Midtown: Into the New City

A beautiful spring day is the perfect setting for exploring. This particular day, I chose Midtown Atlanta because I once lived in the neighborhood. Since moved away from the area, I rarely visit. When I relocated to Atlanta in the early 1990s, the area was half new, half crumbling. At 10th and Peachtree St (where I took most of these shots), the northwest corner held a theatrical props store (if memory is accurate) surrounded on three sides by an abandoned lot, and one or two other buildings well past their heyday. That corner was typical of the dying city centers seen in the 70s and 80s. However, I have fond memories of that particular lot. In late spring, music festivals were held there, among crumbled bricks, remnants of walls, and patches of weeds. The southwest corner, holding the house where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With The Wind Fame, celebrated the past and the stubbornly held idea that nothing should change. 

Eagle, looking north. The buildings flank Peachtree near the bend

The eastern corners boasted a new hotel and a sports bar that always seemed to overflow with young, well-dressed customers. Standing at 10th and Peachtree, one could see Atlanta’s past and future succinctly illustrated at one intersection. The view was a perfect stand-in for 10,000 words. 

Further north, at 14th and Peachtree, there were newly-built, gleaming office towers, and Colony Square—an old haunt. And at 15th Street stood Promenade II, a glass tower with a central spire flanked by terraces. The Promenade II, perfectly accented with light, gleamed elegantly every night—it’s still my favorite building in Atlanta.  

I returned, with camera, to 10th and Peachtree because in those former days, that intersection was such a jarring juxtaposition of contradictions. I had driven past many times in recent years but never got out to visit or to get the feel of the new version. On this day, I parked near 10th and strolled toward 14th. Mostly, I lingered at the intersection. 

In place of the abandoned lot and run-down buildings, now stands the Federal Reserve Bank covered in marble and protected by a menacing eagle. A tree-dotted plaza sits in front, where people come just to sit and pass the time. The bronze eagle caught my attention. A classic sculpture, I decided it deserved at least one shot.

Looking north toward the bending; Bank’s reflection shows in building on the right

I stood in the middle of Peachtree Street looking north from below the intersection for a couple of shots. In one photo, I attempted to capture the bank’s reflection on the Loews Hotel’s mirrored face, which sat across from it on the east side of Peachtree. Going north, Peachtree Street makes a slight wiggle as it moves past 12th, and from where I stood, one cannot see around that bend. Being chased out of the street by rapidly oncoming traffic, I took a few quick shots and ran to the curb.  

The 1996 Olympics, more than anything, spurred growth in Midtown. My adopted city had stood at that intersection and chose the future. The old quickly gave way to the new.

Sculpture, on the northeast corner

Standing there, pondering the graceful curve of Peachtree Street as it winds toward Buckhead, I felt a sense of pride. We have come a long way. I’m eager to see what lies ahead, around the bend. 



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