Category Archives: ATL life

570 Candler

There’s not many 2-story houses in Candler Park that aren’t new construction (and at the moment there’s precious little of that thank goodness), so I was shocked when this tall yellow house I’d never noticed appeared between the winter trees just off the bike path. Turns out it was 570 Candler St., an 1898 Queen Anne and it was for sale!

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Candler Park at first glance seems like a fairly architecturally homogenous neighborhood, identifiable by the quaint craftsman bungalows marching up and down the hills in perfect little rows. But the neighborhood didn’t acquire that Candler Park “look” until well after it was annexed into the City of Atlanta in 1903, before that, the late 19th century community of Edgewood was centered here.

Significant settlement in the Edgewood area didn’t begin until after the Civil War, but growth must have been slow as the town was not formally incorporated until 1898, just 5 years before its annexation into Atlanta at which point it experienced a housing boom and began to take on the architectural and layout features we know today. Before it became a typical-looking early 20th century subdivision, the Edgewood area probably looked a lot like other small Southern towns with Victorian era Queen Anne houses and cottages (some plain, some graced with frills and ornamentation) spaced graciously on large lots (pecan trees, cows, and even vineyards between). Pockets of blue collar housing, near the railroad or industry just south of the railroad, and pockets of African-American residences, smaller and closely spaced, were mixed in with the wealthier white residences. More on the biracial history of Candler Park can be found at the Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project here.

These development patterns are evident in Candler Park’s housing architecture today. Among the Craftsman bungalows of the teens and 20s (actually, those were infill), a few plainer and a few grander homes are mixed in. Just past the Old Stone Church for instance, are a row of narrow houses on narrow lots and while they’ve been built out significantly, their original identity as humble and cheap shotgun houses is evident. Along Whitefoord south of the railroad tracks, several Victorian houses sit on lots clearly wider than their neighbors and occasionally, deep backyards can be glimpsed behind them where I guarantee you’ll find a grid of pecan trees.

1911 Sanborn Map fo Daley St. (now Candler) where the Daley House and the yellow Queen Anne house built for their daughter still stand.

1911 Sanborn Map of Daley St. (now Candler) where the Daley House and the yellow Queen Anne house built for their daughter still stand.

On the north side of the area there was at least one farmhouse that dated to 1855, the Daley House, located at the north end of Daley Street, now Candler. Which brings us to 570 Candler, a house which the Daleys built across the street for their daughter when she married.

570 Candler Street is not grand or presumptuous, its builders were not fancy people and lived several miles from the grand mansions of Peachtree St. in Atlanta. The 2-story house is a typical simple Queen Anne style house with Folk Victorian details. Technology in the lumber trade, and the subsequent ubiquity of mills, made mass production of milled ornamentation easy and cheap. Railroads, meanwhile, carried these pieces and patterns across the nation. Simple it may be but 570 Candler Street is a perfect encapsulation of its time.

The interior is remarkably intact aside from an addition here for bathrooms and another addition (split level?) on the back dating to the 60s or 70s for additional bedrooms and sunrooms. The 4” pine floors are just like the ones in our house, the mantles are comfortingly ubiquitous in the neighborhood as well as the interior trim. It once sat at the corner of Albemarle and Daley (now Candler) but all the houses to its left and rear were bulldozed in the 1970s to make way for the Stone Mountain Freeway, also another story.
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Candler Park is a neighborhood whose value is highly aesthetic. The aesthetics of the historic architecture drive the sense of place and community. However, nothing protects these character-defining amenities and not everyone recognizes what holds this sense of place together, so with every house for sale I fear for the neighborhood as a whole. Best of luck to this prime piece of real estate.


the streetcar in motion

ok, don’t get too excited, the Atlanta Streetcar isn’t yet moving under its own steam but merely went for a guided tour of its future route while the distance from platforms, curbs, poles, street signs, and anything else within reach was checked. The overhead wires as well were under close inspection as the Z-shaped arm—pantograph (yeah i looked that up)—slid along them.

I took the inducement from the Creative Loafing headline seriously, “…bring the whole family!” it said, so N and I detoured up Auburn on the way home late Friday night. It was about 1:30am and since midnight the streetcar hadn’t gotten far from its home under the bridge. We found it at a standstill just about five blocks away, nearly to Woodruff Park. We hung out with the workers and a handful of onlookers for a bit, watching the measuring, and the, well it was kind of hard to tell what was going on exactly but the atmosphere was very relaxed, they had all night. We tried out the platform bench and watched as the streetcar was finally towed into the stop—it was moving!!

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on streetcar vs. bicycle

The Atlanta Streetcar is ALMOST HERE. That is to say of course, it is here, it’s been here, the boarding platforms are complete and the tracks are all down, we know, because we bike and, well >> warning-streetcar-tracks

Our friend K I’m sure is not the first one whose bicycle has run afoul of the new streetcar tracks, but she can tell you from experience that it ain’t pretty she’s lucky the most un-pretty it got for her was a big blood blister leading to a very nasty bruise on her thigh.

So naturally there’s been some discussion, inevitable disgruntlements, complaints and dire predictions of lawsuits and doomsday to come thanks to “poor planning.”

I looked into a few other city’s streetcar vs. bike experiences to get some perspective and came up with a number of lawsuits primarily in Seattle where the plaintiffs seemed primarily to be arguing “poor design” or lack of design for bicyclists. In these cases there was no separate bicycle lane or, in a recent issue, the bicycle lane was blocked by pedestrians getting on the streetcar resulting in a decision by the cyclist to enter the roadway where she wiped out on the tracks. One Seattle author asked, what do cyclists seek to gain with these lawsuits? and her point is valid.

My concern is that while bikes are a crucial piece of the transit puzzle, so too is public transportation, and I’m not sure how much good can come of one form of alternative transportation getting mad at another in a city that’s struggling (but really trying) to get out automobile gridlock. There will always be transportation choices, there need to be, so for our transit to work all modes have to coexist.

Coexisting usually means following the rules and here’s the way to do it in Atlanta. DO NOT RIDE ON THE SAME SIDE AS THE STREETCAR! In Atlanta, since streetcar traffic goes east on Edgewood and west on Auburn, bicycle traffic does the opposite and to reinforce the plan, bicycle lanes, sharrows, and signage only exist on the recommended riding areas so that cyclists are not at all encouraged to ride alongside the rails. In fact I think the handy signs above were recently installed.

Granted, we cyclists, hovering in a lovely free zone between vehicular and pedestrian traffic, are hard to discourage. But this is serious, tracks are hazards, but they are known hazards and you don’t wanna tangle with em, K can tell you.

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Yours truly, following the rules on Auburn Ave.


why Uber Atlanta?

Word just got out that even the mayor is impressed and thinks Uber is here to stay, but controversy over the upstart “ride-sharing” service still reigns in the comment sections. So really, why Uber in Atlanta?

There are valid points of contention in the Uber vs. Taxicab wars: licensing and taxation, differences in background checks but I feel, and by the sound of it many agree, that if Atlanta’s taxicabs can’t step up the game on basic customer service and reliability, Uber is going to win.

I want to be able to put my faith in the cabbies, I do, I want to give them business, but every ride is such an ordeal! You have to guide them street by street to obvious parts of town (“Reynoldstown? Moreland? ok you know where Little Five Points is?”) and stories proliferate of cabs that can’t take credit cards, or, like ours from the airport recently (my last chance to get N to support the cabs) talk the whole time about how gracious he is for taking credit cards though he’d prefer cash. The cars are always filthy and there is, disconcertingly once you realize he doesn’t know where you’re going, no map in sight, not a paper map nor a GPS nor a phone. I don’t know what kind of taxi driver test they have to pass but ain’t rigorous.

My most appalling cab story came one evening when I was walking Bella in Reynoldstown. From a stopped cab up ahead a passenger emerged and said to me “maybe you can help!” he was trying to get to JCT (bar and restaurant) and he was a visitor to Atlanta, even coming from the airport i believe. Since the cabbie didn’t know where JCT was, or apparently have a way to find out, the passenger, completely inept as well in his knowledge of Atlanta, had to pull up a map on his phone and direct the cabbie with no way of knowing if things were going right or not. There was major miscommunication between the front and back seats and this fellow was IN THE MIDDLE OF REYNOLDSTOWN (SE of downtown), miles from his westside (NW of downtown) destination. The crickets chirped in the dark neighborhood street, so far off the mark was he that I at first didn’t know what JCT was. My mental map came up soon enough though and I directed them back out to the interstate, a simple enough process, and tried to calm them both down. But when I paused to ask if my directions were clear (right, left, interstate!), the cabbie, frustration with his passenger clouding his vision apparently combined with actual directional incompetence, shook his head. sigh.

Atlanta googlemap
An example of a map of Atlanta

So Uber drivers? well, they have phones with maps and gps systems. If they don’t know the place you’re talking about, they type it in to the GPS at the beginning of the ride. smart folks these, and they are courteous about it too! The app of course is great, you can talk directly to your driver when they’re on the way, the simplicity of payment is handy (though still weird to only leave with a ‘thanks, have a good day!’), and the quality of the ride itself (clean!) also a BIG plus. Maybe Uber has spoiled us rotten in the year they’ve been here but ultimately it’s the reliability on a ride and the faith I can have in my driver’s ability to get me where I need to go, kind of the point of a taxi service right?


too many tomatoes – it’s a thing

So, you remember my FedEx suitor back when I was living at Sunshine? How his “gift” of 25 super tomato plants made me really truly realize I was going to have to invent a big city boyfriend pretty soon? Well, if it weren’t for the other hints he gave me in that department I would say I was totally naive, because the tomatoes were nothing, the tomatoes were, well, i was probably just helping him out, big time.

After that first year at Sunshine (where growing things from seed was successful but not overly so), I’ve grown vegetables from seed every year, it’s a real boon, $3 for a packet of organic tomato seeds yielding 10-15 tomato plants (and I thin them now without compunction and save half the packet for next year) vs. $3-4 for a single tomato plant from the store? no-brainer, plus the VARIETY of tomatoes I have to choose from! 4 varieties is always too many, but I have a hard time stopping myself. Anyway, after I’ve gotten all I can in the ground and looked around for extra places to put a few more I’m left with flats of seedlings too pretty to toss! (I also inadvertantly lean toward the indeterminate varieties which means they grow long and luscious, willy nilly over everything—shrubbery, it turns out, is a handy support for such tomato plants.)

I’ve forced tomatoes (and eggplants, the Ping Tung Long variety turned out to have pretty potent little seeds—ahem) on all my friends that MIGHT grow them but still have some left so this morning I resorted to the neighborhood listserve and have put them out on the front porch. They are hopefully off to good homes as we speak!

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garden update

or HOW TO GET A LOT OF DIRT WITHOUT A TRUCK
(the Huerkamps would appreciate this)

After numerous bags of the cheap “topsoil” and “compost” from Lowes, splurging for some delicious Farmer D bags of dirt (1.5 c. ft. for $7.50), adding a bit of my own compost and churning up yard dirt, I was still a long way from filling the garden beds Naoya had completed for me. With seedlings ready to go in any day, I wrapped up my research and on a Friday afternoon pulled into Cummin Landscape Supply in the neighborhood to talk dirt.

I explained the problem, I needed at least 12 or 15 c. ft. by my estimates, but was tired buying bags of dirt, and really just wanted a pile of plain ole dirt! They guy noted that people usually just bring containers to put dirt in their car, Rubbermaid buckets, boxes, etc. I considered going home, but really, couldn’t we just TRY to put it in my car? I mean, this is what I have the tarp for. I spread it out fully for him to see, there! just like big tarp bag the size of my trunk with the seats folded down.

In the end this guy helped me shovel 1/2 cubic yard (about 13 c. ft.) into the trunk of the prius, which, along with 2 bags of their compost came to $19. I can sweat for that!

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Back home the wheelbarrow’s deflated tires proved impossible to fill so I hauled dirt like a water carrier from the trunk to the garden, and it filled it perfectly.


on what it’s like living the dream

I was biking to work on the beltline the other day and thinking of my siblings, in faraway places like Mississippi and California and how they don’t even know about the cool stuff I experience everyday, things that I just take for granted, like this dang BELTLINE! So I pulled my phone from my back jacket pocket (bike gear, yeah, gotta say, the pocket in the back is nice) and carefully snapped a few pictures. I stopped for some of them.

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Seriously guys, this beltline is a big deal.

see City Hall East When I first heard of the Beltline, 3 or 4 years ago, it was just starting to become a reality. Though the eastside trail was still rocky (track ballast that’s called), and impossible to bike, it was regularly jogged by local residents. I eagerly read everything I could get my hands on about this idealistic trail that would connect a circle of intown Atlanta. I wrote a research paper (a short one mind you) and took lots of hikes mainly in search of graffiti-filled spaces just beyond the public’s eye, and I too dreamed of the day when my bike could take me from my home in East Atlanta to work in midtown, all the way west to the quarry, or, well, anywhere. Riding on a [paved] railroad bed is SO EASY, and riding across town on Atlanta’s hills and potholed streets is not.

In the intervening years I moved one neighborhood closer (to Reynoldstown) and the Eastside Trail was completed, connecting Inman Park directly with Piedmont Park. With a little not-too-difficult-at-all street riding on either end of my trip I now commute to work on the beltline.

The ride itself is lovely ESPECIALLY in the morning, by the time I’ve biked through my neighborhood, the infamous Krog Tunnel, past the developing Atlanta Stove Works complex to the beltline trailhead everything about the morning is great. Traffic is tight on the streets but as I turn right onto the beltline I am warmed up and can relax into the ride.

And while we’re talking about Awesome Atlanta, I get to ride past the 2nd most up and coming happening thing in this city and the world—Ponce City Market—and check on the progress. I see what’s happening in Piedmont Park, or along Peachtree and then I’m there, properly sweaty and breathing hard I duck into a bathroom de-helmetize my hair, change shirts, and reapply deodorant. Minor drawbacks to bike commuting.

It’s a dream come true, one of those awesome amazing ideas that actually happened—is happening, and is only getting better with every step forward.

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winter storm warning

We Atlantans are debilitated by snow and ice, it’s not something worth making fun of us for, or blaming the city, I mean we have very little reason to be so prepared, once every 3 or 5 or 10 years a major winter event shuts down the city for a day or 2. so it goes. In fact, since the great Snowpacalypse of 2011, salt and sand has sat by the highways coming in and out of town, some salt and sand was spread ahead of the snow that started around noon yesterday but it did little good when, with one motion every Atlantan got up from their desks and headed for their cars. It’s a shame fewer thought to just begin the commute with a walk to Marta like my friend S. I, looking out at Peachtree St. as co-workers rushed to join the herd was extremely glad I had not driven that morning and turned down N’s offer to pick me up (it gave me a headache to think of him backtracking those few blocks to reach me), still, I thought he’d beat me home…

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To be fair, Marta wasn’t without its hitches at first, it seems there was some panic (“can we run trains when this cold white stuff is in the air??!” actually: a fire on the tracks at Five Points) but these were resolved and a mere 40 minutes after I left work, I was getting off at King Memorial, having decided this was my chance for a nice cold walk through the falling snow.

UntitledOakland Cemetery was beautiful. Perhaps because the traffic of Memorial was at such a standstill only the occasional whoosh of the Marta train infiltrated the quiet of that space where the pattering of tiny flakes led me into a meditative state until I started to get too cold. The other people I encountered in the cemetery seemed of the same mind, one woman walking back and forth with her dog, a man, obviously also detouring on the way home like me, with his iPhone out to photograph the white stuff, and two primitive snowmen on a granite wall, built with the first flakes that fell.

I got home, after my chosen walk, in an hour and 40 minutes. It took N more than 3 hours to drive just across town (no highways, all roads were parking lots though), but that is nothing compared to others we’ve heard who abandoned their cars (the ice began to form soon enough despite all the traffic) and walked miles the rest of the way home, folks who would’ve done better to walk from the start rather than spend 7 or 8 or 10 hours in their car at the start—but WHO KNEW?! I can’t claim prescience, i just don’t like traffic. So, the lesson? everyone should use alternative transportation all the time! (it’s worth dreaming right?)

btw – Marta is running today, but roads are sheets of ice and will remain such until tomorrow most likely.


goodbye Atlanta Braves,

HELLO MAY-RETTA CRACKERS!!

I can’t claim that one, N came up with it. It was over breakfast at a posh Caribbean resort, we were reading the provided NYTimes daily digest and there it was, major national news that our hometown baseball team was abandoning us for the burbs. But Marietta Crackers is great, striking so many nerves in one swift blow—racism, elitism, AND it’s historical! Not that I have much against Marietta, it’s not a suburb in fact but a historic town in its own right, but the name works well with in-town bias. Another suggestion floating on fbook has been the Cobb Commuters, more descriptive but lacking the ring. Maybe the Cobb County Crackers would be better. yeah, i like it.

Atlanta Crackers Stadium c. 1950, GSU Special Collections

Atlanta Crackers Stadium c. 1950, GSU Special Collections

Moving on, cause this is serious. There are a lot of good points, and bad. A lot of things we’ve gotten emotional about in the last few days and biasedly overlooked. I am not the expert so I’m not going to write my own spiel but I’ll lead you to some excellent articles on the subject and a few kicking quotes:

In the CL article “Farewell, Braves?” Nick Stephens says:

I cannot in good conscience root for a sports team, an organization, that fails to see the power it holds beyond simply uplifting a stadium’s crowd for a night. I cannot root for an organization that would turn its back on a community that it never did enough to foster in the first place, to move to a place so lacking in community that it has no name. I cannot root for an organization that cannot see how the magic inspired by fireworks over a neighborhood can light a child’s dreams for years on end. And mostly, I cannot root for an organization whose name will come to represent the height of irony, and hypocrisy. I can’t help feeling that the Braves are fleeing something they’ve so long wanted to ignore, rather than help make right.

This rings true with me on so many levels, the decision on the surface and even deeper seems like something the team would’ve made in the mid-60s when everyone was leaving the inner city (oh, but 1966 was the year the Braves first moved to Atlanta), or the mid-1990s which seems like a boom time for development all over the metro Atlanta area (but the Olympics came to town and Turner, naturally, got the Braves a new stadium next to the old one). So it comes in 2013, the economy’s picking up and money is the primary motivating factor (they say it’s their fans but really, come on, do YOU believe that?).

If I was a commuter from Marietta I’d be raising a stink, I think I’d just have to sleep in the office on game days because there’s no way in hell I’d get home, perhaps if MARTA went to Marietta (or Cobb at all, hello Cobb?) I could take it as an alternative to or around the game. So what ARE Mariettans saying?
“Traffic and Economics biggest hurdles to Braves’ success”

Meanwhile, writers for the Saporta Report are doing their best to get the whole story, there are lots of good reads here:
“Traffic, transit access to stadium near Cumberland Mall may be less a nightmare than some predict”
“What it would have taken for Atlanta to keep the Braves at Turner Field”
and this new take which just gives us something else to be mad about:
“Egbert Perry: Atlanta Braves did not consider GM site in Doraville
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but I’ll leave you with this note, the deal is NOT QUITE DONE, there is business to done and before everyone gets excited, Jay Bookman has some wise words:
“On Braves deal, Cobb officials act like they have something to hide”

NOW, go get mad.


the South Site

I don’t want to harp on the icky stadium issue (New Atlanta Stadium to cost $1.2 billion, however, when N and I biked through there recently it got me thinking about what was in this area before.

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The Georgia Dome (c.1992) behind Mt. Vernon Baptist peeking out from behind Friendship Baptist Church on Mitchell St., Atlanta

To make way for the new Falcons stadium on the “south site,” two historic African-American churches will be demolished. The Friendship Baptist Church congregation dates its founding to 1862, and began construction of the current sanctuary in 1871. It shows up, on the corner of Mitchell St. and Haynes (removed in the 1990s for Friendship’s expansion after the areas roads were compromised by the construction of the Georgia Dome) and sharing a block with commercial and residential buildings, in the 1949 aerials below (bottom-most yellow square).

Mt. Vernon Baptist Church began in 1959 and still retains it’s mid-century sanctuary. Mt. Vernon was built at the intersection of Hunter (now MLK) and Haynes, a fragment of which still exists for now, on the 1949 aerials the lots appear to be empty (yellow block just below the Georgia Dome), and across Haynes St from the long back wall of an industrial rail yard.

On the edge of what we now call Vine City, this area was home to the African-American elite of Atlanta in the mid-20th century. It had long been home to African-American institutions like Morehouse and Spelman. In the 20th-century Vine City was home to Atlanta’s business and later Civil Rights leaders—Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family lived out there as did Alonzo Herndon, a leader in the business community. Friendship’s role in this community was strong, they even claim to have housed the earliest classes of Morehouse and Spelman and certainly contributed to the raising of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, whose father, Maynard, Sr., was pastor from 1945-1953.

So, to really picture this neighborhood before the Georgia Dome, I’m turning to some old maps (1949 aerials):

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In 1949, the neighborhood west of the future Georgia Dome was primarily residential, packed tight on unpaved streets and alleys. The Dome itself sits halfway on the industrial yard that was east of Mt. Vernon, the rest of the World Congress Center and Philips Arena are located on what were once residential streets north of the industrial yard and between rail lines that once led to Terminal and Union stations. Commercial buildings lined Mitchell and the former Hunter St. which were entry points to the west side of Atlanta, only a few blocks from Terminal Station (bottom left purple block). Terminal Station was demolished in 1971-72, apparently beyond the reach of the preservationists who rallied to save the Fox a few years later and I wonder sometimes if my 18-year-old dad first entered Atlanta from under that arched colonnade, one of its last passengers.

Friendship Baptist then, constructed in 1871, saw the whole westside grow up around it. And though its location today feels adrift in a sea of redirected (mis-directed?) streets, parking lots and fences but its position in the community was anchored by this once-prominent location on Mitchell. No doubt the Mt. Vernon congregation felt they’d come across prime property too when they built in the 1950s just behind Friendship.

Today’s aerial view is full of holes, a widened Northside Dr. adds to the expanse of pavement here, blocks full of homes and shops that were not overlaid with oversized arenas have been redrawn with inward-looking housing projects or parking lots. There are many empty lots and fast food chains. There are a lot of fences. Imagine a downtown Atlanta street grid, walkable, human-scale, that marched westward from train tracks instead of a west side that’s been wiped clean of anything historic—except for Friendship Baptist Church. And now that, the root of so much Atlanta history, is about to be wiped clean too.