Monday, January 16, 2012

Before the GA Dome and World Congress Center expansion (part 3)

This is the Foundry Street underpass as seen from Haynes Street on January 10, 1990. The World Congress Center and Mangum Street are just beyond it. Later that year, the embankment and old industrial buildings surrounding it were demolished for the construction of the Georgia Dome. This exact spot is now several stories below a plaza that runs between the Dome and the expanded World Congress Center convention hall.

I often wondered what this area looked like before it was engulfed by the Congress Center, The Omni, the Georgia Dome and, later, Philips Arena. Thankfully, the Atlanta History Center has a series of photos taken from the top of this railroad embankment by Herbert H. Lee in August 1969.

The corner of Magnolia and Mangum is at bottom right and the Magnolia St. viaduct is in the distance. That particular underpass still exists but is hidden far below the raised street level and parking decks just north of Philips Arena.

The area west of downtown has long been one the most impoverished areas in the state of Georgia. The following two photos depict the nearly third world conditions of the neighborhood that was cleared to build the World Congress Center. This is Mangum St. as seen from the railroad embankment.

When was this massive railroad embankment built? The Sanborn Insurance map from 1911 shows that the AB&A Railroad, short for Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic, owned the tracks. According to, the company was organized in 1905 to build a line from Warm Springs, GA to Atlanta, although the completion date isn't mentioned.

A quick search through the Atlanta Journal Constitution archives found this headline and synopsis from August 25, 1906:
1,500 HOMES WILL BE RAZED ON WEST SIDE. OCCUPANTS NOTIFIED TO MOVE OUT AT ONCE - Great Developments at an Early Date Expected on the Property Purchased by Gate City Terminal Company for Atkinson Line. Fifteen hundred homes will be razed on the west side to make way for the terminals and tracks of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic railroad.Incredibly, less than 10 months later, a June 13, 1907 headline proclaimed: FIRST TRAIN RUNS MONDAY - Next Monday, the 17th, Atlanta will have the opportunity of inspecting the magnificent new car equipment of the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic railroad.

Considering the amount of dirt that had to be moved, this was an impressive feat.

The Library of Congress has posted several "Bird's Eye View of Atlanta" maps from the late 1800s through the early 1900s online and they are absolutely fascinating if you're even the least bit interested in local history. Here is a view of the area just west of downtown in 1892. Davis Street is better known these days as Northside Drive. The gas tanks seen at the bottom right are now the site of Philips Arena.

This map from 1919 shows the AB&A tracks and rail yards to the left while the railroad "gulch" and Terminal Station platforms can be seen at far right.

Finally, here is a current view of the same area courtesy of Google Earth.


  1. In the third picture down are those tracks in the street? Industrial siding or ancient streetcar remnants?

  2. I noticed that too. I can't tell if they're tracks or the shadows of powerlines.

  3. I was thinking powerlines but after doing research im leaning more towards tracks. There is an interesting discrepancy between the 1949 GSU maps ( ) and the HistoricAerials views from 1955-1968, if you will note that NEW rail sidings were build down from the embankment post 1949 to serve the industry along Foundry St. between the two rr embankments, and the 1955 aerial seems to show a spur line entering Magnum St. and the industry at the SE corner of the Magnum-Magnolia intersection seems to have a curving spur track coming off the street, esp visible in the 1968 view. If this is not all crazy optical illusions then its very interesting that industry was still expanding in downtown Atlanta post 1949!

  4. Do you have an aerial view or map of the entire area before the entire Congress Center & before the Georgia Dome? I want to see exactly how all the streets ran & intersected.