More Monroe And Boulevard

Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, History, Politics, Race by chamblee54 on January 4, 2022








A recent facebook discussion covers that old crowd pleaser, why does Monroe Drive turn into Boulevard? The story is that the street name changed because White people live North of Ponce De Leon Avenue, and Black people live south. Chamblee54 has covered this topic before. The information today will be a bit dry. If you want to skip over the text, you can always enjoy the pictures, from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.”

“The name changes were intentional and rooted directly in racism.” This judgment from Atlanta magazine is a popular opinion. Unfortunately, there are some street name changes that apparently are not racial. In discussions like this, once racism is blamed, the conversation shuts down. Asking any questions, or exploring the possibility of nuance, is considered racist.

The Atlanta magazine article does not really address Monroe/Boulevard. A 1913 measure, the Ashley Ordinance, is brought up, as well as some of the skirmishing in SW Atlanta over integration. None of those items were in play in the Monroe/Boulevard matter.

The opinion of chamblee54 has not changed. It is entirely possible that Monroe/Boulevard was racially motivated. That sounds like something a Georgia government, of a certain era, would do. However, it does not address the other streets. When were the names changed, and by what government? The answers to the last two questions have been elusive. If anyone reading this has any answers, please leave a comment.

In the space between I-85 and Dekalb County, there are four streets that change names when they cross Ponce De Leon Avenue. These are Juniper/Courtland, Charles Allen/Parkway, Monroe/Boulevard, and Briarcliff/Moreland. Several streets cross Ponce without changing names, including Spring, Peachtree, Piedmont, and North Highland. A wikipedia page, List of former Atlanta street names, has some information about the name changes. More information was found in a collection of maps at the GSU library.

It turns out that Juniper/Courtland change names at North Avenue, one block south of Ponce. As early as 1895, those streets have the same names. On old maps, Juniper ends at North, and Courtand starts a quarter-block west. Wikipedia adds this about Courtland: “North Collins Street (for pioneer James Collins — renamed because of South Collins Street’s reputation as a red light district)”

Briarcliff/Moreland has always been a problem for the racism hypothesis. The race change has traditionally been at the railroad tracks, a half mile south of Ponce. Moreland Avenue was originally County Line Road. It was renamed in honor of a Confederate officer, Major Asbury Fletcher Moreland. “He owned quite a bit of land between County Line Road and Pike Road, which is now Euclid Avenue, some of which is now part of the city’s Bass Recreation Center. Ever the businessman, Moreland built rental homes and a park, which featured a pond and animals — appropriately called Moreland Park — that became a summer getaway for city dwellers.”

Briarcliff was originally known as Williams Mill Road. It changed to Briarcliff after Asa Griggs “Buddy” Candler Jr. built a palace at 1260 Briarcliff Road. The house still stands, barely, and served as the GMHI facility for many years. In 1911 and 1917, Briarcliff is known as Williams Mill, before changing into Moreland. In 1925, and maps issued after 1925, the road is shown as Briarcliff.

Charles Allen/Parkway, one block west of Monroe/Boulevard, was originally known as Jackson Street. The road is still known as Jackson Street, south of Highland Avenue. The earliest map to show Jackson is 1895. By 1930 it has been changed to Parkway, ending at Piedmont Park. Charles Allen Drive does not appear until 1959. Charles Allen was the pastor at Grace United Methodist Church.

Wikipedia has this on Boulevard: “Jefferson Street (marked in 1878 map from North Ave. to Foster St. (now Edgewood Ave.) in today’s Old Fourth Ward) – Rolling Mill Street (north of the railroad) from the late 1860s to about 1880, for the Confederate Rolling Mill, which the retreating Confederate army inadvertently destroyed in 1864.”

Wikipedia has a surprise “Monroe Drive (to honor the Monroe Landscaping Company which did extensive plantings in the area)[17]” The footnote links to a Morningside neighborhood newsletter. There is no mention of Monroe Drive in the cited newsletter.

Before going further with Monroe, we should look at a controversy involving the landscaper William Lott Monroe. “1941 (Jan. 25) Monroe’s Landscape & Nursery Co. is removed from Fulton County’s payroll: “…[D]rawn more than $17,000 from the county in the last year and one-half… The company was drawing $500 a month for supervising landscaping of county parks, which was in addition to flowers, shrubs and blueprints sold by it to the county.” (“Nursery Company Is Cut Off Pay Roll.” Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 25, 1941)” In 1941, Mr. Monroe was working on North Fulton Park, later known as Chastain Park. This park was annexed into the City of Atlanta on January 1, 1952.

The first time Boulevard is mentioned on maps is 1895. The first mention of Monroe Drive is 1951, when Monroe starts at Montgomery Ferry. (Before the Northeast Expressway was built, the road ended at Plasters Avenue, north of the present I 85.) It is not until 1959 that Monroe appears immediately north of Ponce De Leon.

These maps were used in researching this feature. 1878 1895 1911 1917 1921 1925 1930 1930 1931 1934 1935 1939 1946 1951 1952 1952 1954 1959 1967









3 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on January 4, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the tour. I enjoyed it.

  2. chamblee54 said, on January 4, 2022 at 10:45 am

    This comment appeared on facebook:
    Mark Ladd
    Luther McKinnon, are you the author of this article? Well done. The change of Courtland to Juniper is one that I didn’t know for sure but is very common as areas become more dense and transition. Traffic patterns call for intersections to align as areas become more suburban or urban.
    Living in northern Cobb in the 90s I saw this happen in real time. One example: the county created an east west arterial road in northern Cobb by aligning four different old county roads that didn’t quite line up and had off setting junctions in north-south roads like Canton and Bells Ferry. Starting north of Kennesaw, you can take Shiloh road and go east on it without making a turn to the left or right onto another street and watch the name change to Shallowford then Jamerson and finally Wigley roads before it terminates into Sandy plains in the northeastern corner of the county. All of this was due to realigning intersections so these roads could make one continuous flow to alleviate congestion as the area was rapidly filling up with subdivisions.
    This is just one of dozens and dozens of examples all over Metro Atlanta with its hilly topography and lack of a squared street grid that you see in many cities and metro areas that developed on flatter terrain. I’ve jokingly said to newcomers to the area confused by the serpentine nature of our streets and roads, that deer designed Atlanta area roads. Lol. Deer had their trails that the indigenous Cherokee and Creek followed to make their trails which the original white settlers made their wagon roads which were then graveled and graded (and eventually paved with the advent of the automobile) into the county road network and then the suburbanites arrived en masse on that network. Too late to rip it all up and establish a grid at this point.
    Excellent article and much more thought out and researched than the Atlanta magazine article. Thank you

  3. Bob DuPree said, on January 5, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    Love the history

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