X marks the spot: 4 unique Atlanta beginnings

The discovery of coke, the mystery behind the Peachtree name, and more

0215_hiddenatl_illo01_lnoftle_oneuseonlyHow Coke Got Its Bubbles
Peachtree and Marietta Streets
It’s the “you got chocolate in my peanut butter” coincidence that launched an empire. John Pemberton was one of many druggists peddling a “nerve tonic.” Joseph Jacobs was one of a handful of drugstore owners in 1880s Atlanta. But when Jacobs served Pemberton’s “Coca-Cola” with a shot of soda water, history was made. The real genius, of course, was another pharmacist, Asa Candler, who had the foresight to advertise it. The “Coca-Cola Neon Spectacular” sign occupies a sweet spot at the intersection where Jacobs’s pharmacy once stood.

0215_hiddenatl_illo03_lnoftle_oneuseonlyAtlanta’s Original Watering Hole
Lee Street, between Gordon and Park
Before Atlanta was even on the map, an entrepreneurial innkeeper named Charner Humphries opened the White Hall Tavern close to a busy stagecoach route. The first whitewashed structure in the area, the tavern provided rooms for tired travelers and stables for their weary horses, and later did triple duty as an election precinct and post office. Across from today’s Mall at West End, the tavern site is occupied by a bank and pizzeria.


Vintage Hollywood of the South
Peachtree and Houston streets
When the 1939 premiere of Gone with the Wind was held in Atlanta, it took place at the Loew’s Grand Theatre, not—as ill-informed tour guides are wont to repeat—at the Fox. The Loew’s was a fixture in downtown until a devastating fire in 1978. The location is now the headquarters for Georgia-Pacific.


The Source of All Things Peachtree
Ridgewood Road and Peachtree Creek
There is a surfeit—at least 70—of streets named Peachtree, though few trees in the city actually bear peaches. So why the name? It’s derived from a Native American village located here when white settlers arrived in the 1830s. The largest settlement, Standing Peachtree, marked the border of the Creek and Cherokee nations and was an important trade location. Peaches may have been a moot point: Some historians theorize the name began as “standing pitch tree,” named for a pine struck by lightning that oozed sap, or “pitch.”

Illustrations by Liz Noftle

This article originally appeared in our February 2015 issue.