Midtown—The “Heart of the Arts”.
Richard Peters, a local flour mill owner, purchased the southern half of mid-town in 1848 so that he could harvest the pine trees in the area to use as fuel for his mill. Peters slowly subdivided the area into residential lots over the course of 40 years. He and his son, Edward, also built homes in the area. Edward’s home, Ivy Hall, was eventually restored by the Savannah College of Art & Design and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After the Civil War a shantytown called Tight Squeeze emerged in the area of Peachtree and 10th Streets and became known for robberies, vagrancy, and desperate individuals. In the 1880s the city of Atlanta experienced a surge of growth north into Midtown. Cross streets and fine residential homes were constructed in response to the increased interest in the area.
Piedmont Park, the central green space of Midtown, was established in 1887 to celebrate the Piedmont Exposition followed by the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895. Electric streetcar lines also came into operation in 1895 making the area more accessible to the surrounding neighborhoods. By the 1920s Midtown become the most important shopping district in Atlanta, but by the late 1950s new shopping opportunities opened in Buckhead and Ansley Park sending Midtown into a decline. Atlanta’s hippie culture moved into Midtown in the late 1960s and the area became known as The Strip. Large-scale commercial development started in 1969 with the construction of the first mixed-use development in the Southeast, Colony Square, and continued into the 2000s.
In 1978 a group of community volunteers and business members working to improve the Midtown quality of life was formed and became known as the Midtown Alliance. The Alliance neighborhood master plan, called Blueprint Midtown, is credited with encouraging the neighborhood’s transformation into a popular, desirable place to live and work.
Today Midtown is noted for urban layout, cultural attractions, institutions of higher learning, and historical and high rise architecture.
Known as the “Heart of the Arts” by residents of Midtown the area is home to most of the arts and entertainment venues offered in Atlanta. The historic Fabulous Fox Theater, located in the heart of the Fox Theater Historic District, hosts a variety of events including Broadway touring shows, a summer film series, and concerts by well-known performers; the Woodruff Arts Center, a not-for-profit arts organization, is home to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, the 14th Street Playhouse, and Young Audiences; the countries longest continuously running ballet company, the Atlanta Ballet; the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) the only museum to celebrate the study of design in the Southeast; and the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the art of puppetry in the US, the Center for Puppetry Arts just to name the highlights of the area.
The focal point of Midtown is the amazing Piedmont Park which adjoins the Atlanta Botanical Garden and is a popular festival venue. In the spring when the Dogwood trees are in bloom, Piedmont Park hosts the famous Dogwood Festival. Hundreds of artists from all around the country, showcasing every imaginable kind of art, will set up their tents in the midst of a whirlwind of festivities, music, food, and cultural events. In addition to this fun filled event, Piedmont Park also hosts the annual Atlanta Arts Festival featuring the best in local arts and crafts; Music Midtown, a two-day event featuring a wide variety of current music; the Atlanta Pride Festival promoting visibility and self-esteem among the LGBT community; and the multicultural Festival Peachtree Latino celebrating international activities, arts, food, and music.
Also connected to Piedmont Park is the new, multi-use Atlanta Beltline, a 22 mile long former railway corridor that meanders through the core of the city. Still under construction, the Beltline will ultimately promote redevelopment of the associated areas, improve local transportation including streetcars and light rail, and add green space to Atlanta which is already known as the “City of Trees”.
For those interested in living the full, urban life Midtown offers a little of everything for everybody, at any time of the day or night. Hope to see you there!
Restaurants and Shopping
Where do I start? Midtown is the Mecca of restaurants, nightlife, and shopping. More than half of the bars and approximately 140 plus restaurants call this defined area of Atlanta home. A variety of flavors are offered from internationally well known to locally owned and operated establishments.
Starting with the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, the historic Varsity Restaurant on North Avenue, offers car hops and eclectic fast food; a special experience can be had by all at Two Urban Licks on Ralph McGill Boulevard featuring wood fired meat and fish; Gordon Biersch Restaurant & Brewery on Peachtree Street serves crafted on-site authentic German lager and simply great food; Shout on Peachtree is an Atlanta hotspot with a rooftop bar, a live DJ, and great international food; Article 14 on Peachtree Street offers the best in redefined dining; One Midtown Kitchen on Dutch Valley Road will provide a premier food experience; Aloha Asian Bistro & Sushi on Piedmont Avenue for Asian dishes and off-site catering; Broadway Diner on Peachtree Street near the Fox Theater for breakfast, lunch and dinner; or Steamhouse Lounge on West Peachtree Street for seafood on the veranda.
Shopping in Midtown just goes on and on. The Lucky Exchange on Ponce de Leon Avenue to purchase, or trade vintage clothing; Heidi Elnora on Peachtree Street, of the Project Runway experience, for wedding gowns with southern charm; CB2 on Peachtree Street for home goods and elegant, modern furniture; or Eco Denizen on Peachtree Street for a greener lifestyle.
If it is to be had, you can find it in Midtown.
Residents send their children to Centennial Place Elementary School which is the only math, science, and technology themed school in the public system, Inman Middle School a National School of Excellence, and Henry W. Grady High School a Communication Magnet School, a Fine Arts Academy, a Health and Science Academy, and a Travel and Tourism Academy.
Local colleges and universities in the area are Agnes Scott College, Columbia theological Seminary, Emory University, and Georgia Perimeter College. Also located nearby is the Georgia Institute of Technology, John Marshall Law School, Georgia State University, and the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta campus.
MARTA serves the Midtown neighborhood via the Arts Center, North Avenue, and Midtown MARTA rail stations. In addition, a number of MARTA buses serve the area along with free shuttles between the Midtown Station and Georgia Tech and the Arts Center Station to the Atlantic Station multi-use development.