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Vine City Neighborhood History

 

The Vine City neighborhood is on the western edge of downtown Atlanta and is located within the city’s central business district.  The historical boundaries of Vine City were Northside Drive on the east, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly Hunter Street) on the south, Sunset Avenue on the west, and Joseph E. Boone Blvd. (formerly Simpson Road) on the north.  The established boundary has since moved further west to Joseph E. Lowery Blvd (formerly Ashby Street).  However, many people unfamiliar with the area mistakenly refer to several west Atlanta neighborhoods as Vine City, including the neighborhoods of English Avenue and Washington Park.

Vine City is one of Atlanta’s earliest predominantly African-American residential neighborhoods. It was settled in the 19th century by large land owners, with segregated subdivisions, schools, and churches for whites and African-Americans.  Railroads, industrial developments, and Atlanta University played an important role in the neighborhood’s social and economic organization. The neighborhood was characterized by the presence of all social classes that shared community institutions.

In 1910 Alonzo F. Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, purchased land and built his home at 587 University Place.  The Great Atlanta Fire in 1917 that destroyed many homes on Auburn Avenue and in the predominantly black 4th Ward of Atlanta had a vital influence on the growth of the area as a favored African-American residential neighborhood. The Eagan Homes public housing development was completed in 1941 in the neighborhood. With the growth of the African-American population, a new black commercial district emerged on Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King Jr. Drive) replacing the once white owned businesses in which many white merchants had lived behind their stores.

In 1947 the famous Paschal's Restaurant was opened. Atlanta's first African-American Mayor Maynard Jackson has family ties to Vine City. Julian Bond, a civil rights leader and one of the first African-Americans elected to the Georgia legislature in the 20th century, also lived in the neighborhood. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved his family to Vine City in 1967, and his widow Coretta Scott King maintained their residence in the neighborhood until her death in 2006. Martin Luther King III continues to maintain the Vine City residence today.

With Urban Renewal in the 1960's and 70's, much of the characteristics of Vine City were lost. In 1976, the Georgia World Congress Center opened near the Vine City neighborhood. In 1985, 1992 and 2002 the Georgia World Congress Center expanded. Also, in 1992 the 72,000 seat Georgia Dome stadium opened on the east border of Vine City.  In spite of these major development pressures, Vine City still retains many of the housing patterns characteristic of African-American, residential communities in the South.