Thursday, January 12, 2012

Before the Georgia Dome & the World Congress Center expansion (part 1)

January 10, 1990 I spent a marathon afternoon photographing old industrial areas of Atlanta, from Atlantic Steel, Howell Junction, Cabbagetown, Fourth Ward and Castleberry Hill all the way down to East Point and Hapeville. The most eerie and desolate area I visited that day was between the World Congress Center and Northside Drive in Vine City. The former industrial and impoverished residential area was being cleared to make way for the Georgia Dome and its accompanying endless sea of parking spaces. It was a surreal landscape. Street signs, power lines and trees were still in place but every single home had been demolished and cleared. Dominating the area was a massive 19th century railroad embankment that once carried trains travelling between Birmingham and downtown Atlanta. Within a few months it was gone too. In the early 2000s the World Congress Center undertook a major expansion that filled in the entire seen here.

The photo above shows the view facing north on Haynes at the intersection with Thurmond. I had heard tales of carjackings around here and had noticed several sketchy characters in the vacant buildings and under the bridges keeping a close eye on me, so I took these photos while the car was moving. My paranoia was compounded by the black car blocking the road just beyond the bridge in this picture. I managed to take only two photos before moving on.

Here's a Sanborn insurance map from 1911 that shows this intersection and the railroad bridges. Notice the cluster of buildings on the corner of Thurmond. They were all crammed into the space between the telephone pole and bridge on the left side of the above photo!

Since this area is now under the roof of the World Congress Center, a contemporary photo is impossible (unless someone out there can give me a security clearance and a GPS!) I'll admit I had to look at a couple of aerial photos to refresh my memory and figure out the exact location. I saved those aerial photos and placed an arrow on them to mark the spot. The first view is from 1988 and the World Congress Center is the huge building to the right. Northside Drive is on the left side of the photos.

This is the exact same view in 2007. The Georgia Dome is at the bottom of the frame.


  1. You can walk under the GWCC/Dome area and still see those special ID needed.

  2. This is the area of tracks that Burt Reynolds was running on in the beginning of sharky's machine.

  3. Sharky's Machine! That's right. I never would've remembered that one. I'll see if I can find some screenshots. Thanks for the tip.

  4. No problem. Love the new site. The DVD should be available. I bought mine about 3 years ago.

  5. I'd LOVE to see the pics of East Point and Hapeville, especially compared to today, since I live in East Point, right near Hapeville!

  6. That RR embankment is known as the "Monroe Embankment." It was begun in 1839 and finished circa 1842. It was contracted out to pioneer Atlanta resident/entrepreneur John J. Thrasher, who later opened and ran Atlanta's first grocery store. Late Atlanta historian Franklin M. Garrett (whom I knew personally) was of the opinion that the Monroe Embankment was the first construction of European-American origin in what is now Atlanta. See a history of my paternal family, the Whites, here:, for a description of the history of the "Monroe Embankment." Sincerely, T.J. White (That description is in Part II, page 105.)

  7. Nice! I'm glad to see that there are people who thought to do this before this slice of "old Atlanta" disappeared forever. I have been wanting to do this same thing around the site of the upcoming Falcons' stadium, but, as you expressed in this blog entry, I'm concerned about the risk I would be incurring by walking around the area in "photographer mode" - camera (or tablet, or smartphone) in hand. Perhaps I've become a chickensh*t dud who has let "suburban paranoia" get the best of me - but, let's face it - wandering around a city block in that fashion sort-of increases the odds of one becoming a target. That said, I've been thinking about compromising and taking photos from my car - as you did here.

    've recently been curious about the way the area that was consumed by the Dome and the GWCC-expansion looked in the past; I'm glad that I can obtain some answers without leaving my home. (Though maybe a trip to the Georgia State Archives or some sort of library would do me some good.) That's awesome how you pinpointed the exact location that your photo shows - and were able to determine with scientific accuracy that this location is now underneath the GWCC roof!

    With today's announcement that the Braves are moving to Cobb County, there is now another location-of-interest for "hobbyists" with our interests - lol. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer has already documented the area to some extent: