Revitalizing Neighborhoods: Atlanta's Castleberry Hill

February 8, 2012 16 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a brief look at one of the South's premier urban core warehouse districts: Atlanta's Castleberry Hill

About Castleberry Hill

Located on the southwestern edge of the Atlanta Central Business District and south of the Phillips Arena, Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center, Castleberry Hill is one of about 230 neighborhoods defined by the City of Atlanta.

Castleberry Hill was the name generally associated with a topographic rise that peaked along Walker Street between Fair and Stonewall Streets on land owned by Daniel Castleberry, and early settler, possibly the winner of land lot 84 in the lottery of 1821. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, "Snake Nation," the area was generally noted as being Atlanta's red light district and was located South of where the Georgia Dome is today and West of Underground Atlanta. This is the area where snake oil salesmen peddled their wares, hence the public press identified "a settlement along Peters Street (earlier, White Hall Road) from the railroad crossing south to Fair Street [that was] devoted almost entirely to the criminal and immoral element" as Snake Nation.

As Atlanta grew after the Civil War from a newly chartered city to a regional rail distribution center, so did Castleberry Hill. The area began as a residential district with Peters Street functioning as a trade and commercial strip supporting adjacent residential areas as well as the railroad-related businesses. As a business center, Peters Street received a boost in 1871 when the first horse-drawn trolley line in Atlanta was routed along it. In 1878, the City Directory lists laborers, clerks, carpenters, saloon keepers, weavers, tailors, grocers, butchers, blacksmiths, cabinet makers and other occupations typical of the pattern of the era of living within walking distance of work. The principal community facilities were the Walker Street School and fire station on the corner of West Fair and Bradberry Streets. A wooden trestle bridge on Nelson Street, likely the first in the city, was the only street in the district over passing the railroad (all other crossings were at grade). Another trolley line crossed this bridge.

By 1892, a substantial increase in non-white occupancy had occurred, mainly concentrated in the southern part of Walker Street, due in part to the continued displacement of non-white housing by commercial/industrial expansion within the district and the availability of housing for whites in other parts of the city. Several new residences and the Walker Street M.E. Church were built in the triangle formed by Nelson, Haynes and Walker Streets. A new iron bridge replaced the wooden structure at Nelson Street.

Real estate development activities were formidable throughout Atlanta in the first three decades of the 20th century, and the effect of this transformation on Castleberry Hill was dramatic. Peters Street continued to function as a neighborhood retail/service center and, in the boom years of the late teens and early 1920s, served both city-wide and regional markets. Two of the nation's largest meat packing companies, Swift & Company and Kingan & Company, were located there. The only community facility remaining in the neighborhood was the Walker Street School, which was eventually destroyed by fire in 1983.

Between 1950 and 1980, industry and interest left as trade and residential growth moved to the suburbs. Many of the buildings were abandoned for new facilities. Some single-family residences have endured within the neighborhood, and a few businesses have continued to operate for decades. In more recent years, activity returned to Castleberry Hill as a few artists began to inhabit and work in the old warehouse buildings. With the surge in popularity of loft living and the robust economy, the renovation and adaptive reuse of buildings has continued, and the population is growing.

One of the more notable characteristics of Castleberry Hill is its federally recognized historic district, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, which contains the largest and best concentrated remnant of railroad buildings in Atlanta. The railway, which defines street and building patterns as it cuts through Castleberry, is as old as Atlanta itself. Early 20th-century commercial and industrial structures form continuous frontages at the street and railway lines, giving the area a distinctive urban look. Peters Street, the traditional route from Downtown to West End, cuts through the district.

In 1998 Castleberry Hill began working on a Master Plan, in which residents set out their ideas for the future of the neighborhood. This Master Plan was then instrumental in helping with both the Historic District designation as well as the Landmark Districting, which was approved in 2006. On March, 16, 2006 Mayor Shirley Franklin endorsed the Castleberry Hill Neighborhood Association's (CHNA) bid for Landmark District designation, completing the process that the City Council approved unanimously. Castleberry Hill is the eighth neighborhood in Atlanta to earn the title Landmark District (others are Baltimore Block, Cabbagetown, Druid Hills, Hotel Row, MLK Jr., Oakland Cemetery and Washington Park).

Castleberry Hill's Johnny Cakes has been voted one of Atlanta's Best Breakfast Restaurants by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

They say to start each day with a healthy breakfast, but there's nothing healthy about the depression that comes from waking up knowing you're about to eat a bowl of twigs. For more satisfying morning healthfulness, hit Johnny Cakes.

From three NY/ATL transplants, Cakes is a Caribbean-influenced eatery that serves up dangerously wholesome (virgin olive oil; nothing deep fried, etc) breakfast and lunch in a setting that balances soothing peach-tan walls with a wackjob poster collage starring Billie Holiday, Reefer Madness, and SpongeBob.

Completed in 2006 and anchoring the north end of Castleberry Hill, Castleberry Point Lofts includes 112 residential units and a mix of ground level commercial uses.

Centennial Station's 58 condominiums were completed in 2006.

The Bee Line Lofts occupy a renovated warehouse that was originally built in 1905.

This former Swift & Company meat packing plant was converted into 32 lofts, ranging from 1,400 to 2,300 square feet, in 1998.

The former General Electric Supply Building is now occupied by 48 one- and two bedroom loft condominiums.

This building was originally constructed next to the Atlanta Terminal in 1912 to house the Southern Railway's offices. Between 1905 and 1970, the Atlanta Terminal railroad station was a major Castleberry Hill anchor, serving the Southern Railway, Central of Georgia, Atlanta & West Point, and Seaboard railroads. The terminal was demolished in 1972 and Southern was eventually placed under the control of the Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1982.

Constructed in 1914 to manufacture plows for the John Deere Plow Company, this five story building was converted into 49 loft apartments in 1996.

Castleberry's Kingan & Company Pork and Beef Packers plant was converted into 14 lofts in 1996.

COFFEE LOFT located in Castleberry Hill @ 322 Peters Street,Atlanta, GA 30313 (404)523-0700 "STIMULATE YOUR TASTE AND YOUR SOUL!" "An ecectic nouveau Coffee Shop specializing in blends from around the world with to die for desserts and other delicious fare" Determined to become a daily neccessity for local coffee lovers, the Coffee Loft will be a place to escape the daily stresses of life and a comfortable place to meet your friends, listen to music or read a book.Tthe Coffee Loft will be a community coffe cafe with a taste of home! LOUNGE AREA DAILY SPECIALS WIFI COMPUTERS, FAX, COPIER and PRINTER MEETING SPACE LOFT W/FIREPLACE (Rental space) CATERING SERVICE (COFFEE)

Boxcar offers a wide range of culturally and community appropriate items in addition to our organic produce, fresh bakery treats, and dairy selection.

At the intersection of food justice and high concept retail lay the idea behind The Boxcar Grocer. We are an independently, family owned business located in Atlanta, GA. Our goal is to become a model neighborhood resource, a new vision of what a corner store can be. A place that recognizes the health of a nation begins with the health of its individual communities.

Eventually, with community support, we will have a thriving model of convenience store retail that successfully unifies the ideals of the larger environmental and food movements with the needs and voices of diverse urban communities such as Castleberry Hill, Mechanicsville and the West End areas of Atlanta.

Castleberry Hill is located just north of Interstate 20 and to the immediate southwest of downtown Atlanta.

For more information:

Castleberry Hill Master Plan:

Castleberry Hill Historic District:

Images by Ennis Davis