MLK Jr. Historic District and Auburn Avenue / Cabbagetown

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Places of Interest

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site
Ebenezer Baptist Church
The Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
Fulton Cotton Mill and Lofts
Historic Oakland Cemetery (National Register Site)


1. Neighborhood Vignette
2. Reasons to Visit
3. Neighborhood Map
4. Self-Guided Tour
5. Directions
6. Places to Eat
7. Links

1. Neighborhood Vignette:

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the Auburn Avenue neighborhood, or "Sweet Auburn," is one of the most historic places in Atlanta, with arguably the greatest concentration of historic sites in the city. Sweet Auburn's original development pattern, and that of the Old Fourth Ward of which it is a part, and its former commercial prominence were the result of restrictive Jim Crow laws that segregated many cities in the South. It was in this neighborhood that many African Americans established businesses, congregations and social organizations; the most notable resident was Martin Luther King Jr., who was born in the area, served as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and is now interred there at the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. While the neighborhood saw a decline in the 70's and 80's with the construction of the interstate and people moving out of the city, it is experiencing renewed investment and activity.

Cabbagetown is a historic neighborhood located just east of downtown and the historic Oakland Cemetery. The neighborhood originally developed around the Fulton Cotton and Bag Mill, with many of the shotgun houses used by mill workers still defining the neighborhood's character. The mill closed operations in the 70's, resulting in two decades of decline. However, beginning in the early 90's, Cabbagetown started to grow again with the renewed interested in in-town living. Today, the Mill has been converted to lofts and the neighborhood includes a diverse community with families, young professionals, artists and independent businesses sharing the neighborhood's prosperity.

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2. Reasons to Visit:

The Auburn Avenue area was the center of the Atlanta African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and played a significant role in the civil rights movement. Today, the neighborhood is experiencing a revival thanks to the efforts of the Historic District Development Corporation. Since 1994, the HDDC has rehabilitated numerous historic single-family homes and is now working with community leaders and business owners to improve the district's commercial area. Simultaneously, a vast cotton warehouse at the end of Auburn Avenue was transformed into artists' live-work lofts, at city-subsided rents, called Studioplex (and now being sold out as condominiums.) A number of new restaurants and other businesses have recently opened along Edgewood Avenue. For the future, there is a proposal to reintroduce a streetcar to connect the historic district with downtown Atlanta.

Cabbagetown, literally across the tracks to the south, is a relic of Atlanta's industrial past and an example of Atlanta's revival in recent years. The neighborhood was originally developed as a mill town, with residents working in the Fulton Cotton and Bag Mill. The neighborhood has some of the best pedestrian-scaled and walkable streets in Atlanta, with Carroll Street serving as the "heart" of the neighborhood. Housing types in the neighborhood are especially interesting. Built for mill workers, many original ones are "shotgun" houses or scaled-down bungalows, and since the lots are narrow, even infill construction matches this scale. The Fulton Cotton Mill is one of the best stories of historic preservation and adaptive reuse in the city, with the Mill buildings renovated as residential lofts, also with city financial backing. Additionally, Cabbagetown is adjacent to Oakland Cemetery, one of the most historic cemeteries in the south. The 160 year old cemetery offers some of the best skyline views of the city and a rich history lesson about Atlanta.

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3. Neighborhood Map:

View MLK Jr. Historic District and Auburn Avenue / Cabbagetown in a larger map

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4. Self Guided Tour:

There are civil rights history displays at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, and across the street at the King Center, a non-profit working to continue King's work. You can visit Ebenezer Baptist church, a National Register site and where King served as pastor. To the east of the King Center and along Auburn Ave is the historic single-family neighborhood where King was born. Several of the homes are on the national register and are relics of the area's African American history. A few blocks further along is Studioplex. To the west of the National Historic Site, the historic district extends along Auburn Avenue to Courtland Street and downtown. Along this stretch of Auburn Avenue are several historic buildings including the Atlanta Daily World Building and the Herndon Building.

When visiting Cabbagetown, the best place to start is Carroll Street. Carroll Street is the commercial center of the neighborhood, with several independent businesses among the residences. From Carroll Street you can explore the Fulton Cotton Mill property, or the charming streets of small, single-family houses to the east of Carroll Street. The neighborhood is home to some of the best pedestrian-scaled streets and development in Atlanta. If you want to venture to the west of Carroll Street, you can visit Historic Oakland Cemetery, an evocative example of Victorian cemetery-as-park design. The cemetery has some of the best skyline views in the city and tells Atlanta's history of small-town beginnings, slavery, the Civil War, and industrialization.

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5. Directions:

Mass Transit:
The closest MARTA Station is the King Memorial station. From the conference, use the Peachtree Center Station. Take any southbound Red or Yellow line to Five Points station. Transfer at Five Points to any east bound Blue line trains. The King Memorial station will be the second stop on the east bound Blue line train. Auburn Avenue and the MLK Historic District will be about a 5 to 10 minute walk from the station, depending on your destination. Cabbagetown will be a little longer at 10 to 15 minutes from the station. Total trip time will be 30 minutes plus, depending on your destination.

By Car:
To Auburn Avenue and the MLK Historic District:
Take Courtland Street south (approximately 4 blocks) to Auburn Avenue. The historic district begins at this intersection and continues under the interstate approximately 1 mile. Driving time is less than 5 minutes.

To Cabbagetown:
Take Courtland Street south (approximately 5 blocks to Edgewood Avenue). Take a left on Edgewood and head east under the interstate. Make a right on Boulevard and head south under the railroad tracks. Once under the viaduct, Cabbagetown and the Fulton Cotton Mills will be on your left and Oakland Cemetery will be on your right. Drive time should be 5 to 10 minutes.

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6. Places to Eat:

Negril Caribbean Café (180 Auburn Ave / 404.827.9838) - The café offers a range of traditional and contemporary Caribbean recipes. The café is open for lunch and dinner and offers take out and dining in.

Café Circa (464 Edgewood Ave / 404.477.0009) - Blending lounge and bar, Café Circa offers a mix of Caribbean Latin food.

Dynamic Dish (427 Edgewood Ave / 404.688.4344) - The vegetarian-oriented restaurant offers food made of natural and organics ingredients, obtained from local and multi-cultural, natural resources to create tasty, imaginative meals.

Agave (242 Boulevard SE / 404.588.0006) – Named the best southwestern restaurant in Atlanta, this eclectic southwestern eatery and tequila bar is set in the historic Cotton Mill general store in Cabbagetown.

Carroll Street Café ( 208 Carroll Street SE / 404.577.2700) - A one-of-a-kind bohemian bistro nestled in historic Cabbagetown, the café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as brunch on the weekends.

Cabbagetown Market (198 Carroll Street / 404.254.1456) - The market features produce from local farmers along with bread, cheese, eggs and flowers. Prepared foods available at the lunch counter, including hamburgers made with locally raised, grass-fed beef.

Six Feet Under – (437 Memorial Drive SE / 404.523.6664) - Located across the street from the historic Oakland Cemetery, Six Feet Under was voted the Best Fried Catfish in Atlanta. The restaurant offers a wide selection of beers and fried and southern foods.

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7. Links:

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
The King Center
Historic District Development Corporation
Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association
Oakland Cemetery
The Stacks at Fulton Cotton Mill

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