Grant Park is on of Atlanta’s first streetcar neighborhoods that showcases restored Victorian and Arts and Crafts homes. Grant Park is Atlanta’s largest historic district and also home to Zoo Atlanta and the Cyclorama.
The area of Grant Park – both the neighborhood, and the park at its center – were at one point all the property of L.P. Grant, a civil engineer for the Georgia Railroad. In 1883 Grant donated 131 acres to the City of Atlanta for parkland that would be the centerpiece for his planned residential development. The sons of Frederick Law Olmsted were commissioned to design the park. Their plan was meant to heighten the natural condition of rolling hills, and included a lake to handle stormwater runoff. Shortly after the Park’s completion, a zoo populated with animals from a failed circus was established in the park. The park and zoo became a recreation destination for the city’s residents.1
Grant, seeing another development opportunity to provide easy access to the city amenity he had created, was able to ensure the area would be serviced by the developing trolley systems under the management of the Atlanta Street Car Company. As a result, the area became one of Atlanta’s first streetcar neighborhoods. Grant began selling off residential plots on a grid system of streets with (in many cases) service alleys.2
Most of the residential development occurred from annexation in the 1880s until the late 1920s. The styles of housing range from various types of Victorians to Arts and Crafts bungalows. Commercial nodes developed in several places, and churches served as community gathering places and social centers. Industrial and heavy commercial developed along Fair Street (now Memorial Drive), the area’s northern boundary, while more neighborhood-friendly retail located along Boulevard.3
In the 1950s, the construction of Interstate 20 divided Grant Park, leaving a small slice wedged between the interstate and the industrial corridor along Memorial Drive. The area experienced a rapid decline shortly thereafter as redlining and tenement housing took their hold over the local real estate market.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, new residents passionate about preserving the historic architecture of the area (and acquiring affordable homes) began moving in and remodeling houses. The Zoo, which had fallen into disgrace for its horrid conditions, revamped its programs and image. That, combined with the refurbishment of the Cyclorama Museum – an in-the-round mural representing the Civil War Battle of Atlanta, some of which was fought in the vicinity – which is located within Grant Park, revived the park’s appeal to visitors from beyond the neighborhood.5
There has been scattered infill construction, primarily of traditionally-styled single-family houses meant to fit in with the existing architecture. The northern edge of the neighborhood, along Memorial Drive, has recently experienced an upswing in redevelopment and growth. The corridor has been targeted by the city as a Special Public Interest zoning district to promote pedestrian-friendly growth along the heavily trafficked thoroughfare. Toward the southern boundary, which is marked by the route of the proposed BeltLine rail and trail project, several townhouse developments have recently gone up. Visit the Grant Park Neighborhood Association website here.6