Atlanta was built around the railroad. The tracks are hard to miss — freight lines run parallel to MARTA rail in different parts of the city, downtown drivers regularly cross over them via viaducts and many Decatur and East Point residents can attest to waiting at a crossing more than once. Plus, some of Atlanta’s original rail depots and other transit facilities still exist today, many of which have been repurposed into all sorts of interesting spaces. The five below are at the top of the list of cool places to visit.
1. Kimball House
Kimball House isn’t a house. It was actually two hotels in downtown Atlanta (one burned down, the other torn down), and now it is a restaurant inside downtown Decatur’s former train depot. Built in 1891 for the Georgia Railroad, the depot had passenger trains that were frequently used by Agnes Scott students and businessmen traveling to Atlanta. The depot later became a music club before being rehabbed and transformed into today’s classy eatery. Kimball House has been recognized as a top restaurant and bar by Bon Appetit, Southern Living and other publications. Don’t miss the oysters and cocktails.
2. Georgia Railroad Freight Depot
The oldest building in downtown Atlanta, the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot was built in 1869 just four years after the Civil War (pictured above). In the 1970s it was briefly used as a parking garage before conversion into an event space for public and private events. The annual Uncorked & Untapped Atlanta wine and craft beer festival takes place here along with many other festivities. View upcoming events at the depot via Eventful to experience Atlanta train history first hand.
3. Trolley Barn
As the name suggests, the Trolley Barn in Inman Park once housed trolleys that traveled between the neighborhood and downtown Atlanta via Edgewood Avenue. The space has since been used for a variety of purposes including a church, basketball court, farmers market and storage facility. The Trolley Barn today is an event space that is often used for weddings. In addition to the historic 1889 architecture, there’s a garden and patio area that can be set up with an outdoor bar. Get a look inside the building during the Inman Park Festival (the dance events take place there).
4. H. Harper Station
In a former Atlanta & West Point rail station next to the Atlanta BeltLine, H. Harper Station is a restaurant and watering hole with classic Southern food and craft cocktails. The restaurant — open for dinner and Sunday brunch — is even named after the owner’s grandfather who was a railroad engineer. On MARTA, board bus 21 at the King Memorial MARTA station. Note that the BeltLine segment from Inman Park to Reynoldstown (where the restaurant is located) isn’t complete at this time.
5. Frosty Caboose
About a 10-minute walk from the Chamblee MARTA station, the Frosty Caboose is an ice cream stand inside — you guessed it — an old caboose. Open year-round, it’s literally a cool place filled with frosty treats next to what was once the Roswell Railroad Company (1881-1921) end-of-the-line. The tracks (which no longer exist) stretched 10 miles north to the Chattahoochee and are famous for transporting President Theodore Roosevelt to his mother’s childhood home. Freight trains go by the caboose today on tracks to other destinations.
The Depot at Emory
Emory University also has a repurposed train depot. Built in 1916 for the Seaboard Air Line Railway, the station once had direct service to New York City via the Sliver Comet. Passenger rail service ended in 1969 and for a time it was Dooley’s Den, then Zaya Mediterranean restaurant, and in 2015 it was renamed Dooley’s Depot under new management. The trackside university restaurant hasn’t reopened yet, but keep it in mind for a future pit stop.
Ford Factory Lofts
Built in 1914, the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant off of Ponce de Leon Avenue built Model Ts, Model As and V-8s. Today you can rent an apartment at the Ford Factory Lofts, which are next to the BeltLine Eastside Trail and Ponce City Market.
Atlanta Buggy Company
Along railroad tracks near the Georgia Tech campus is the two-story Atlanta Buggy Company. On the National Register of Historic Places, the 1903 building was once used to completely assemble buggies (as in horse-drawn). Today you can rent office space in this historic factory and have access to a killer rooftop deck. Visit Carriage Works for more information and use bus 1 to get there on transit.