Images of America: East Atlanta

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Images of America: East Atlanta  
Author(s) Henry Bryant and Katina VanCronkite
Publisher Arcadia
Publication date 2014-03-03
Pages 128
ISBN 9781467111218

Henry Bryant and Katina VanCronkhite’s excursion through East Atlanta, delves into the oral history as well as the documented history of this area. They take to task examining an area as a whole, by starting at the very beginning of East Atlanta’s history. Both of the Authors are residents of East Atlanta, Henry Bryant is a community leader and historian, Katina VanCronkhite is a researcher and a historian; together they have found a way to make understanding the history of an area simple to a reader who may not be aware of the technical gargin that would be used between scholars. As a historian or a person who studies geography this book may be looked at as an unconventional way to thoroughly explain their findings. To explain where East Atlanta is you have to describe the border streets in order to mark off where it “begins and ends”. This is the initial task the authors take on, as this has fluctuated over times as characteristics, landmarks and streets altogether have come and gone over the decades. Readers unfamiliar with the landscape of Atlanta would be able to have a better gauge as to the location of East Atlanta by stating this was the area for the start of the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.

At just over 100 pages, Bryant and VanCronkhite chronicle the history of East Atlanta at a variety of different points in history. The images included vary from hey photographs and history of important persons’ and how their influence impacted East Atlanta. To images of buildings and site that may or may not still exist. By encompassing images and history behind them, the reader begins to get a greater feel for the changing landscape and the amount of information that surrounds East Atlanta. By having the images organized chronological order and adding a blurb about each image allowed for a large period of time to be covered in a relatively short book. It does not go into great detail, but allows the reader to get a general understanding of the area and how things have progressed from early settlement to around 2012-2014 when the book was published.

Early Settlement and Civil War The authors introduce the area that is now East Atlanta, was originally inhabited by the Creek Native American people. In 1821 the Creeks were moved (forcibly moved) to an Oklahoma Territory after a treaty was signed. After this area was cleared a land lottery was held to divide the area to “longtime American citizens” (interesting phrasing here). This chapter goes on to include images of prominent people and sites from this era; such as a plaque that highlights the major trade routes of the Cherokee and Creek Indians. This plaque unlike some of the other sites and images highlighted throughout the book still exists, in 1932 it was placed on the old DeKalb County courthouse and was able to be saved. This chapter highlights major areas in East Atlanta that natives and tourist alike would recognize. There is a historic image of Flat Shoals Ave, one of the major roads in East Atlanta, which was named for the granite shoals in the South River.

From Battleground to Village Resilience is a major strength of East Atlanta. After the Battle of Atlanta, it took over a decade for the people who survived the war to make a comeback. With a new life developing in Atlanta, it was overflowing to the streets of East Atlanta as well. The boom of mercantile stores, schools, places of worship a healthy community began to take shape. Although this positive change was taking place, evidence of the war is still evident everywhere. In 1909 is when the City of Atlanta officially annexed East Atlanta, and commercial development skyrocketed in the area. Residential development began after the arrival of the Metropolitan Street Railway, streets in the area were named after the investors and directors into the railway such as Moreland, Brown, Haas. The start of the business area in East Atlanta was marked by J.W. Mcwilliams store, which not only was a general merchandise store, but also house the areas first post office and telephone. During this time there was a influx of businesses in the area; East Atlanta Pharmacy, East Atlanta Market, & East Atlanta Bank. Residential homes began to populate the area to house the families who were beginning businesses in this up and coming area. One of these homes built by an Atlanta Lumberjack John William Zuber, is one of the few homes to still exist and is the only one that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During this time you also see a great influx of places of worship and schools as the cities population steadily increases.

Thriving and Surviving By the 1920’s, East Atlanta was now an independent community it offered the same things a large city like Atlanta, but with a community feel. A number of schools have been developed, & dozens of new business were attracted to the area. East Atlanta was not immune to the effects of the Great Depression, the community continued to stay strong and relied on each other heavily. By 1932 paving of the streets showed a turn for better times and economic growth for the area. This chapter delves into the optimism on survival of East Atlanta,it was the suburban optimism and growth of this once rural community. Atlanta continued to grow and its influence began to stretch across Georgia. As the city grew, with it came expressways and skyscrapers.

World War II and the Boom When WWII broke out, East Atlanta was still a very close knit community, but the effects of war brought about significant changes. The end of the war marked a new turn for the community, residential areas and business continued to flourish. With this came an influx to the population and the bounds began to expand to accomodate the residents. During this chapter you see many new developments take place and can see how the city is changing to accommodate the changing times.

Divided by the Interstate and Integration During the 1960s & 1970s changes to the city majorly began to affect East Atlanta. During this time came about the construction of Interstate 20, which would isolate the area from towns in the north. Another major occurrence during this time was the Civil Rights Movement. The social changes and making the community interracial brought fear to the areas white residences and they chose to uproot and flee the area. The turn over in the area was quick and swift from 1970 the demographics at the local high school was 70 percent white 30 percent black, just the next year those numbers were completely opposite. With such a quick turn in races many white ran/owned/operated churches and businesses began to struggle and close their doors. While this was sad many of the new African American residents were able to use this to their benefit and create successful black owned businesses and hold leadership positions. Desegregation and the construction of Interstate 20 brought about major changes to this are, street names and schools began to reflect these changes with new names.

Rebuilding Together By 1980, East Atlanta the affordable housing and proximity to the city brought about a new influx of residents to the area. Newcomers to the area and old residents began to advocate for a quality of life for the neighborhood. Much needed change and redevelopment to the area began to take place. This was much needed due to the changes in demographics and residents in the area. Over time East Atlanta has once again become a thriving independent community.