The first acknowledged settlement in what is now known as Virginia-Highland was recorded in 1812 when William Zachary purchased 202.5 acres and established a homestead. Ten years later Richard Copeland Todd purchased the Zachary farm and connected his new farm to that of his brother-in-law’s in what is now the downtown Atlanta area. The connection road became known as Todd Road with a portion of which still exist in Virginia-Highland.
George Washington Adair and Richard Peters formed the Atlanta Street Railway Company in the 1880s to serve a nine mile circular area of Atlanta. Patrons of the streetcar service utilized this form of transportation to visit the more rural locations just outside the city one of which was the Virginia-Highland area. The first subdivision, Highland Park was built in the 1890s on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The majority of future construction and street improvements occurred between 1909 and 1926. Trolley car curves can still be seen in the major intersections of Virginia Avenue and its associated streets. Virginia-Highland experienced deterioration in the 1960s as many of the residents moved outside the city to the suburbs and businesses closed. In the mid-1960s the state of Georgia proposed a new interstate, I-485, be built in the area to connect Freedom Parkway to Georgia I-400.
In response to the proposed highway Joe Drolet and a group of other individuals registered the Virginia-Highland Civic Association in 1971 with the purpose of defeating the proposed highway. The civic association worked in conjunction with Morningside, Stone Mountain, and Inman Park to successfully defeat the I-485 proposal. Due to the press coverage associated with the defeat of the highway, the name Virginia-Highland remained synonymous with the area between Ponce de Leon Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue, Druid Hills, and Piedmont Park.
Property values rapidly increased in the mid-1970s and residents begin moving back into the neighborhood along with upscale retail shops and high-end restaurants. The improvement in the quality of business in the area encouraged patronage from outside of the neighborhood and across greater Atlanta. Residents became concerned about the rapid growth of Virginia-Highland and successfully approached the city council about a new zoning ordinance that would limit development and business type and quantity.
In 2011 Virginia-Highland was recognized by Creative Loafing Newspaper as the “Best Overall Neighborhood” and in 2012 as the “Best Walkable Neighborhood”, and by Atlanta Magazine in 2011 as the “Favorite Neighborhood Overall”. In addition to the local acclaim, the neighborhood has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Today this beautiful, safe neighborhood features only the best of what can be found in Atlanta.
There is no shortage of things to do in Virginia-Highland. Bordering the neighborhood is 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 the 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”. 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.
This interesting and beautiful neighborhood also offers a vast amount of green space for year-round enjoyment. Featured inside the neighborhood are John Howell Memorial Park, New Highland Park, Orme Park, Maiden Trail, and a neighborhood arboreta.
Held annually is the two day SummerfestArtist Market and the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. Summerfest kicks off with a fun themed parade through the heart of the neighborhood ending in the park with a meal and a movie or enjoy live music and beer at one of the local eateries. Catch the 5K run the next morning and more live music and art in the afternoon. The Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes offers an opportunity to view the excellent local architecture up close and personal.
Restaurants and Shopping
Located throughout Virginia-Highland are charming sidewalk cafes and fun night spots. Unexpectedly finding a party at a local art gallery or stumbling upon some great musical entertainment is part of the excitement of this area. Some of the local eateries are La Tavola Restaurant Trattoria on Virginia Avenue featuring great Italian food and an extensive wine list; Casserole’s on North Highland Avenue for a frozen take-home casserole; Marco’s Pita on Ponce de Leon Avenue for specialty Mediterranean dishes; Atkins Park Tavern, Atlanta’s oldest licensed tavern, on North Highland Avenue offers a excellent pub food and drinks; Osteria 832 on North Highland Avenue for a tasty pizza; Moe’s & Joe’s Bar & Grill on North Highland Avenue for wings and beer; American Roadhouse on North Highland Avenue for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner; or Majestic Diner on Ponce de Leon Avenue for a 24 hour selection.
Virginia-Highland receives vast acclaim by all those that visit here for the unique shopping selections. Metropolitan Deluxe on North Highland Avenue for unique furniture selections; Sidewalk Studio of Virginia Highland on North Highland Avenue for an eclectic selection of wares; Mooncake Clothing Company on Virginia Avenue for a trip through time; Paper Source, Inc. on North Highland Avenue for independent paper and card selections; Half-Moon Outfitters, LLC on North Highland Avenue for your next outdoor adventure and gear; Atlanta Activewear on Virginia Avenue for women’s fitness apparel; and Highland Hardware on North Highland Avenue for an outstanding selection hardware items and woodworking classes.
Residents of Virginia-Highland send their children to Springdale Park 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 serves Virginia-Highland with Bus 2 on Ponce de Leon Avenue to Inman Park, Candler Park / Edgewood, and North Avenue Rail Stations; Bus 16 on North Highland Avenue to Five Points Rail Station; Bus 36 on Virginia Avenue and North Highland Avenue to the Midtown Rail Station and on Decatur Street to Emory University, Decatur, and Avondale Rail Station; and Bus 99 from Monroe Avenue and Virginia Avenue to the Midtown Rail Station and south along Boulevard.