"Atlanta - then & now" Atlanta by jss1018

Atlanta Travel Guide: 1,548 reviews and 2,795 photos

Near where I grew up

I was born and grew up in a small town about 35 miles south of Atlanta, so I spent a fair amount of time in and around the city as a young man until I moved further away. For those familiar with Atlanta's history, it's pretty amazing that after being partially burned and otherwise wrecked during the civil war, it not only rebuilt and grew but developed into a fairly international city and the most so in the southeast. These days it bears little resemblance in a lot of ways from what I remember from around the early seventies, when I was getting to an age to be able to drive and go to clubs, bars, concerts, and other events as a young guy. It had a lot more of a funkier feel in those days, but that was partly the times then, and has lost most of that due to general growth and "progress" and becoming more homogenized the way a lot of large cities do. There are a lot of people who live and work in or near Atlanta that aren't from there or the southeast, not a bad thing necessarily, but it definitely causes somewhat of a loss of original regional and cultural identity.

One of the things most notable historically about the city, other than the infamous march through it of General Sherman and the large-scale destruction brought by his troops, is that it was the home of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s church where he preached, which still exists today. Somewhat of a paradox for the deep south, Atlanta in many ways set the standard for large cities in overcoming racism and creating racial diversity and opportunities. It was one of the first major American cities to have an African-American mayor years ago and has long since had a racially diverse city government. A pretty amazing feat considering the history of the region and state and the city itself, and frankly I don't think it ever got nearly enough credit for that. While some American cities had major violence and destruction during the "civil rights era", including Northern ones, Atlanta experienced virtually none.

It's the original and existing corporate home of Coca-Cola and CNN, and present home to many international corporations. It's a major rail, truck freight, and airline hub, with several Interstates passing directly through the city. Hartsfield Airport usually ranks either number-1 or number-2 in air flight traffic along with Chicago's O'Hare. Any visitors from the north or other parts of the country expecting a quaint and charming antebellum southern city would be in for a shock; it's actually a lot more like a northern or large midwest city in many ways than anything to do with the old south.

Points of interest, things to do

Atlanta and the surrounding area has something of interest for most anyone. In the main city itself, I would highly recommend a visit to the headquarters of the CNN news organization. Started by Ted Turner, a name known to most people who grew up anywhere near Atlanta, at the time it began was a revolutionary concept in news broadcasting, and scoffed at by many as doomed to failure. It's easy to forget or overlook how big a deal it was at the time in our present age of so many media outlets both on cable and satellite TV and with the Internet and almost-instant news twenty-four hours a day. Turner and CNN were THE pioneers in 24/7 global news coverage. The offices and facility are in a huge complex that also houses a hotel, shops, and places to eat. The central building area is a towering open atrium style, with the main floor area that was an ice skating rink when I was younger being these days primarily food establishments and tables for eating. Along with the hotel rooms scaling up one side, the upper floors are the CNN facilities and off-limits to the general public. You can take a guided tour, that is fascinating, up and into viewing areas of the actual broadcast studios and newsrooms with some neat demonstrations, and maybe get a look at a live broadcast by an anchorperson.

Another big tourist attraction is Underground Atlanta, a partially below-street-level complex that has quite a history. I loved going there in the early seventies when it was the original development. In those days it was funky, cool, exciting, impossible to describe, and housed some great clubs, bars, and shops. You were walking below street level in some areas and on bricks that dated back to the civil war. Picture small underground narrow "streets" with music playing from the clubs and bars, cool people everywhere, alleyways and nooks and crannies galore, sort of dark in places; I LOVED it. Unfortunately it experienced a long period several years later where crime and drug-dealing entered into the picture (someone's always got to ruin a good thing), and it became so dangerous it was closed for a long period. It was renovated, rebuilt, and added onto after several more years. My wife and I went there during the grand re-opening, and I honestly almost cried. Gone was all the coolness and funkiness and in its place was completely modernized storefronts and shops, bright lights everywhere, a typical tourist trap consumer's paradise. Granted that something had to be done to bring it back to life and make it safe, but they stripped the soul and heart right out of it. Anyone not from the area or old enough to remember what it was like back in its original days would probably love it as a touristy place to visit.

More things to do

Another interesting place to visit is Stone Mountain, a short drive outside the main city. There's an Atlanta-suburb city there by the same name, but the attraction is a huge 3200-acre park with the central feature being the largest exposed granite dome in North America. It rises to 825 feet tall and covers 583 acres by itself; in a word, gigantic. When I was growing up, the only way to get on top of the "mountain" was to walk up, and there wasn't even a fence around the top. After several people over the years ventured too close to the sloping sides off the top (it's basically a sort-of-flat topped mound shape), passed a point of no return, and slid off the thing and died a perimeter fence was installed to keep you from going over the edge. After years of park growth and development a cable car was added to take visitors to the top. One side of the mountain has a huge carving of three Confederate heroes of the Civil War ("heroes" being dependent on your take on that event): Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. The entire carved area measures 3 acres, and would be a monumental accomplishment if done today, much less back in the days when part of it was done. Although a carving was begun in the early 1900's, it developed and stalled out several times over the years for various reasons, and some of the original design concepts are very different from the completed work. It was resumed for what would be the final result in the 1960's and formally dedicated in 1970. An interesting historic context for that time is that President Nixon had been scheduled to be present for the dedication on May 9th, 1970. On May 4th the infamous and tragic Kent State shootings occurred, throwing a country already divided over the Vietnam War into an uproar. He canceled out of the dedication, citing "matters of state...". The present-day park offers something for all family members, including an utterly amazing and majestic nighttime laser show on the carving side of the mountain, a ton of attractions and shows, lodging and camping, fishing and golfing, and dining and shopping. It's really a must-see if in the area.

There's really way too much to do and see in the greater Atlanta area to begin to list here, but includes several major sports and music concert venues like the Georgia Dome (Atlanta Falcons football), Turner Field (Atlanta Braves baseball and named after the former owner and Atlanta legend Ted Turner), Philips Arena (Atlanta Hawks basketball & Thrashers hockey - along with major music concerts), and the Fox Theater (music concerts - Atlanta Ballet - other events) to name a few. The Fox is a stand-out place for me, and far and away the most beautiful and amazing place I've ever attended a music concert. Originally the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque designed and built in the 1920's, it has a lavish, opulent, and grandiose interior that is today a National Historic Landmark, the highest national ranking. Words cannot begin to describe it. The night sky painted on part of the ceiling is amazing in itself. Musical artists as diverse as Mick Jagger and Beverly Sills have appeared on its stage. The amazing, and unbelievable thing, is that it came very close to being demolished in the 1970's to be replaced by Southern Bell's headquarters. Very thankfully some concerned Atlantans got involved and started a "save the Fox" fundraising campaign that ultimately rescued it. These days more than 20-million dollars have been raised and put into restoration of it, and it's been operating successfully and profitably for many years now. It has been estimated that to build it today would cost $300 million. A true Atlanta landmark and one-of-a-kind facility.

  • Last visit to Atlanta: Jan 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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