, most of the stores are vacant, watched a drug deal go down in plain sight, smells awful, but if you are looking for thug city this is your place. The web page is very misleading in its portrayal of what this place is like. No one is shopping here it is just a hang out for the local thugs and a daytime hangout for vagrants. You know it is bad when there is a security officer in front of each store that is open.
I have a memory many years ago of Underground Atlanta having lots of unique shops and restaurants, with the cool sensation of being underground on a street. When we recently returned, I was disappointed to find the unique shops being mostly gone and replaced with strip-mall type stores. I found chain restaurants. The sensation of being underground on a street is still there, since, that is what it is. There is a history walk that directs you to the numbered plaques - the coolest one being a cast-iron streetlight with a hole at the base which was made when it was hit by a shell during Sherman's march through Atlanta.
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.