Lakewood Heights Historic District

Atlanta City, Fulton County, GA

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Lakewood Heights Historic District

Lakewood Heights Historic District [†] is a large residential district with accompanying commercial buildings, churches, and a school, located in the City of Atlanta. The Lakewood Heights neighborhood developed south of the center of Atlanta as a working-class white suburb. Development of the neighborhood can be tied directly to the extension of the trolley lines to outlying areas of the city.

Lakewood Heights Historic District is significant in the area of architecture for its good and intact collection of late-19th and early-20th century houses, commercial buildings, and community landmark buildings. Residential architectural styles represented in the district include Folk Victorian and Craftsman. House types include bungalow, gabled ell cottage, Queen Anne cottage, New South cottage, pyramid cottage, and shotgun. All of these types and styles have been identified as important in the architecture of Georgia in Georgia's Living Places: Historical Houses in their Landscaped Setting. Commercial and community landmark buildings are represented by the Commercial style with decorative brickwork and the Colonial Revival style.

The bungalow house type is the most numerous in the district and reflects Lakewood Heights' biggest period of development. Built in Georgia between 1900 and 1930, the Bungalow is divided into four subtypes: front gable, side gable, hipped, and cross gable. All of the subtypes are represented in Lakewood Heights with front and side gable examples being the most numerous, which reflects the overall distribution of this house type in Georgia according to Georgia's Living Places: Historic Houses in the Landscaped Settings, a statewide context study.

Lakewood Heights is also significant in architecture for the design of the Lakewood Heights School, built in 1932. The school was designed by the prominent Atlanta architectural firm, Edwards and Sayward. This firm also designed the exhibition buildings at the Lakewood Fairgrounds.

The district is also significant in the area of community planning and development as a large working class white neighborhood that developed due to its close proximity to surrounding industrial, governmental, and recreational areas during the period between 1890 and 1935. The first areas of development were along trolley lines constructed to transport workers into the city. The development of Lakewood Heights began with the creation of a water works for the City of Atlanta in 1874, when the city was growing at a rapid rate. The water works became defunct by 1893 and the land was developed into a recreational and resort area known as Lakewood Park. When the trolley line came into the neighborhood by the late 1890's, the land began to develop as a new suburb of Atlanta. The first areas of development, including residential and commercial structures, in Lakewood Heights were along the trolley lines. Some of the developers of Lakewood Heights at this time were the owners of the trolley line. Lakewood Park became a popular attraction for people in Atlanta, who would ride the trolley through Lakewood Heights for a day of fun activities.

In the 1910s, Atlanta, wanting to compete with Macon's large agricultural fair, decided to start a fair of its own. Lakewood Park, a place already known for entertainment, was named as the site of the newly formed Southeastern Fair. The exhibition buildings were constructed in 1915 and the first fair was held in 1916. The Southeastern Fair became a popular destination for people across the state. The neighborhood of Lakewood Heights certainly felt the effects of Lakewood Park and the Southeastern Fair, by having fun seekers coming through on the trolley.

The neighborhood developed further due to the nearby construction of the Federal Penitentiary, built in 1902, and the General Motors plant, which opened in 1928. Many of the construction workers who built the Penitentiary, as well as the guards there, settled in Lakewood Heights. Workers at the General Motors plant also bought homes in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood also developed around a small central business area, at the crossroads of Lakewood Avenue and Jonesboro Road, two of the older roadways in the area. Some of the businesses in this area included groceries, drug stores, and gas stations. Characteristic features of this neighborhood included rectangular shaped lots and mature trees.

Prior to 19th"century settlement, the area of Lakewood Heights was part of the Creek Nation. During the period from 1821 to 1838, the State of Georgia, in its quest for land, had the Federal government relocate the remaining Indian population to areas west of the Mississippi River. Although no Indian sites have been recorded within the Lakewood area, its location on a series of ridges proximate to low and high order streams would have been favorable for aboriginal populations.

To promote settlement, the State held land lotteries for the newly acquired land. The Lakewood Heights area was originally part of Henry County, which was surveyed for the land lottery of 1821. The area is contained within portions of Land Lots 39, 40, 57 and 58 of District 14. District 14 of Henry County was added to Dekalb County in 1822, and in 1853, the district was added to Fulton County. Through the lottery, the 202.5-acre lots were drawn by Martin Graves of Jasper County, John Patten of Madison County, George W. Welch of Laurens County and Polly Clements, a widow, of Putnam County. The land lot plats from 1821 show that the land was covered in a variety of hardwoods including hickory, poplar, red and post oak, and chestnut. There were no roads or other improvements in the area.

During the same period, the fledgling community of Terminus, later to become the City of Atlanta, was being established north of the Lakewood area. Terminus developed around the terminal point of the Western & Atlantic or "State Railroad. The locality for the railroad terminus was, to a certain extent, determined by an act of legislature in 1836; however, as much as anything else, the actual location of the terminus was influenced by the intersection of Whitehall-Peachtree Road with Marietta-Decatur Road, the routes of earlier Indian trails. The intersection of these roads, the central part of Atlanta, is three miles north of Lakewood Heights.

Terminus was little more than a few frame structures on the rolling hills around the railroad. The community became Marthasville in 1843 and evolved into a railroad town of frame dwellings, a railroad office and a hotel. By 1845, Marthasville had a sawmill, several commercial structures, a church/school and a newspaper, The Luminary. The population of Marthasville to be approximately 100, or about 12 families. Marthasville was incorporated under the name of Atlanta in 1847.

The period between 1845 and 1850 saw a railroad community develop into a city. In 1845, the Georgia Railroad was completed, followed three years later by the development of the Western & Macon Railroad. The completion of this railroad triangle precipitated real estate speculation. Land speculators aligned the first city blocks with the railroads. The Norfolk Southern Railroad right-of-way (formerly the Southern Railway route) located one-half mile north of Lakewood Heights was constructed after the Civil War but before 1887 based on the early Atlanta United States Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle map. The railroads determined the structure of central Atlanta and the development through the remainder of the 19th and early 20th century.

Atlanta witnessed dramatic growth during the 1850s, from 2,600 to about 11,500 in 1859. A visitor, who had described Atlanta in 1850 as a "village," characterized it as a rapidly growing "city" during an 1853 visit. As Atlanta matured around the railroad during the 1850s, original land surfaces were modified to accommodate construction. Land value increased, lots were cleared and older frame structures were replaced. The first brick structures and iron-front buildings were erected. Atlanta's first City Hall was constructed in 1855, the same year city streets received gaslights. In 1853, the City of Atlanta established a cardinally oriented street and lot grid surrounding the original offset grid imposed by early real estate speculators.

Little speculation was occurring in the Lakewood Heights area during this period. Tracing the land ownership of Land Lot 58 that encompasses the southwest portion of the proposed district, the entire 202.5 acre lot passed from Polly Clements, the original land lottery recipient, to Isaac Waller of Putman County in an unknown transaction or series of transactions (unknown due to the destruction of early records in the 1842 Dekalb County Courthouse fire). Waller sold the land lot to John Farrar of Fulton County for the sum of $1,100 in 1854.

In the summer of 1864, Union General William T. Sherman and his troops moved on Atlanta, eventually entering the city on September 2nd. Prior to the Atlanta Campaign in 1864, little direct Civil War activity was seen in the city. Official maps of the lines held during the Siege of Atlanta and the movements on Atlanta in the summer of 1864 show Confederate earthworks three-quarters of a mile north of the Lakewood Heights area. McDonough Road (Boulevard) that intersects with Jonesboro Road approximately one-half mile north of the Jonesboro Road and Lakewood Avenue junction was used as an evacuation route for the Confederate forces.

Civil War-era maps indicate that there was little settlement in the Lakewood Heights area during the mid-19th century. Jonesboro Road was in place as was the route now known as Lakewood Avenue. These roads were also used to move troops out of Atlanta. Meador Street, Brown's Mill Road and Lakewood Terrace served as minor routes in the area. The only structures in the vicinity included Stephen Terry's Mill located on Render's Creek (also known as Poole's Creek), along what is now the western edge of the proposed district, and the house of a Mr. Goodwin that was northwest of the intersection of Jonesboro Road and what is now Lakewood Avenue. The remainder of the land was in timber and fields.

By November 14, 1864, Sherman's soldiers had burned all but 400 structures of the 5,000 that remained in Atlanta after the siege. Many of the interior sections of Atlanta were spared destruction during the Civil War. The interior area and the structures within it provided the foundation for Reconstruction in Atlanta.

After the war, Atlanta was rebuilt rapidly. Just before the Siege of Atlanta, the city had a population of about 20,000. It had about the same population in 1866 and around 250 commercial establishments. By 1870, Atlanta housed nearly 30,000 residents and had about 875 licensed businesses. One source states that over 400 buildings were erected in 1871 alone. In the early 1870s, Atlanta was the second largest city in Georgia, after Savannah. By 1877, Atlanta's population had surpassed Savannah's and it was named the state capitol.

As Atlanta grew during the 1870s, infrastructure systems were improved. In 1874 the City of Atlanta bought 375 acres from Stephen Terry, the owner of the mill on Render's Creek, to add to 22 acres previously purchased from John Farrar, the owner of Land Lot 58. By 1875, Atlanta's first waterworks reservoir, Lakewood, was constructed approximately three miles south of the city by damming the creek (Lakewood Fairgrounds History). Water lines from the reservoir were advanced into the central part of the city to extinguish fires. Sewer lines were installed and horse car rail lines were constructed in the city and to Atlanta's first suburb, West End.

Although the construction of the waterworks marked the inception of Lakewood, the area remained virtually unsettled timberland and cultivated fields for another 10 years. Early photographs of the waterworks testify to the rugged topography and undeveloped condition of the area. However, preparation for development in the form of land transactions was taking place. In addition to his conveyance of land to the City of Atlanta, John Farrar sold 50 acres in the southwest portion of Land Lot 58 to W.L. Thrasher for the construction of a distillery. Joseph G. Yates purchased the remainder of the acreage in the lot (130.5 acres) for $3,600 in 1878. An 1879 warranty deed indicates that Yates conveyed 8 acres of land in the northeast section of the lot (in the area of Lakewood Terrace and Owen Street) to Alleathy Peterschell for the sum of $300. Other landowners in the area at that time included Mr. Darden to the west, Benjamin Thurman to the east, and G.A. Harper to the south.

Atlanta continued to grow and prosper through the turn of the 20th century and much of this prosperity was related to the railroad. Atlanta's population increased from 37,400 in 1880 to 154,800 in 1910. The district around the railroad depots grew to include a number of hotels, warehouses, factories and state and city offices. With this growth came more infrastructure change, improvement and expansion. The city fire department and board of health were established in 1882. By 1890, downtown Atlanta saw the construction of sidewalks, the installation of electric street lamps, and the proliferation of trolley lines.

During the 1880s and 1900s, the city changed in character. Transportation had improved to the point that commuting was possible first by train and later by trolley. The more affluent citizens moved to the suburban areas of Grant Park, Inman Park, West End, and Midtown and east to the town of Decatur while people of modest means relocated to Ormewood, a new subdivision located one-quarter of a mile southeast of Atlanta, and to areas south of the central city. Areas south included a small community identified as Lakewood, east of the waterworks reservoir, and South Atlanta, a middleclass black neighborhood that grew up around the original site of Clark University and Gammon Seminary at the intersection of McDonough and Jonesboro Roads. By the late 1880s, Lakewood had a railroad spur linking it to Atlanta (1887 USGS map). The Atlanta & Florida Railroad that crossed or ran parallel to Jonesboro Road and Brown's Mill Road was constructed by 1887. Eight years later the railroad became part of the Southern Railway system and served the long-distance freight and passenger needs of the Lakewood community.

A brisk rivalry of trolley car transit systems developed to service the inner city and the outlying suburban communities. The competition among companies was so fierce that it was called the "Second Battle of Atlanta." The battle ended in 1902 with the formation of the Georgia Railway and Electric Company. The Atlanta Electric Railway Company first serviced the Lakewood Avenue area. The company was formed in 1895 and built the Lakewood line to the former Atlanta waterworks at the Lakewood reservoir. The waterworks had been retired in 1893 and the lake vicinity was developed into a pleasure resort known as Lakewood Park in the mid-1890s. Dayton Hale headed both the Lakewood Park and the Railway companies, an indication that Hale realized transportation was the most important factor for making his real estate venture a success. S.B. Turman, another turn of the century real estate baron and James R. English, joined Hale in his compatible businesses. Turman and his wife, Lethea, lent their names to the Lakewood Heights area.

Public awareness of the Lakewood neighborhood came initially from the attraction of Lakewood Park. The park featured picnic areas, harness races, and a dance pavilion, and after the close of the 1895 exposition, the chutes were moved form Piedmont Park to Lakewood Park. The formation of the park was part of a larger trend across the nation precipitated by the increase of urban populations who had newfound leisure time and greater spending power. These factors tied with the inexpensive transportation offered by the trolley lines to outlying areas surrounding the cities encouraged a proliferation of fairs, expositions, and amusement parks during this period.

Although Lakewood Park was a drawing card for daily pleasure-seekers, it was the presence of the trolley line that was the real impetus for the suburban development along its route, spawning Lakewood Heights. Transportation in general benefited from the creation and extension of the rail lines. Almost all of Atlanta's best-paved streets had been partially financed by the trolley companies In order to lay rails, the roads had to be prepared and made safe for regular traffic. Lakewood Avenue was one of the benefactors of this trend in the early 20th century.

The late 19th century saw a flurry of land transactions in the Lakewood Heights area, but little substantial development until the trolley line was well established. On October 3, 1882, George Washington Adair (Adair Road) sold the land that was to become the center of Lakewood Heights at auction. Adair was a prominent Atlantan, a Civil War veteran, water commissioner of the old waterworks era, statesman and real estate entrepreneur who had promoted the successful development of West End a decade before; West End Nomination 1996). The 50 acres of timberland in Land Lot 57 was formerly part of the estate of Colonel John M. Reed and was situated west of the intersection of Jonesboro Road and Waterworks Road (later Lakewood Terrace). The auction advertisement stated.

This land is well-located; has two small houses and a most beautiful building site on the public road; is in a first caliber neighborhood, on Jonesboro and Waterworks Roads, three miles from the passenger Depot in Atlanta, and has a church and school convenient.

On the plat accompanying the advertisement, the two houses were shown northwest of the junction of Jonesboro Road and Waterworks Road, and the church, Oakland Church, was located in the triangle formed by the junction. The location of the school is unknown.

G. W. Adair's son, also G.W. Adair, acted as the real estate agent for the same 50-acre property fronting Jonesboro Road in 1898. He advertised it along with a property in Grant Park proclaiming both offered "peculiar advantages to investors, as the property lies beautiful and is bound to enhance in value one-quarter you will fall in love with it" (Jack Adair Plat Collection, Vol. 11:182). At that time the land was known as the Merchant's Bank Property. The plat for this property shows the Lakewood Trolley Line.

The junior G.W. Adair, who along with his brother Forrest founded the Adair Realty and Trust Company (later prominently known as the Adair Realty and Loan Company), continued to promote the Lakewood area throughout the early 20th century. A 1905 advertisement shows lots for sale in Land Lot 58 south of Land Lot 57, averaging 50 by 170 feet, fronting the east side of Meador Street, and along Sterling Street and Adelle Avenue in Land Lot 39. This area was actually called Brooklyn Heights and had its own stop on the Lakewood car line. It is in this advertisement that the place name of Lakewood Heights may have been first recorded - city directories did not use the name until 1910. The advertisement noted (Adair Plat Collection, Vol. 14:22):

This part of Atlanta has grown more rapidly in the past three years. The population has more than doubled. Five, six and seven room cottage homes have sprung up as if by magic. There is not a vacant house in the suburb and the demand for homes increases everyday.

By 1924, Brooklyn Heights had been absorbed into Lakewood Heights according to the 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

Starting in 1880 other sections of Land Lot 58 were conveyed to new owners, returned to the former owners, and eventually became the possession of Laura Ann Yates, wife of Joseph G. Yates. Mrs. Yates spent the next 18 years buying, selling, and mortgaging sections of her property including a 70- to 73-acre farm in the north portion of the land lot. A Mr. Foster owned approximately 50 acres in the southeast section of the lot and the City of Atlanta retained the southern and western areas of the lot. In 1896, Mrs. Yates mortgaged her property to the Atlantic Electric Company, the owner of the Lakewood Car Line, supporting the interconnection of land transactions and the trolley line.

After Mrs. Yates death in 1898, the farm was sold 1899 for over $4,000 to Equitable Loan and Security that evidently began subdividing and selling off the Yates land and other acreage the company had acquired in the area. J.S. Owens, an officer in the company, may have lent his name to Owen Street, now located in what would have been the northeast corner of the Yates farm property. On August 19, 1903, the Equitable Loan and Security Company sold 8.15 acres fronting Lakewood Avenue (then noted as the right-of-way for the Lakewood Car Line) near its intersection with Shadydale Street to Thomas M. Poole for $2,400. Comparing this to the Yates' conveyance only four years before, this represents an increase of approximately $60 per acre to $300 per acre. Poole immediately sold the land to Atlanta Brewing and Ice Company. Poole owned property all along Lakewood Avenue and Sawtell Street and is listed in seven land transactions in the Lakewood Heights area between the years 1903 and 1914.

The construction in 1902 and the continuous operation of the Federal Penitentiary had a significant impact on the community. The prison is located less than one-half mile east of Lakewood Heights. Occupations listed in the city directories and discussions with current residents indicate that some of the early homeowners in Lakewood Heights built the facility and worked there as guards. Mrs. Beverly Wright Harris, a long-time resident, related that her grandfather came to the area to work as a mason on the great stone structure. He stayed on after the work was completed, bought a home, and built houses on Lakewood Avenue in the early 20th century.

Settlement of the area began in earnest after 1905. The city directories indicate that by 1910, Lakewood had its own "Atlanta RFD" address. Jonesboro and Sawtell Roads, Adair and Rhodesia Avenues all are listed as being in Lakewood Heights. The 1911 Sanborn maps indicate that Lakewood Heights was a well-established residential community around a small business section at the intersection of Lakewood Avenue and Jonesboro Road. Services offered included a feed mill and specialty stores. Other businesses outside the community boundaries but within easy access to the east included T.R. Sawtell Beef & Pork Packing and Ice Manufacturer off Sawtell Road and Schoen Bros. Rendering and Hide House off of Schoen Road. These businesses were conveniently located adjacent to the Southern Railway. Community facilities included Lakewood Heights Methodist Church at the corner of Lakewood and Adair Avenues.

In order to improve Atlanta's image in rural parts of the state and to draw people in general to capitol city, the annual Boys Corn Club show, a small agricultural exposition held at Lakewood Park, was expanded into the Southeastern Fair in 1915. The fair proved to be a source of entertainment and income for the community for over 60 years. Mrs. Harris said that her mother ran the merry-go-round at the fair for years and that businesses in the area would close down so that the employees could attend.

With a brief hiatus during World War I, suburban development continued around Atlanta to keep pace with the rising population of the city, swelling to 200,616 in 1920. Suburbs such as West End, Grant Park, and Ormewood were annexed into the city during the early 20th century, but the Lakewood area would not become part of Atlanta until the 1950s. By 1924, development in Lakewood Heights had spread at least two blocks north of Turman Avenue, east to the southern Railroad, south to Adelle Street and west to the Fairground boundaries. There were few vacant lots. The commercial area, though still encompassing the intersection of Jonesboro Road and Lakewood Avenue, had extended south along both roads. Businesses included a bank, a restaurant, dry cleaning services, a paint store and a number of specialty shops. The 1924 Sanborn map also shows that the automobile had made a significant impact on the community. There were two filling stations along Jonesboro Road on opposite corners of its intersection with Adair Street and several large areas devoted to parking on Lakewood Avenue. A meeting hall, the Mason's Lodge, had a prominent position along Jonesboro Road in the business district. There was also a Boys Club on Lakewood Avenue (no longer extant). A number of churches including the Lakewood Heights Methodist Church, Lakewood Heights Baptist Church and Lakewood Presbyterian Church, all locations currently still in use as churches, were also located in the commercial area of the neighborhood. A.G. Rhodes and George Muse, familiar Atlanta real estate speculators in the early 20th century, are recorded as large landowners in the area (Transportation Plan Map of Atlanta 1924).

Beyond the regular development of the community, a tent camp for disabled war veterans and their families was established in the early 1920s. The camp was in the area of Southbend Park off of Lakewood Avenue and associated with Camp McElroy. The soldiers lived in this settlement for over a year as they attended Georgia Technical College for training. The tents were set up in a grid pattern, much like the more permanent homes around them, and had city water (The Atlanta Journal, May 21, 1922). It is likely that some of the camp residents chose to stay in the area after their training.

The General Motors Plant opened in 1928 on the northeast side of the community and provided employment until its closing in 1982 when the last car rolled off the assembly line. Built as the Fisher Body Chevrolet Motor Division complex, it employed more than 3,000 people by 1968. Many of the occupations listed in the city directory between the 1930s and 1960s refer to automobile-related trades such as mechanics, machinists and assembly foremen.

Atlanta's acreage and population of 270,035 continued to increase through 1931. Public utilities including gas power, electricity, and railroad transportation, both inter- and intra-city, saw significant expansion. Period maps of the Lakewood area show a thriving downtown and the city directories tell of the increase in population in Lakewood Heights. A theater, an ice cream shop, a five-and-dime, hardware stores, a grocery store, and a small department store lined the streets of the commercial section still located primarily at the junction of Lakewood Avenue and Jonesboro Road. In 1932, the Lakewood Heights School was built at the corner of Sawtell and Charleston. Edwards and Sayward, the architectural firm that had designed the Lakewood Fairground buildings, designed the school. The firm was well known for its educational and commercial designs throughout the southeast.

By 1935 Atlanta area residents and businesses began to feel the serious economic privation caused by the Depression. Self-help camps (work camps) were established in the city to aid destitute families. One of these was opened in the Lakewood area. Little private construction occurred throughout the Atlanta area during these dark times.

World War II revived the economy and the population of Atlanta rose to 302,288 as people came to work in the city's factories for the war effort. After the war, there was a building boom in metropolitan Atlanta, and the population again saw a significant increase to 671,797. Suburban sprawl began anew and though it pushed primarily north of the city, the older neighborhoods also saw new construction in vacant lots and along the fringes of the communities. This is particularly evident in the southern and eastern part of the Lakewood Heights community.

Since the city was rapidly expanding beyond the street railway lines, patronage on the trolleys began to wane. Highways and streets were constructed to service the new suburban communities. By the 1950s the Lakewood trolley line had been dismantled, but Lakewood Avenue continued to be the main thoroughfare into the city. Connection to the city was made possible by the Lakewood Avenue Bridge that spanned the Southern Railway Route since the turn of the century. In the early 1990s, the bridge burned and was dismantled. With the bridge out, there has been a break in the link between Lakewood Heights and the core of the city. This coupled with the 1982 closing of the GM plant has been blamed for much of the downward economic turn the community has been experiencing over the last two decades. After the recent completion of a new bridge, residents hope that link will become reestablished and will aid in the revitalization of the community.

In terms of its population, during the latter half of the 20th century, the Lakewood Heights area continued to be a primarily white working class neighborhood until recent years. Today there is a mix of white and African-American residents, and Mexican and Asian residents are represented in small percentages. Both blue-collar and white-collar professions are represented along with a significant number of retirees. Based on interviews with a few of the residents and information from the city directories, there is certain longevity of residency. Many residents retired in the neighborhood, their children raised their families in the area and then, in turn, retired in homes along the same streets.

Adapted from: Holly L. Anderson, National Register Historian, Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Lakewood Heights Historic District, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Wahington, D.C., accessed October, 2021.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Adair Avenue • Bonn Street • Browns Mill Road • Claire Drive • Compton Drive • Conrad Avenue • Fremont Street • Hopkins Street • Jonesboro Road • Lakewood Avenue • Lakewood Terrace • Meador Avenue • Meador Way • Olive Street • Owen Avenue • Parsons Street • Rhodesia Avenue • Whatley Street

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