Old 4th Ward (O4W)— The rebirth of downtown Atlanta.
The Old 4th Ward, also known as O4W or SONO for south of North Avenue, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta and the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A racial mix of residents has always been present in this interesting and historic neighborhood, even during the time of politically inspired segregation. In 1917 Atlanta experienced the Great Atlanta Fire and most of the grand, historic style homes in the area were destroyed. The Old 4th Ward, as well as most of the inner city neighborhoods, went into decline during the 1950s and 1960s with Boulevard, one of the main thoroughfares, experiencing dramatic decline. In 2012 a seven-point “Year of Boulevard” strategy was revealed by city councilman Kwanza Hall.
In the late 1860s residents of Atlanta started visiting a natural spring east of town. A local physician christened the spring “Ponce de Leon Spring” and the second largest Atlanta thoroughfare, Ponce de Leon Avenue, was built to access the area. Eventually Sears, Roebuck & Company constructed an enormous building over the site and diverted the water into the sewer. In 2012 the Historic Fourth Ward Park was completed and the main feature of the park is a beautiful, crystal clear lake filled from this historic spring.
Revitalization of the area began in the 1980s and new apartments, condominiums, and retail complexes can now be seen along Ponce de Leon Avenue, Highland Avenue, North Avenue, and the new Beltline. Residents enjoy the area’s walkability, many cultural offerings, and close proximity to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.
By 2010 the Creative Loafing newspaper awarded the “Best Bet for Next Hot ‘Hood” award to Old 4th Ward. In 2011 Ponce City Market, the largest revitalizing project in Atlanta’s history was kicked off, and the Historic Fourth Ward Park opened for public use.
The Old 4th Ward has continued to change and evolve itself in recent times and is now nationally known “as a cradle of culinary and artistic innovation and as a symbol of gentrification”.
The main attraction of the Old 4th Ward until recently was the historical aspects of the area—Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and the Sweet Auburn Historic District. Also located in this area is the Atlanta Civic Center. These sites feature much of what Atlanta is known for, but now a new features have become noteworthy.
The Atlanta Beltline, the most comprehensive economic development ever attempted in the city of Atlanta, is a multi-use 22 mile long former railway corridor that meanders through the core of the city and the Old 4th Ward. 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”. Included in this development is the Historic Fourth Ward Park that encompasses 17 acres of landscaping, a playground, a world-class skate park, an outdoor theater, a splash pad, an athletic field, and a two-acre lake. Close by in the old Sears, Roebuck & Company building is the Ponce City Market, Atlanta’s largest revitalization effort to date.
Ponce City Market will feature a complex of restaurants, retail, boutiques, residential space, office space, and a food hall similar to the New York Chelsea Market. Close by, in a former industrial area, old factories and warehouses have been converted into a plethora of art galleries and restaurants. The Old 4th Ward part of Edgewood Avenue is home many of Atlanta’s hottest nightspots including The Sound Table which was selected by Food & Wine Magazine as one of the 50 Best Bars in America.
The two-day Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival is held each year to celebrate the community history, locate interests, and the diversity of the population. Something for everyone can be found at this fun, entertaining event. Some of the offerings include local food and beverages, a child’s play area, an emerging artist’s pavilion, and live music.
Restaurants and Shopping
The Old 4th Ward has become Atlanta’s bar and restaurant district with new eateries opening almost daily. The editor of Creative Loafing Newspaper, Cliff Bostock, called Edgewood “the most ‘diverse’ party and dining area in the city…I’m talking age, sexual orientation, and lifestyle, as much as race.”
A few of the selections in the area are Javito on Edgewood Avenue for a great cup of joe; CRU Urban Lounge on Glen Iris Drive for casual international dining; Miso Izakava on Edgewood Avenue for Japanese and sushi; Serpas on Auburn Avenue for contemporary lunch and BYOB; Delectables on Irwin Street for sandwiches and delivery; Highland Bakery on Highland Avenue for healthy baked goods; Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium on Edgewood Avenue for a most unusual bar experience; The Masquerade on North Avenue for indoor and outside concert venues; The Sound Table for amazing food and entertainment; and Krog Street Market, the former Tyler Perry studio, featuring local chefs and farmers and no national chains.
Shopping also abounds in the area. Mindzai Creative on Ralph McGill Boulevard for all your printing needs; Doubletake – Recycled Luxury Boutique on Auburn Avenue for vintage and modern fashion selections; Software Fixit on Ralph McGill Boulevard for your computer repair needs; Hollybeth Natural Luxury on Auburn Avenue for luxury and organic skin care products; Decatur Street Variety Store on Decatur Street for a variety of items we all need; and Global Flower Outlet on Angier Avenue for beautiful flower selections.
Residents of the Old 4th Ward send their children to John Hope Elementary School, 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 provides bus service via Bus 2 from the North Avenue, Decatur, and Candler Park stations and Bus 16 from Little Five Points station.