Planning to ride the Atlanta Streetcar and love history? Check out this guide to the top historic sites at each stop to explore the rich past of downtown Atlanta. If you’re new to the streetcar, learn how to ride to get details on fares and other things to know. Note that streetcars operate approximately every 10 to 15 minutes, so if you plan accordingly, you can quickly hop on and off to view the following landmarks.
Peachtree Center Stop
Next to the MARTA station of the same name, the Peachtree Center streetcar stop is a great place to start the streetcar experience. It’s near several historic buildings, including the Ellis Hotel and the Central Library.
First, walk across the street to the Ellis Hotel, formerly the Winecoff Hotel (pictured here), which was the site of the deadliest hotel fire in the United States in 1946. A Pulitzer Prize photo was taken at the scene.
A few doors down on Forsyth Street is the Atlanta Central Library — the last building designed by famous architect Marcel Breuer. The library was previously at risk for demolition on more than one occasion, and before Breuer’s building, Atlanta’s Carnegie Library stood on the site.
As an additional fun fact, if not for a 1978 fire that destroyed the building, Atlanta’s famous Loew’s Grand Theatre (the location of the 1939 “Gone With the Wind” premiere), would be immediately next to the streetcar stop.
Carnegie at Spring
A statue of civil rights activist Andrew Young is on display near the Carnegie at Spring streetcar stop. He was the first African American to represent Georgia in Congress after Reconstruction, plus he was also an Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador. As a bonus, be sure to visit the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel next door. It is one of John Portman’s famous buildings with a soaring atrium and 360 degree view of the city from one of the top floors.
Centennial Olympic Park
A short walk away from the Centennial Olympic Park streetcar stop, The Tabernacle is a great place to see a concert or show in Atlanta. Before concerts, there were sermons. The cornerstone was placed in 1910, and in 1911 the doors opened to a Baptist congregation. If you get the chance to go inside, the large chandelier was reclaimed from the Loew’s Theatre after the fire. Other fun facts: the building was briefly a House of Blues before today’s concert venue, and the first non-religious stage act was The Blues Brothers in 1996 for the Summer Olympics.
Luckie at Cone
The Luckie at Cone streetcar stop is in the historic Fairlie-Poplar district. It contains Atlanta’s largest concentration commercial buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the former U.S. Post Office and Courthouse and the Healey Building (now condominiums). It is a charming and walkable area. Be sure to check out nearby Broad Street, which is full of casual restaurants.
Park Place Stop
Hard to believe, but Woodruff Park next to the Park Place streetcar stop wasn’t always a park. It used to be full of buildings (view historic maps via Curbed). But if you walk to the south end of the park, you can check out one of downtown’s surviving structures: the landmark Olympia Building.
With its prominent Coca-Cola sign, the Olympia building was home to one of Atlanta’s first post offices. During recent renovation, it was discovered that parts of the building date back to 1800s, though the facade is from the 1930s. Today a Walgreens occupies the building if you need any supplies while downtown.
Hurt Park Stop
While on the subject of Coca-Cola, an old bottling plant is in walking distance of the Hurt Park streetcar stop at 125 Edgewood Avenue. On the National Register of Historic Places, the building was the headquarters for the Dixie Coca-Cola Bottling Plant from 1900 to 1901, and is the oldest surviving building associated with the famous brand.
Sweet Auburn Market Stop
The Sweet Auburn Market stop is in the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood that once had the largest concentration of African-American businesses in the United States. Before or after a visit to the 1924 market building, walk to the Butler Street YMCA across the street on Jesse Hill Jr. Drive. Once considered the “black city hall” of Atlanta, the YMCA was frequented by Martin Luther King Jr. and other community leaders. Two doors down you’ll also find the larger-than-life mural of civil rights hero and congressman John Lewis.
Edgewood at Hilliard
The Atlanta Brush Company building at 19 Hilliard Street was originally built for Trio Steam Laundry in 1905. It was successfully converted into lofts in the 1990’s and is famous for surviving the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917 along with the building next door, which also belonged to Trio and was a pioneering site for dry cleaning in Atlanta. This second structure was built in 1910 and was miraculously saved from demolition in recent years thanks to community activists, but is still in dire need of repair.
King Historic District Stop
Exit at the King Historic District stop for amazing history and landmarks associated with Martin Luther King Jr. You can tour his birth home, view the neighborhood’s 1894 fire station, visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, pay respects at his burial site and spend time in the King Center.
Dobbs Plaza Stop
The main attraction at the Dobbs Plaza streetcar stop is the John Wesley Dobbs Plaza with the “Through His Eyes” sculpture. Dobbs was an early African American civic leader that worked to end segregation in Atlanta. Plus, he is often credited for first using the term “Sweet Auburn” to describe the neighborhood. MLK Jr. was still alive when Dobbs died in 1961, and King spoke at his funeral.
Auburn at Piedmont
The Auburn at Piedmont streetcar stop is near the refurbished and historic Atlanta Daily World Building. It is the site of Atlanta’s oldest black newspaper, which was established in 1928. The newspaper staff resided in the building until 2008, and today you can stop in to get a smoothie or coffee before walking a couple doors down to the Apex Museum to learn more about black history.
Woodruff Park Stop
Before New York’s famous Flatiron Building there was Atlanta’s. Also called the English-American Building, this 1897 triangular structure is at the intersection of Peachtree and Broad Streets across from the park, and is five years older than the counterpart in the Big Apple. The first floor of the building is open to the public, where you get something to eat or drink.
For more sightseeing, be sure to walk past by the Rhodes-Haverty Building (now a Residence Inn) and the ornate Candler Building just up Peachtree Street. The Rhodes-Haverty Building was once the tallest building in Atlanta from 1929 to 1954. And the Candler Building was constructed by and named after Asa Candler, the founder of Coca-Cola. It is currently being transformed into a boutique hotel.