Underground Goes Public

"Underground Atlanta" was a vibrant social district about the turn of the 20th century, when the oldest buildings built since Sherman began to get covered up by viaducts, but died when the cover-up was complete. It became important again in the 1960s, and flowered for a few years because of Georgia's blue laws:
At the time, Fulton County was the only county in the state of Georgia that permitted mixed alcoholic beverages to be served, provided that men wore coats and ties in places that served them. As a result, Underground Atlanta quickly became the center of downtown Atlanta nightlife. Among the more popular spots in Underground Atlanta were Dante's Down the Hatch, Scarlet O'Hara, The Blarney Stone, The Rustler's Den, The Pumphouse, The Front Page, The Bank Note, and Mulenbrink's Saloon, where Atlanta's Piano Red, under the name Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, played from 1969 to 1979. Other attractions included a souvenir shop owned by governor Lester Maddox and a wax museum. With the old-style architecture lending considerable charm to the district, Underground Atlanta was compared to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
...but died as alcohol laws became more sensible across the state, and crime rates in downtown Atlanta exploded in the wake of desegregation and the resulting White Flight.

It re-opened as a shopping mall in the 1990s, and had one of those Warner Brothers stores that featured big Bugs Bunny statues. The Groundhog Tavern, which was a regular stop for yours truly during the days when I was at Georgia State, was eventually shut down due I gather to drug sales on the premises; otherwise, the core of downtown Atlanta just wasn't a great place for a shopping mall, and shopping malls were dying anyway.

Additionally, the whole surrounding area is just not a friendly place to be. Atlanta has desperately wanted a successful 'fun' district downtown for a long time, but the truth is that it's not a fun place. It's a sterile industrial park masquerading as a city. There are fun towns around the downtown core -- try Decatur! -- but the core itself is the least fun place on earth excepting prisons and other areas explicitly purposed for anti-fun.

Nevertheless, the city has decided that the reason the private sector can't have any fun there is that it was being run by the private sector, and a public-sector solution will do better.

I'm sure it will work out this time.


Anonymous said...

That's interesting. I was there in the early 1990s and it was a fun place to hang out and shop. Note that I left before 9:00 PM, because to taking the trains back to Decatur, so I probably missed the rough stuff.


Grim said...

We had a good time there in the mid-late 90s too. I drank a lot of Guinness and tequila at the Groundhog Tavern.

Of course, I wasn't much worried about crime rates. And neither were they, if the reports are right about just why they ceased to be.

Ymar Sakar said...

Great, the mafia's moving in.

douglas said...

The City has one big advantage over the private sector developers. It's much easier to get zoning variances...

Texan99 said...

Nobody does fun like the State!