Thursday, January 26, 2012

Old Fourth Ward water tower

Few areas of Atlanta have been transformed by gentrification as dramatically and quickly as the Old Fourth Ward, east of downtown. During the 1990s, the area was dominated by old run-down houses, trash strewn vacant lots and abandoned warehouses. When I returned yesterday, I was completely disoriented by the changes that have taken place in the last 15 years. Gone are the burned out buildings, vagrants, and empty streets. They've been replaced by restored homes, infill houses, unimaginable numbers of new condos and an exponential increase in traffic. While these developments have breathed new life into the area, they've also created a sense of claustrophobia. The wide open views of the old concrete water tower and the nearby Cabbagetown mill, two major landmarks that could once be seen from almost any street in the area, have largely been obscured by the new developments. For me, the result is a tinge of Twilight Zone vertigo that comes from being in a familiar place, remembering how it used to be, and trying to reconcile that with what your eyes now see before them. For a native who grew up in Atlanta before the Olympics, these views are nothing short of surreal.

Here's the Old Fourth Ward water tower as seen from Gaspero St. The top photo was taken January 10, 1990 and the bottom was January 25, 2012.

The water tower was built in 1906 as part of the South East Atlantic Cotton Compress Warehouses (now Studioplex lofts). The complex is shown in this 1919 birdseye view of Atlanta.

I've had several requests for links to Google Maps on previous posts, so... here ya go!

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  1. I love the 1919 bird's eye rendering of Atlanta. Is there a print of that for sale somewhere? I'm a Studioplex resident and would love to adorn one of my exposed brick walls with that beautiful rendering.

  2. Thanks so much for your fantastic archive. A heroic achievement.