Historic Living… Fables of the Reconstruction

The American Civil War left Atlanta in ashes. Many of the farms in the surrounding areas had also been devastated leaving no proper food supply. Freed slaves, then known as Freedmen, left the countryside in droves for the city. The population of Fulton county doubled in size from 1860 to 1870. Shantytowns developed on the outskirts where people took any debris they could locate to build make-shift shelters. One area, which is now known as 10th and Peachtree St, became known as “Tight Squeeze.” Built on a steep ravine, merchants had to slow down to traverse the area to reach the rail yards farther south. This made it easy for the destitute in the area to ambush and rob them. People would say it was a “tight squeeze to get through there with your life. ”

By the early 1870’s horse drawn trolleys began to appear. As the trolley lines expanded, so did real estate in the city. Large homes began to be built south of downtown in the Washington-Rawson neighborhood (now Georgia State Stadium/Turner Field and the Connector/ I20 interchange) and then north along Peachtree St. Eventually Tight Squeeze was raised and replaced by the neighborhood of Blooming Hill (now Midtown). With the advent of the electric streetcar in 1888, new fashionable, wealthy neighborhoods such as the West End were built. The second electric line went east outside the city limits to Inman Park. Still touted as Atlanta’s First Suburb, many of this neighborhoods incredible Victorian era homes still exist.

So where did the Freedmen go? Black Atlantans found themselves free but far from accepted. In de facto segregation, they settled in neighborhoods such as Sweet Auburn, Reynoldstown and Peeplestown/Summerhill on the eastside and along the newly developed Atlanta University on the West. With help from religious organizations such as the AMA, Atlanta University was established in 1865 and Clark College in 1869 to help educate those freed. Black Atlantans then formed their own businesses to cater to the needs of their own communities which were refused service in other parts of the predominantly Caucasian city.

In our next installment we will look at how Coca Cola’s Asa Candler expands his business into real estate as the city enters the 20th century.

(Photo courtesy the Inman Park B&B)



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