Inman Park: Atlanta's First Suburb


Inman Park, the first planned suburb of Atlanta, is located about two miles east of downtown Atlanta. The area is easily reached from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector and Interstate 20. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station in the neighborhood, which is also served by several bus lines. Inman Park is convenient to all of downtown Atlanta's attractions, including Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, the King Center, Oakland Cemetery and Zoo Atlanta.

Although a massive Civil War battle once raged on the same land, the urban history of Inman Park did not really begin until the 1880s, when Atlanta developer and entrepreneur Joel Hurt decided to create a rural, garden environment for residents of Atlanta who were tired of the hectic, crowded city. The result was one of the nation's first planned communities, a "garden suburb'' with large lots, parks landscaped with exotic plants and pleasantly curving streets. Hurt developed an electric streetcar line to connect Inman Park with downtown Atlanta. Construction started in 1889, and the neighborhood became immediately popular. Atlanta's leading residents built mansions, including the Candlers, the Hurts and the Woodruffs, the city's titans of the Gilded Age. Many streets were occupied, however, by working people in smaller, more practical homes. However, Atlanta's rapid growth caused the suburb to become unfashionable. By the 1950s, Inman Park was all but abandoned for newer areas further from the center of town.

In the 1970s, young, adventurous "urban pioneers'' rediscovered the architectural wonders of Inman Park and began renovating and reinvigorating the neighborhood. From elaborate, turreted Queen Anne mansions to small, Craftsman-style bungalows, the homes in this neighborhood became some of the most coveted in Atlanta. The area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was designated as a historic district under the city's Comprehensive Historic Preservation Program, giving its 300 homes and other historic structures important local protection from demolition and obtrusive or inappropriate development.

Inman Park has an active neighborhood association that sponsors the annual Spring Festival and Tour of Homes every April. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls the festival "one of the most celebrated, and eclectic, of Atlanta's many outdoor springtime soirees.'' The festival, which takes place over two days, includes parades, live music, a street market and a juried arts and crafts show. The Tour of Homes, one of the most popular in Atlanta, showcases not only the mansions, but many smaller homes that have been lovingly restored, as well as newer homes that maintain the spirit of the neighborhood.

Inman Park offers a mix of history, on view today in its beautiful homes and parks, and hip, urban sophistication. The neighborhood is filled with bed and breakfast inns, including the King-Keith House, an elaborate Victorian fantasy in pink and blue; and the Urban Oasis, a funky, ultra-modern loft. Restaurants include Son's Place, featuring soul food like fried chicken and collards; and the cutting-edge Rathbun's, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls "arguably the most popular restaurant in the city,'' featuring, for example, chicken livers a la plancha with fig molasses. These contrasts exemplify what is special about Inman Park - it served as a model for suburban development and stylish living in 1890; now, the neighborhood is an example of urban preservation, renovation and the spirit of renewal.

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