Old Fourth Ward Park—From Eyesore to Gathering Place

The Old Fourth Ward is a historic Atlanta neighborhood that lies east of downtown Atlanta. The northernmost border of Old Fourth Park abuts North Avenue, one of those streets where, for a long time, one only drove across to get somewhere else—how things change. The new park lies in an area that was once a large, ugly parking lot surrounded by past-their-prime industrial buildings. Going south from the parking lot, one came to Clear Creek, which was a flood nuisance with Atlanta’s frequent rains. Killing two birds with one stone, the city opted to redevelop the area creating a water retention feature from the Clear Creek basin to prevent flooding and build a park around it.

Today, North Avenue has become home to expensive apartment enclaves, tony retail establishments, and eateries, so it is only fitting that the former industrial wasteland and flood zone would become a park. I’ve driven on North Avenue many times and remember well its former state, and while I was always amazed at the rate of new construction, I never got out of the car to investigate.

After looking at the park’s website, curiosity finally got the best of me, and I took my X-570 and Minolta Semi P and went for a stroll. Atlanta is riddled with hills, a fact that doesn’t register as clearly when driving as when walking. When walking, one readily notices that the North Avenue entrance to the park lies in a shallow valley between hills that crest within a few blocks going east and west. Entering the park from North Avenue, one encounters a small plaza that ends in a waterfall constructed of roughly hewn stones. Looking south from that plaza, one can see much of the expanse of the park. I wanted a few good images of the place, but no attempt was made to document the area. I was a tourist hoping to be impressed.

The water basin lies well below street level, so driving by, I had never seen the park’s centerpiece. I decided to walk around the basin to get a feel for the area. It has a figure 8-ish shape (as Salvador Dali would draw one).

It was late morning by the time of my visit, and the bright sunlight made for high-contrast images. Luckily, the Kodak UltraMax handled them well. The first image is of the waterfall close to the North Avenue entrance. Next, I stepped a few feet toward the bottom right of the image frame, pointing the X-570 due south across the entire basin. The resulting image looks across the water showing the steep stairs at the far end that take one up from the basin.

Going east around the basin (to your right in the image), I saw a few turtles languidly sunning themselves and got the closest shot I could with the 28-85mm lens.

Moving further around the perimeter, I took a shot looking back toward North Avenue (the building with the flagpole atop is Ponce City Market, located on North Avenue). In this image, one can see the elevated walkway that hugs the basin’s eastern edge, the indentation emulating the inward curve of an “8.” It has a railing with a matte chrome finish that gleams in the sunlight, an architectural feature I particularly like. Standing in the middle of the inward curve, I noticed the red tree framed by the sky and two pines and snapped it.

Continuing, I approached the basin’s west side, which has a gently sloping shoreline, and snapped pictures of a few ducks. I expected them to run away as I approached. Instead, they turned toward me as if expecting a treat. Not having any, I left quickly to avoid getting their hopes up. Next time, I’ll bring a little something.

Finally, I went up the far-end steps on my way out of the south end of the park and spotted these bright magenta bushes. Red and yellow don’t do well in bright sun, but I shot them anyway.

My visit was refreshing, and I am impressed by what the city has accomplished in terms of public works and park aesthetics. I plan to return, as I found the area soothing and relaxing. Having seen what was there before, I offer the city planners kudos and thanks—excellent job!!!

(For those who wish to know more, here’s a link to four short videos)

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