Virginia Highlands Neighborhood History & Nearby Amenities
The area now referred to as Virginia Highlands began to transform from farmland to a popular residential area to live after Atlanta’s streetcar routes moved outside of the city center in 1889. The streetcar route, referred to as “Nine-Mile Circle”, ran to the northeast of the city center past the present day Virginia Highlands. As a result of it’s origin as a streetcar route, intersections were built to accommodate the streetcar with broad turns. These sweeping turns can be seen today at these intersections, including that of Virginia Avenue and North Highland Avenue. In this location the streetcars of the 1800’s would turn right off of Virginia onto Highland.
In the early 1900’s, the first subdivisions were built in the area. High ground in this area and the lure of medicinal waters of Ponce de Leon Springs brought people to the area. New developments offered affordable single-family bungalows. When new industrial centers came to the area, including the Ford Motor Company factory and the Sears retail distribution center, more homes followed.
The commercial buildings in the banner photo at the top of this page date back to the early 1920’s, when the area was not yet called Virginia Highlands. Instead, residents referred to living “off Highland.”
The neighborhoods in Virginia Highlands suffered a decline in the mid-1900’s as many residents moved to the suburbs and a six-lane highway called Interstate 485 was proposed to cut through the neighborhood. This proposed highway brought residents together in opposition of the highway, forming the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. They successfully defeated the proposed highway project. Then in the 1970’s, people began moving back into the intown areas of the city and renovating worn-out houses.
Virginia Highlands is located in close proximity to the Atlanta Beltline Eastside trail, one of the most popular areas of recreation and entertainment in Atlanta. This “rail-to-trail” conversion has recently spurred many adaptive re-use projects converting older industrial buildings into industrial-chic office-retail spaces, offering a multitude of dining and shopping opportunities to visitors. Virginia Highlands is also close to Piedmont Park and other city parks.
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