The West End is one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods, especially important for the city’s African-American history. Today the area is home to new development, including restaurants, breweries, and walking trails.
The History of the West End
Named after London ’s Theater District, Atlanta‘s West End is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It was settled in 1835 under the name White Hall after the White Hall Inn, which was once located at the corners of Lee Street and Ralph David Abernathy, the only painted building in the city at that time.
It was a stagecoach stop and tavern for those traveling cross country. The name change occurred in 1867 and has remained ever since.
The West End was incorporated into the rest of Atlanta, which had also been renamed, in 1894. During this time, wealthy locals moved to the suburb and built grand houses, some of which can still be seen today. The architectural styles of the neighborhood include Queen Anne, Craftsman, and Neoclassical designs.
West End Museums and Landmarks
Perhaps the area’s most notable resident was writer Joel Chandler Harris, who crafted the Uncle Remus stories. He moved into the area in the 1880s to rent a six-bedroom home that later became known as The Wren’s Nest.
As his wealth grew from selling his stories, he hired an architect to transform it from a modest farmhouse to Queen Anne Victorian we can visit today.
He used to sit on his large porch and hosted visits from President Roosevelt and Andrew Carnegie, both close personal friends. After Harris’ death, the home became a national landmark and opened for tours in 1913.
Harris is buried, along with other notable Atlantans, at Westview Cemetery, the largest in the southeast. It includes over 100,000 graves, yet half of the property is undeveloped, making it feel like a park as much as a cemetery. Westview was the site of the Battle of Ezra Church in the Civil War and was used after nearby Oakland Cemetery was full.
Also buried here are former Atlanta mayors Ivan Allen Jr. and William Hartsfield, philanthropists Asa Candler and Asa Candler Jr., journalist Henry Grady, and, more recently, chef Ria Pell, and Alice Hawthorn, a victim of the 1996 Olympics bombing.
The Westview Abbey mausoleum is one of the cemetery’s more prominent features, reminiscent of a Romanesque cathedral.
While Westview was where notable Atlantans were buried, neighboring Greenwood Cemetery is where Jewish, Greek, and Chinese residents are buried. It contains headstones in native characters and a Holocaust memorial. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-a, is a notable internment.
Other museums in the historic West End are the Hammond House Museum and the Omenala Griot African Museum, both museums devoted to the arts and culture of the African diaspora.
The arts are still an important aspect of life on the West End, as both Clark Atlanta and Spelman have notable art galleries and museums.
Street art has become popular, especially as a part of the Living Walls Conference, an initiative to beautify industrial areas with murals by international artists.
Changes in the West End
The West End started to fall into disrepair in the 1970s as many Atlantans moved into the suburbs. The 1973 arrival of the MARTA rail line made it easier to visit rather than stay in the area.
But in the last 20 years, the neighborhood has seen a resurgence of activity as it has become a popular area for artists and students for the relatively low cost of living.
The historic West End has long been home to Atlanta’s historically black colleges, including Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, and Morris Brown College.
The Beltline is just one way the West End is changing. The trail is a former rail line that has been transformed into a 2.4-mile path from White Street to Westview Cemetery.
It’s done great things for other parts of town, including introducing art projects and giving families a place to exercise together.
Restaurants and Breweries in the West End
The culinary landscape of the Historic West End features soulful favorites with a Southern flair. Perhaps the most popular is Busy Bee Cafe, which has some of the best fried chicken in the city. It’s within walking distance of the universities and has massive portions.
Soul Vegetarian Restaurant puts a healthy spin on Southern favorites. Q Time also has soul food, specifically barbecue.
The Lee + White development has also brought in incredible food and drink businesses like Golda Kombucha, Boxcar, and Best End Brewing. Monday Night and Wild Heaven breweries opened second locations alongside American Spirit Works Distillery.
Getting to the West End
Access the Historic West End by car or through the Ashby Station or West End Station on MARTA. Some of the places listed are technically in Vine City, Castleberry Hill, or the surrounding areas, but all are within a short distance from the historic West End.
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