Charles at Large - Atlanta Magazine

Charles at Large

A fifth-generation Atlantan explains the city

Charles at Large

Stories 1 to 6 of 16

Down Under

I’ve heard about “underground viaducts” in Atlanta—where and what are they? A viaduct is like an aqueduct (both are inheritances from the Roman Empire), only instead of water, it carries a via—a road or railway—over a valley, another road, or a body of water. As such, they’re almost always aboveground, like the eight in Atlanta. The Peachtree viaduct—the section that runs south from Five Points—and the Spring Street viaduct are two of the most prominent local examples. What may perplex you, curious pleb, is that Atlanta’s viaducts created the area we now, somewhat deceptively, call “Underground.” In the early twentieth century, these viaducts raised certain street sections one story to span the mess of railroad tracks that turned Terminus into Hotlanta. At the time, more than 300 passenger trains, not to mention freight locomotives, earned Downtown the nickname of “smokey gulch.” As the number of railroads converging here grew—especially in ... Read more

Is Cobb on Board?

Unlike Gwinnett, which has voted on MARTA a couple of times, Cobb County has never had a referendum on the Atlanta transit system since the authority was founded nearly forty years ago. Will we ever get rail up here? Tough time to ask that question: MARTA is staring down the wrong end of a $120 million operations deficit. Earlier this year, the transit authority threatened to cut 30 percent of its lines—until it got a last-minute reprieve from the state legislature, which temporarily freed up some sales tax revenue for operations. Says Faye DiMassimo, director of Cobb’s Department of Transportation: “Community support and funding are the two things that have prevented MARTA’s expansion. Funding, especially, is a dramatic deterrent.” But just because you won’t be seeing MARTA in Cobb anytime soon doesn’t mean you’ll never see rail there. In 2008, the Transit Planning Board—a joint venture of MARTA, the Atlanta ... Read more

Frat House

I’m curious about the Masonic Temple on Peachtree, next to the Amtrak Station. Can I look around? In a recent issue of the brotherhood’s quarterly, the Northern Light, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton says the Masonic fraternity has lost two-thirds of its members worldwide over the past fifty years. In 2050, McNaughton wonders, “Will we be the fraternity of choice? Will there be the vision and wisdom to continue remodeling our Temple?” I cannot speak to the first question posed by McNaughton. But after a recent visit, I can tell you that the Temple on Peachtree—in which local initiates of what’s been called the world’s largest secret society socialize and self-improve—could use some remodeling. Better lighting, to start. But see for yourself: The curious are welcome, so long as they aren’t “cowans [cowards] and eavesdroppers,” says an older gentleman who presides over the visitors desk, quoting, he says, from ... Read more

Gray Acres

Where’s the oldest house on Peachtree? There are a few old residential structures left on Peachtree, says Don Rooney of the Atlanta History Center. “But the Solomon Goodwin house is the oldest.” Just north of Colonial Drive in Brookhaven, the white clapboard house sits as it has for almost 180 years, tucked back from an old wagon trail now called Peachtree Road. Goodwin ancestors have lived and died inside ever since it was built in 1831. On a recent afternoon, no one was home. Four rocking chairs nodded slightly in a breeze as a MARTA train screeched by less than a hundred yards away. This used to be a 600-acre farm. Homesteader Solomon’s great-great-great-great-granddaughters, the current owners, say that if you listen closely the place will speak to you. I heard a man yelling into his cell phone, and a few songbirds. Changes have indeed come to the oldest existing ... Read more

Dog Gone

Why aren’t dogs allowed at the Dogwood Festival? There’s a disc dog competition, for Pete’s sake! Last April, Mary Leigh Evitt headed to the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park with her border collie puppy, Olivia. After walking a mile from Evitt’s car to the festival, they were quickly pulled aside with dozens of other disgruntled dog owners. A festival worker announced that they’d need to leave immediately or travel along an outer path to a distant, segregated dog area. “I was pretty aggravated,” Evitt says. “Why is that day different than any other?” It turns out that a 2006 City of Atlanta ordinance states that (nonservice) pooches aren’t allowed at city park events with more than 10,000 attendees, though Ken Gillett at the Office of Parks says that no formal incident led to the law. The disc dogs are counted as “festival performers,” so they’re permitted. “It does make sense ... Read more

Up in the Air

Why is Highlands, North Carolina, so popular? It’s like Buckhead in the woods. Well-to-do Atlantans have been using Highlands as a summer retreat since the early twentieth century, when Coke execs such as the Woodruffs started the trend. A primary draw is the temperature: When it’s 89 degrees here, it’s ten degrees cooler there. But it took time for the masses to catch on to the rustic town of 1,100—which swells to 18,000 in the summer—two and a half hours to the northeast. “When they four-laned the first part of [Highway] 441 about fifteen years ago, I saw the demographics here change dramatically,” says Mark Meadows of Highlands Properties. Meadows has handled almost a quarter of the high-end Highlands market (homes from $750,000) for the last twenty years. “We went from about 15 percent Atlanta-based visitors or buyers to 63 percent that first year.” Well into the 1980s, Main Street ... Read more