Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

krazeeboi

How did Atlanta get to be so big?

Recommended Posts

What factors were in place historically that propelled Atlanta to the heights that it inhabits today? How did the leadership of the city (and even the state of Georgia) contribute to its growth? Why did it happen in Atlanta instead of, say, Augusta or Savannah?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I think several things urged Atlanta's growth. First of all, the city was already an important economic center in the south before the civil war. It was considered important enough that the union forces had to capture it to win the war. The city was thus burned flat during the civil war, and after that, most cities enjoy an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild bigger and better if they so choose. Atlanta did. They had the presence of mind to grab the bull by the horns and began to go after development and opportunity. They began to change Atlanta into the first sunbelt city to attempt to match its northern counterparts instead of being a tourist place or a playground like Miami or Palm Beach. They sought railroads, and then when the age of the automobile arrived, they aggressively sought to make Atlanta a convergence center for highways and interstates, which further spurred distribution and transportation related industries. The final master stroke of forward thinking was the creation of what came to be Hartsfield Airport. This airport has brought much benefit, perhaps more so than the highways. The highways and the airport combined to make Atlanta the "hub" of the southeast. Much as Chicago is the midwest. All those people and freight coming and going brought an explosion of companies wanting a part of the action and an explosion of jobs and growth to cater to the new development. The final thing working in Atlanta's favor is the general movement of people, jobs, and money to the sunbelt. The more people come, the more everything follows them. It is a self sustaining cycle being seen across the region from Charlotte to Atlanta to Dallas to Phoenix. I am so excited by what the future holds for Atlanta and the cities of the south.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the pivotal moments were:

* Site location for the terminating point for the railroad in the mid 1800's. This site was to serve what was considered the 'frontier' with access to Augusta & the developed nation.

* Henry Grady's proclomation of a 'New South' in the 1890's. This included the Cotton Exposition which was monumental for the otherwise 'forgotten' southeast at the time. Provided the region an opportunity to make their case to the nation regarding economic vitality & cultural / racial progress which included a major speech by George Washington Carver.

* Rise of Coca Cola early 1900's - the Woodruff family which operated Coca Cola became the civic backbone of Atlanta & through nonprofit contributions to the success of the company - helped establish Atlanta as a city to do business & a business community that cared for the city's well being.

* Atlanta Municipal Airport 1940's- first councilman Hartsfield before WWII & then mayor after WWII championed the airport at the racetrack. The city fought aggressively for a simple postal air stop, which the larger city of Birmingham ignored.

* Hartsfield & John Wesley Dobbs (Maynard Jackson's grandfather) 'agreement' in the 1950's. Agreeing simply that it was in the best interest of White businessmen & the city to quietly & cautiously desegregate the city & businesses. By making an economic case rather than a moral one, Atlanta developed a tolerant atmosphere, in comparison with the majority of the south. The addage 'City Too Busy To Hate' became a selling point, as MLK was heralded to iconic status in the 1960's. Atlanta was one of the very few that escaped riots in the 60's & 70's.

* The Sunbelt - beginning in the 1970's the Northeast / Midwest exodus began in full effect. Most of the southeast capitalized from this population boom but Atlanta more than others marketed itself as a destination. Already being one of the larger cities in the south at the time & with a modern airport, that was used as leverage for population & business relocations by selling the 'lifestyle' that was desired at that time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let's not forget the fact that we had all the right people in the the right places in the city's jhistory.

Hartsfield's arguing for an airport in the 1920's as a young councilman. His devotion to it as mayor

Ivan Allen Jr's ability to make integration as smooth as possible during the 1960's

Maynard Jackson's renewed interest in the airp[ort and attraction of big business to the city.

Billy Payne's (and Andrew Young) tireless campaigning for the Olympics.

Grady's tireless campaigning for the idea of a New South and revitalized Atlanta in the 1880's. (which the quote in my sig displays)

The spirit of the people agfter the Civil War. They could have just left the city, biut they were determined to rebuild.

The railroad companies for choosing this area for a hub in the 1830's.

I'll add more later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, Atlanta was and still is to an extent, the only connection to the Northeast from points west of there because of the Appalachians. This sort of funnelled rail, air, and vahicular traffic through Atlanta.

Think about it. Trains had to go through the area originally, so the associate industries sprang up around that. The key was that the North industrialized first, so we basicly shipped all of our stuff up there, so a good connection to that region really helped southern cities. As we industrialized, the connectinos and capacity increased along the old routes, along which was Atlanta. Things were just stating to pick up after Reconstruction, then the car was invented. The rest is hisorty :) Certainly all of the other points that people have made contributed just as much.

Now you see

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^ Spartan, I generally reffered to your point (concerning Atlanta as a strategic rail entry to the west) but you did nail it. You are right - that is still very much the case, Atlanta does have a great central location between the Atlantic seaboard, Florida, & the interior of the southeast & midwest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

W/ regards to rail, I do think tho that Chattanooga was the real opening to the west. :P However, it was an area that was intentionally kept small by many of the owners of Coca-cola, in order to serve as an escape from the growth of Atlanta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All of the tangible things that have been mentioned are certainly important but I think ironchapman touched on the common thread throughout much of the city's history. Im fascinated by the fact that city leaders wanted to put economics ahead of racial differences at the height of racial tension in the 60's, that the city started mass transit as early as it did, and the unending focus on the airport. It strikes me that the city and its leaders have always been reaching for something currently beyond its grasp, always striving to achieve something more, bigger, better and forever focused on advancing the stature of the city. It seems to me that as Ivan Allen put it, Atlanta's "attitude and altitude" (highest elevation of any major city after Denver) played as much a role as anything else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^Hate to nitpick such a great post, Martinman, but Atlanta is only the highest major metro east of the Mississippi. Aside from Denver, Phoenix (I think), Salt lake City (4,112 ft.), and a few other major metros are higher up west of the river.

Atlanta's still very "high" :P up on the list, though.

EDIT: According to Wikipedia, Atlanta is the third highest major metro (which means that apparently Salt Lake City isn't included). It is right behind Phoenix (1,116 ft.) and Denver.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atlanta has always had a lot of boosterism. I recently read a good book dealing with this, The Inman Family: An Atlanta Family from Reconstruction to World War I, by Tammy Harden Galloway (Mercer University Press, 2002).

I also think the confluence of three of the South's major interstates had enormous impact here. In many ways, both literal and figurative, they ripped the city apart, but they also helped make Atlanta the huge distribution and transportation hub it is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atlanta has always had a lot of boosterism. I recently read a good book dealing with this, The Inman Family: An Atlanta Family from Reconstruction to World War I, by Tammy Harden Galloway (Mercer University Press, 2002).

I also think the confluence of three of the South's major interstates had enormous impact here. In many ways, both literal and figurative, they ripped the city apart, but they also helped make Atlanta the huge distribution and transportation hub it is.

Hey Andrea, welcome to the Atlanta forum!

I think more than just boosterism, they had vision. Their decisions to pursue various projects when they did laid the groundwork for the metropolis we see today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Martinman, thanks so much for the welcome!

Yes, I agree that vision has been an important element in the city's growth. I didn't mean to imply that boosterism is hollow bragging, as I don't feel that is the case. I was thinking of it more in terms of Atlantans who said, "Hey, this isn't just another town, this is going to be one the nation's leading cities!" The book I referred to suggests that a lot of this may have sprung from the self-interest of certain leaders, but I'm a little less cynical. Sure, those guys wanted to make money but that has driven just about every major city. Folks here tend to be rightly proud of their town and their desire to make it great has shaped it in very significant ways.

I grew up here but had family in Dallas and Philadelphia. Somehow even as a little kid I had an awareness of a sense of competition between our city and theirs. Especially those dadgum Dallasites -- how could those people out in that flat Texas countryside ever hope to keep up with our elegant and urbane lives? In any event, I think Atlanta is still a city of boosters and visionaries. It should be exciting to see some of those dreams come to fruition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.