The boundaries of Atkins Park run roughly in the rectangle created by a line drawn from the intersection of Briarcliff Avenue and Ponce de Leon to N. Highland Avenue, then north to St. Louis Place. The rear boundaries of the houses on the north side of St. Louis up to Briarcliff Avenue, and then south to our beginning intersection at Ponce de Leon describe the area known as “Atkins Park.”
These boundaries are on the National Register of Historic Places.
This small area of only seven block faces has two distinct environments. While both are predominantly residential, their locations create the differences. The first area has three core streets, St. Augustine, St. Charles, and St. Louis Places. These consist of one-hundred houses, surrounded by gardens, and built for single-family occupancy. In this area the houses front two lane roads, and one one-way street. The second area is Ponce de Leon, a major traffic artery in Atlanta, and the subject of its own study, The Ponce de Leon Corridor Study. There are presently six houses built for one-family occupancy sharing the block with two condominium developments and a two-story building with residential and limited commercial use.
Originally, this was good bottom farmland purchased between 1902 and 1905 by Edwin Wiley Grove, a St. Louis businessman. He was the owner of a pharmaceutical company which provided the means for his hobby, real estate and the developing of neighborhoods. Development began in 1912 intending Atkins Park to be a residential streetcar suburb linked to Atlanta by streetcars on Ponce de Leon, and the “Nine-mile Circle” electric trolley line which partially included Highland Avenue to Virginia Avenue. To make life easier, Grove planned a sidewalk (the by-way) running through the centers of the streets to Ponce de Leon providing quick access to the trolleys.
Atkins Park, was originally named St. Louis Park, but changed during construction to honor a family friend and mentor, Colonel Atkins of Paris, Tennessee.
The neighborhood is an almost undisturbed example of early 20th century residential planning. There is a variety of architectural styles: Georgian Revival; Craftsman Bungalow; Spanish Eclectic; and English Tudor. Many tiled roofs, wide arched porches, dormers, half-timbering, and columns of many styles co-exist harmoniously to create an interesting weave of early 20th century architectural detail in an unique streetscape.
Atkins Park is recognized by its stone gateways at both ends of St. Charles and St. Augustine Places and the west end of St. Louis Place. These are maintained by volunteers with privately raised neighborhood funds, an example of the pride and responsibility of the district residents. The Atkins Park Garden Club meets monthly as it has since its inception in 1929. It is a source of timely neighborhood projects and historical garden information.
Atkins Park was included on the National Register in 1982, and is listed on Atlanta’s local roster of historic sites and districts. It has been designated as an Urban Conservation and Development Area, giving this former streetcar suburb national, state, and local recognition.
Today, the residential blocks abut a lively midtown area of restaurants, bars, and boutiques, housed in most cases in original commercial buildings of the same vintage on North Highland Avenue. The Atkins Park Restaurant and Bar has been in continuous operation since the 1920s, relatively unchanged. Fleeman’s Pharmacy, one of the original businesses recently closed, has evolved into Belly’s, which wisely retains the same ambience. One-half mile north on N. Highland Avenue is the main intersection of the Virginia Highland commercial district; tree-lined with a large garden island dividing traffic, it is of compatible design and a natural focal point to the north of the neighborhood. A natural focal point to the south is the 1939 Ponce de Leon Shopping Plaza, the first shopping plaza in Atlanta. Originally designed to serve Asa Candler’s nearby Druid Hills, it has provided a retail focus for the entire midtown area. There still remain vestiges of the original architectural signs at the Majestic Diner and the Plaza Theater. The demise of the Plaza Drug Store in the flagship position at the Highland end of the retail strip, is still lamented by old timers and historians alike.
The old-timers and historians of Atkins Park have been joined by neighbors from near and far, all seeking the quiet loveliness of the old tree-shaded streets. In most cases, devotion to this district and to its best interests is the basic assumption that drives a very active neighborhood association. While Grove did not provide for an association of neighbors, the original deed covenant required that each homeowner pay an annual fee for “beautification, preservation, improvements, and repairs.” It also forbade commercial activity, the building of multi-family units, and “persons of bad character.”