Atlanta Beltline and the Old Fourth Ward

Submitted by Sammy Smith (


Last week’s Weekly Ponder discussed land use change over time on a hill east-northeast of downtown Atlanta. Not far away, urban planners have plotted out a redevelopment project that includes a multi-use transportation corridor that passes just west of that hill.

The project is called the Atlanta Beltline.

The Beltline project includes a 22-mile loop of pedestrian-friendly rail transit that encircles downtown within the perimeter highway, 33-miles of foot trails, and almost 1300 acres of new parkland.

Parts of the Beltline loop follow routes previously used by now decommissioned rail rights-of-way.

Here are a few photographs from early January 2011 along the stretch from the Carter Center north to Piedmont Park. Beltline planners call this part of the route Northeast (Map 5). Part of this route goes through the Old Fourth Ward.


Beltline route immediately southwest of the Carter Center. View is to the south along an old rail route from under the Freedom Parkway bridge, and shows several new apartment complexes. These buildings illustrate some of the gentrification now happening in the Old Fourth Ward.


View north from bridge crossing Ralph McGill Boulevard. Note the old rails retained on the bridge.


Informative sign about the Old Fourth Ward, placed by the Atlanta Beltline project.

The Old Fourth Ward is called old because that system for dividing the city into smaller areas was abandoned in 1954. Parts of the Old Fourth Ward burned in the 1917 Atlanta fire.


View of the old Du Pree Excelsior* Factory on North Avenue next to the Beltline route. The factory for over fifteen years was the Masquerade nightclub.


Built by Sears, Roebuck, and Company, this building has most recently been called City Hall East, and included Atlanta city offices including for the police.

These photographs include recently constructed buildings and others built long ago, most in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. The Atlanta Beltline is a new project. What affects, both postive and negative, do you think it will have on historical and archaeological resources?

* Bonus question: what is excelsior?

Where to find it