Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Bluff: when you feel too optimistic or too pesimistic

I had a choice between the Druid Hills tour and the English Avenue tour. I picked English Avenue, home of The Bluff, notorious enough to be featured in Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full but I didn't know that.

This was the home of Kathryn Johnston, killed in her own home at 92 in a scandalous drug raid, in 2006. All Atlantan's know about this. Here she is, memorialized by her neighbors.

I took the very first English Avenue Walking Tour on March 25 courtesy of the Historic Westside Cultural Arts Council and the Atlanta Preservation Center. It was the last event of "The Phoenix Flies 2012."

These handsome places are boarded up, potential crack-houses.

It's a heartbreaking scene. There are plenty of houses that look bombed out. Nice looking boarded up houses are worse.

On this day it doesn't seem dangerous. It's alive. Folks are on porches and on the street. Many are stuck there. Many others are there by choice determined to dig it out.

We started at the Lindsay Street Baptist Church. It made a statement by staying and building.

We walked east on North Avenue past the Lindsay Street Baptist Church Heritage building (1951) with its beautiful blue stained glass.


Across from the heritage building this huge tree sits on the edge of a ravine, site of baptisms in an earlier era.

The neighborhood "purchased in 1891 by James W. English, Jr., son of Atlanta mayor James W. English emerged at the turn of the century for working class whites."

It's full of handsome if modestly detailed houses. There are infill apartments too, not so nice but met needs with they were built and may again.

Mini-mansions dot the place too.

This one a got bit of a renovation, before the crash. Now it's boarded up. Thieves may have stripped out the wiring, plumbing and fixtures.

Vincent L. Jones showed us around. He was born, raised, and still lives here. See the houses behind?

English at North was a modest commercial corner. You can get a sense of the lush hilly grid.

We turned north on English Avenue to find St. James Baptist Church. There are 22 churches, almost one for every block.

Another block north and the 100 year old English Avenue School comes into view. It's the school many architecture tourists have heard of but few have seen.

It closed in 1995. Imagine what a blow that was for the neighborhood.,

A community group headed by State Representative "Able" Mable Thomas bought it.

It's holding its own for now. They've shot 3 movies here. Let's hope they can get some life back in here. Most of our re-purposed schools from this era are thriving.

The school yard remains an oasis that anchors the neighborhood. We took a shady break there. You can see some of our hosts: Clockwise: "Mother" Mamie Moore in the chair, Vince Jones in the blue baseball hat, Able Mable Thomas in the light blue T-shirt, Tracy Bates striding to the left in the center.

Across the street, this humble beauty doesn't seem boarded up. This would be a treasure in Grant Park, Kirkwood, East Atlanta, Edgewood, Reynoldstown, and Cabbagetown.

The north end of the neighborhood is Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, formerly Bankhead Highway. And what do you know: the neighborhood has a 1922 Carnegie Library.


From there we treked West towards Joseph E. Lowery.

Donoald L Hollowell is a major east west thoroughfare with some commercial vigor. That's where the Bellwood Boys and Girls Club is.

This is the Regulators Motorcycle Club.

Animation happens in the handsome home of Awesome Inc.

This should help you get your bearings. We are due west of the Fox. See the Bank of America building just under the street sign?

In a couple of hours we were back to Lindsay Street Baptist.

P1060164-2012-03-25-English-Avenue-Historic-Westside-Phoenix-Flies-Atlanta-Preservation-Center Kathryn Johnston House
A few of went on the see Kathryn's Johnson's house on Neal Street. This is it.

P1060171-2012-03-25-English-Avenue-Historic-Westside-Phoenix-Flies Kathryn Johnston House-Janssen-Robinson-window-mural
Artist Janssen Robinson, painted the mural on the boarded up window. It a memorial to Ms. Robinson, and a statement on behalf of the neighborhood.

P1060168-2012-03-25-English-Avenue-Historic-Westside-Phoenix-Flies Kathryn Johnston House-artist-Janssen-Robinson
That's what gives me some hope, folks working together to save this place.



It's hard to convey the warm hospitality of our hosts. I'm not surprised though. Atlantans are warm-hearted folks and that share so much.

It's probably the same at your place.

Special thanks to Tracy Bates, President of Historic Westside Cultural Arts Council.


  1. It is so sad to see all those beautiful houses boarded up. That area is tough to drive through because of that. It's got so much potential.

  2. Thanks for sharing this Terry. The only way many Atlantans know this part of town is through tragic evening news stories. It's something else to see this as a community where people live their lives.


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