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Atlanta, Georgia

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This article is about the state capital of Georgia. For other things named Atlanta, please see Atlanta (disambiguation).
The Atlanta skyline
The Atlanta skyline

Atlanta is the capital and largest city of the state of Georgia, a state of the United States of America. It is the county seat of Fulton County, although a portion of the city (the 1909 annex) is located in DeKalb County (East Atlanta).

As of the 2000 census, the city proper had a population of 416,474 (423,019 as of 2003 Estimates); greater metropolitan Atlanta had a population of 4,247,981 (a 38.4% increase since 1990), making it the 9th largest metro area in the US. According to the ranking of world cities undertaken by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network (GaWC) and based on the level of presence of global corporate service organisations, Atlanta is considered a gamma or minor world city.

Among Atlanta's nicknames is "the phoenix city", as its rise from the ashes of the Civil War resembles that of a mythical phoenix. It is also called the "New York of the South". Due to its focus on commerce and role as birthplace to civil rights leaders, Atlanta is often referred to as "the city too busy to hate". Locals sometimes affectionately call the city "Hotlanta".

The city of Atlanta operates the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of two airports considered the busiest in the world. MARTA is the public transit agency, operating the subway and bus system.

Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics.



Atlanta is the fifth city to serve as state capital, after colonial Savannah, which later alternated with Augusta; then for a decade at Louisville, and from 1806 through the American Civil War at Milledgeville. The state's legislature also met at other temporary sites, including Macon, especially during the Civil War.

The region where Atlanta and its suburbs were built was originally Creek and Cherokee ("Indian") territory. After they were deported to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears by the Federal government, white settlement in this area increased rapidly.

Atlanta was first planned in 1836 as a terminus on the Western & Atlantic Railroad, hence the original name, Terminus. The railroad terminus for lines connecting from Birmingham, Chattanooga, Macon, Athens, etc. was originally intended to be in Decatur, but the citizens of Decatur did not want a railroad terminal. So an arbitrary spot was picked, around which the village of Terminus grew up in expectation of railroad traffic. After briefly being named Marthasville, the city was renamed "Atlanta" in 1847, by which time several of the railroad lines were already in operation. Besides Decatur, several other of what are now Atlanta's suburbs pre-date the city by several years, including Marietta and Lawrenceville.

In 1864, the city became the target of a major Union invasion in the American Civil War and scene of the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the Battle of Atlanta, later immortalized in the novel and film Gone With the Wind. On September 1, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta after a four month siege mounted by Union General William T. Sherman, and ordered all public buildings and possible union assests destroyed. Forces under General Sherman entered Atlanta the next day and Sherman ordered the civilian population to evacuate on September 7. General Sherman ordered Atlanta burned to the ground on November 11 in preparation for his punitive march south. Because of a plea by Father Thomas O'Reilly of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Sherman did not burn the city's churches or hospitals. The remainder of war resources were then destroyed in the aftermath and in Sherman's March to the Sea. The fall of Atlanta is seen as a critical point in the Civil War, giving the North more confidence, leading to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln and the eventual surrender of the Confederacy.

Atlanta was gradually rebuilt after the war, and soon became the industrial and commercial epicenter of the "new South".


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 343.0 km² (132.4 mi²). 341.2 km² (131.8 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.51% water.

At about 1000 feet or 300 meters above mean sea level, Atlanta sits atop a ridge south of the Chattahoochee River. Amongst the 25 largest MSAs, Atlanta is the third-highest in elevation — behind slightly higher Phoenix and 1 mile (1,600 m) high Denver. Though now somewhat offset by the urban heat island effect, this still results in a climate slightly more moderate than many other cities in the South of the U.S., despite its common nickname as "Hotlanta".

According to folklore, its central avenue, Peachtree Street, runs through the center of the city on the Eastern Continental Divide. In actuality, the divide line enters Atlanta from the southwest, proceeding to downtown. From downtown, the divide line runs eastward along DeKalb Avenue and the CSX rail lines through Decatur. Rainwater that falls on the south and east side runs eventually into the Atlantic Ocean while rainwater on the north and west side of the divide runs into the Gulf of Mexico.

The latter is via the Chattahoochee River, part of the ACF River Basin, and from which Atlanta and many of its neighbors draw most of their municipal water supplies. Being at the far northwestern edge of the city limits, much of the river's natural habitat is still preserved, in part by the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area . Downstream, however, the area's excessive water use during droughts and pollution during floods has been a source of contention and legal wrangling.


Average annual rainfall is about 54 inches or 137cm, typically with late winter and early spring (as well as July) being the wettest and fall being the driest. Average annual snowfall is about 1.5 inches or 3.8cm, falling mostly in January and early February. Snow (or ice) occasionally occurs as early as December or as late as mid-March; since 1878 snow or flurries has fallen only three times in October and four in April. Winters are mild, with January daily lows (minimums) near freezing and highs (maximums) near 50°F or 10°C. Summers are moderately hot and humid, with July mornings near 70°F or 11°C and afternoons near 89°F or 32°C, slight breezes, and typically a 20~30% chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

Spring weather is typically very pleasant but quite variable, as cold fronts often bring strong or severe thunderstorms to almost all of the eastern and central U.S.. The rain helps wash out Atlanta's abundant oak and pine tree pollens, however, and fuels beautiful blooms from native dogwood trees, as well as vibrant azaleas, forsythias, magnolias, and of course peach trees, both flowering-only and fruiting. This city-wide display runs during all of March and April, and inspires the Dogwood Festival , one of Atlanta's largest. Fall is also pleasant, with less rain and fewer storms, lower humidity, and beautiful leaves changing colors from late October to mid-November, especially during drier years.


Atlanta is often described as a 'city of neighborhoods' each having its own distinct personality. See also: List of Atlanta neighborhoods

Metropolitan area

The following counties are part of the Atlanta metropolitan area


Government and politics

The Atlanta city flag
The Atlanta city flag

The city has a mayor (currently Shirley Franklin) and a city council. The mayor may veto a bill passed by the council, but the council may override with a two-thirds majority. The Atlanta Board of Education runs the Atlanta Public Schools , and owns and operates radio station WABE-FM at 90.1MHz.

In July 2004, Atlanta became the first city in the state to impose a sales tax of its own, bringing the total to 8% in both the Fulton and DeKalb parts of the city. This passed in a referendum during the July 20th primary election by a 75% to 25% majority, after being allowed by the state legislature earlier in 2004. The sales tax helped to reduce a huge rate increase on water and sewer bills, necessary to pay three billion dollars in bonds to fix the city's aging (and in places decrepit) municipal water and sewer systems. Combined sewer overflow s will also be eliminated, so that runoff is separated, preventing diluted sewage from overflowing at water treatment plant s during heavy rains.

As the state capital, Atlanta is also the site of most of Georgia's state government , including the Georgia General Assembly and the residence of the governor of Georgia in Buckhead. It is also home to Georgia Public Broadcasting headquarters and Peachnet .

It is the county seat of Fulton County, with which it shares responsibility for the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System . [1]


The census of 2000 states there are 416,474 people, 168,147 households, and 83,232 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,220.5/km² (3,161.2/mi²). There are 186,925 housing units at an average density of 547.8/km² (1,418.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 33.22% White, 61.39% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 1.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.99% from other races, and 1.24% from two or more races. 4.49% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 168,147 households out of which 22.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 24.5% are married couples living together, 20.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 50.5% are non-families. 38.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 8.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 3.16.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 35.2% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 9.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 32 years. For every 100 females there are 98.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $34,770, and the median income for a family is $37,231. Males have a median income of $36,162 compared to $30,178 for females. The per capita income for the city is $25,772, and 24.4% of the population and 21.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 38.8% of those under the age of 18 and 20.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Business and development

Despite romantic associations, Atlanta has always been a commercial city, and not an ante-bellum monument. It is the major center of regional commerce, and boasts an especially strong convention and trade show business. Several major national and international companies are headquartered in Atlanta or its nearby suburbs, including United Parcel Service in Sandy Springs and home-grown Home Depot. Newell Rubbermaid has recently moved to the area as well. Looking to the future, Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus is donating more than 200 million dollars to build the new Georgia Aquarium. Atlanta also has its own Flatiron Building, built before (1897) the better-known one in New York City (1902).

On the north side of the city near Midtown, the former Atlantic Steel plant is being redeveloped as Atlantic Station , a mixed-use urban renewal project combining housing, retail, and office space, and promoted as one solution to Atlanta's ever more serious traffic and summer smog problems. The metro area has one of America's longest daily commutes, and is one of the most car-dependent cities on the planet, both due to suburban sprawl, and lack of large nearby lakes or mountains to compress growth. It also has a notorious reputation as being one of the most dangerous for pedestrians, as far back as 1949, when Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell was struck by a speeding car and killed while crossing Peachtree at the corner of Thirteenth near the apartment that she referred to as 'The Dump' (now a museum open to the public) [2] . Other significant attractions include Underground Atlanta and Centennial Olympic Park.

The city is a major cable television programming source; the CNN Center headquarters of the Cable News Network is in Atlanta, where it was founded, and The Weather Channel broadcasts from just outside of town. In addition to CNN, Ted Turner's (and now Time Warner's) other networks from Atlanta include Cartoon Network/Adult Swim and companion channel Boomerang , TNT, Turner South , CNN International, CNN Headline News, CNNfn, CNN Airport Network, and TBS. Atlanta's WTBS channel 17 (originally WTCG) was Turner's start in television in the 1970s, after he bought the struggling UHF TV station, turning it into a profitable venture which still broadcasts "Superstation" TBS locally and nationally.

Corporate headquarters

There are many businesses who were founded or have their headquarters in and near Atlanta. Here is a list of the major ones.


Ford Motor Company has a plant here, assembling the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. Atlanta is also the location of the CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The ten tallest buildings in Atlanta:

  1. Bank of America Plaza(the "Pencil Building") [3]
  2. SunTrust Plaza [4]
  3. One Atlantic Center (the "IBM Tower") [5]
  4. 191 Peachtree Tower [6]
  5. Westin Peachtree Plaza [7]
  6. Georgia Pacific Tower [8]
  7. Promenade II [9]
  8. BellSouth Building [10]
  9. Four Seasons Hotel [11]
  10. Wachovia Bank of Georgia [12]

The Marriott Marquis Hotel [13] is also notable for its bulging base, and is therefore often jokingly known as the "pregnant building" for its odd shape. More about Atlanta's buildings can be found at

A 614 metre skyscraper dubbed the "Atlanta Tower" had been proposed. The idea was rejected, though, because it would have dwarfed the surrounding skyline. It was to contain 130 stories of office space. The idea never got far enough for the design to be released to the public. Two good design ideas can be found at

Educational institutions

Atlanta is home to numerous institutions of higher education, including

as well as the Atlanta University Center, a cluster of historically black institutions including

Culture and recreation

One of Atlanta's most important features is the fact that it was one of the major centers of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in the city, and his boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn district is preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site. Meetings with other civil rights leaders, including Hosea Williams and current Congressman John Lewis, often happened at Paschal's , a diner and motor inn which was a favorite for "colored" people, banned from "white" restaurants in an era of racial segregation and intolerance. King's final resting place is in the tomb at the center of the reflecting pool at the King Center .

In addition, Atlanta sports museums, several geared toward children. Two excellent science museums for kids are the Fernbank Science Center and SciTrek (now closed). In the category of art, there is the excellent Atlanta High Museum of Art .

Atlanta sports historical museums as well. Places worth visiting are the Atlanta Cyclorama, a huge rotating painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War, the Jimmy Carter Museum , and the famous Fox Theater.

There are many Atlanta FM radio stations that play music of different kinds.

The heart of the city's nature and its festivals is Piedmont Park, which is to Atlanta what Central Park is to New York City. In 1887, a group of prominent Atlantans purchased 189 acres (0.8 km²) of farmland to build a horse racing track, later developed into the site of the Cotton States International Exposition of 1895. In 1904, the city council purchased the land for $99,000, and today it is the largest park in metro Atlanta, with more than 2.5 million visitors each year. The grounds were part of the Battle at Peachtree Creek – a Confederate division occupied the northern edge on July 20, 1864 as part of the outer defense line against Sherman's approach. Other notable events were the first intercollegiate football game in the South, Auburn vs. Georgia in 1892, and the international debut of motion pictures in 1895. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is currently located next to the park, and Zoo Atlanta is located in Grant Park .


Atlanta was the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. The city is also host to four different major league sports.


Major attractions

  • Atlanta Botanical Garden: a botanical garden featuring a variety of indoor and outdoor plant specimens. [14]
  • Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum: This large cyclorama and museum contains a huge painting of the Battle of Atlanta, within which an auditorium rotates while a program explains the various scenes on the wall and in relief in front of it. It is right next to Zoo Atlanta in Grant Park .
  • Atlanta History Center : a historical museum
  • Atlanta Motor Speedway: 1.5 mile NASCAR race track in Hampton, Georgia
  • Centennial Olympic Park: Commemorative park built for 1996 Summer Olympics. Created in downtown Atlanta from former area of dilapidated buildings, and operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. [15] [16]
  • CNN Studios : The building in which actual CNN worldwide broadcasts are made. There are many tours available and a gift shop. [17]
  • Fernbank Science Center: A very large and spectacular museum of science with many unique exhibits. It houses several complete dinosaur skeletons. [18]
  • Georgia Aquarium: scheduled to open in 2005 [19]
  • Georgia State Capitol: topped with gold from Dahlonega
  • High Museum of Art : Atlanta's largest arts museum designed by modernist Richard Meier. [20]
  • Jimmy Carter Presidential Library : Large museum dedicated to Jimmy Carter, the sole Georgian to be president. Many archives and records of his term in office. [21] [22] [23]
  • Margaret Mitchell House : museum [24]
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site : The largest museum in the world dedicated solely to the famous African-American. [25]
  • Piedmont Park Atlanta's backyard and playground. [26]
  • Stone Mountain: Stone Mountain is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. In the side of it are the carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. It is also the site of impressive laser shows in the summer. [27]
  • The Varsity: An icon in the city, the main branch of the fast-food chain is the largest drive-in restaurant in the world.
  • Woodruff Arts Center : home to the Alliance Theatre , Atlanta Symphony , High Musuem and Atlanta College of Art . [28]
  • World of Coca-Cola : A musuem dedicated to the education and serving of the most recognized brandname in the world.
  • Zoo Atlanta: Zoo Atlanta contains quite a collection of animals and is one of the few U.S. zoos to contain a panda exhibit. [29]

Major events


Atlanta in film and television

Atlanta is or was the setting for several television programs, including

as well as several movies, including

Famous Atlantans

(includes both natives and residents)

Politicians and activists

Sports figures

Musicians, actors and other entertainers


Other people

Sister cities

Atlanta has several sister cities [30] :

Further reading and references

  • Frederick Allen. Atlanta Rising . Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996. A detailed history of Atlanta from 1946 to 1996, with much about City Councilman, later Mayor, William B. Hartsfield 's work in making Atlanta a major air transport hub, and about the civil rights movement as it affected (and was affected by) Atlanta.
  • Darlene R. Roth and Andy Ambrose. . Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1996. An overview of the city's history with an emphasis on its growth.
  • Elise Reid Boylston. . Doraville: privately printed, 1968. Lots of neat anecdotes about the history of the city.
  • Atlanta, Then and Now . Part of the Then and Now books series.
  • Atlanta, GA (Source for Atlanta Flag)

External links

  • Maps and aerial photos
    • Street map from Mapquest
    • Topographic map from Topozone
    • Aerial photograph from Terraserver
  • Travel guide to Atlanta from Wikitravel
  • City of Atlanta government
  • Atlanta Georgia News
  • Martin Luther King National Historic Site
  • Atlanta Dogwood Festival
  • Piedmont Park Conservancy
  • Flatiron Building history and photography
  • Buildings of the Fairlie-Poplar District
  • Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Atlanta Botanical Garden
  • Access Atlanta
  • Georgia State Parks

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Last updated: 02-07-2005 03:57:21
Last updated: 02-24-2005 04:05:47