West End was named in the 1860s after London’s famed theater district. Connected to downtown by horse-drawn streetcars, the suburb soon attracted affluent residents, including mayors, a governor, business owners, and Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus tales. Though the neighborhood experienced white flight during the mid-20th century, it has long benefited from its proximity to the Atlanta University Center—drawing prominent residents like Dr. O.T. Hammonds, whose grand Victorian home is now an art museum. In recent years, the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail has brought new development—such as the sprawling Lee + White complex—along with the mixed benefits of gentrification. Through it all, strong local leadership has ensured that the “Best End” keeps its sights on the future.
“West End is unique because of its history, culture, and diverse, compassionate neighbors,” says Marquise “Tony” McNeal, a 10-year area resident and president of West End Neighborhood Development, an organization whose mission is to preserve the character of the district and improve its quality of life. “It’s the kind of neighborhood where you can go next door and borrow a cup of sugar. We are on the National Register of Historic Places. We are truly a neighborhood where you can live, work, and play.”
What’s to love?
The Mall West End
A center of commerce between Oak Street and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, this modest shopping center is where locals have turned for clothes, cosmetics, and the jolly Kente Claus for decades. While real estate developers are promising a much-needed facelift for the 51-year-old property, locals hope its communal heart remains intact.
A commitment to community has deep roots in West End—literally. Urban farms in the area like Truly Living Well and the West End Community Garden sell their own produce, provide cooking classes, and host various events that promote better eating habits and cultivate sustainability.
Atlanta University Center
Situated on a 270-acre plot of progressiveness that stretches from MLK Drive to I-20, the AUC’s institutions of higher learning—Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and the Morehouse School of Medicine (along with nearby HBCUs Interdenominational Theological Center and Morris Brown College)—have a global reach.
Sure, you can find some soul-soothing ribs (Q-Time) here. But less expected is the bounty of vegetarian and vegan options, such as Tassili’s Raw Reality, Bakaris Plant Based Pizza, and Vegan Dream Doughnuts—as well as nearby Slutty Vegan and Local Green Atlanta. This is partly due to the meatless diet favored by the Shrine of the Black Madonna—a local offshoot of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church—and to area immigrants with strong agricultural traditions. Thanks to Caribbean ties, Taste of Tropical serves some of the best jerk chicken this side of Montego Bay.
West End Park
West End Park is ever popular with tennis players, dog walkers, and seesaw-loving tykes, but especially during the annual Malcolm X Festival (this year, May 20–21). Families flock here for music, speakers, and a marketplace.
This article appears in our May 2023 issue.