10 Reasons to Love Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward

One of Atlanta’s most desirable neighborhoods in the late 19th century before falling into disrepair in the 1960s, the Old Fourth Ward is also where Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up (you can visit his boyhood home) and honed his preaching style, delivering sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In recent years, the “O4W” has become a striking symbol of intelligent gentrification in the Georgia capital, a place where abandoned warehouses are being converted to lofts and small businesses are thriving–while the authentic flavor of this historic area remains preserved.

Here are ten reasons to love this ever evolving neighborhood:

1. Ponce City Market. Housed in the former Sears, Roebuck & Company building, this mixed-use development is poised to become the city’s next hot spot for eating, shopping, working, and living. Modeled after Chelsea Market in New York City, Ponce City Market has already lined up top-shelf retail and restaurants to fill the massive space.

2. The Atlanta Streetcar. Atlanta’s public transportation system isn’t up to par with most major metropolises in America, but the Atlanta Streetcar is a good start toward getting it there. It’s also rekindling a link with the city’s past, when electric streetcars connected the community. The first phase of the project will link the MLK National Historic Site with Centennial Olympic Park, where further transfers can be made at the MARTA rail and bus lines.

3. The BeltLine. It started with a Georgia Tech graduate student’s proposal to transform outmoded railroad tracks line into a walking and cycling path through Atlanta. Now, the BeltLine is becoming a reality. The most commonly used section is the Eastside Trail between Piedmont Park and Irwin Street, which goes past Ponce City Market. This area is home to frequent art installations, as well as restaurants with open-air seating.

4. Epic Southern Brunch. Sunday brunch is one of the things at which the South excels, and no neighborhood does it better than the Old Fourth Ward. Head to Parish or Two Urban Licks, where you can stuff your face with eggs Benedict while watching the drama unfold on the BeltLine below. Highland Bakery is the ultimate in decadence, with French toast as big as your head, while diner-chic Home Grown, on the border of Reynoldstown, serves up the best biscuits in town.

5. Edgewood Avenue Nightlife. Atlanta’s young and hip used to make a beeline for Buckhead to wet their whistles, but Edgewood Avenue is fast becoming the place to find affordable dive bars with authentic ATL edge. Perhaps the best example is Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (shortened to Church), where guests can people-watch or play table tennis while wearing choir robes. Mother is another popular bar, as is Joystick, where you can play your favorite childhood arcade games while sipping craft beers.

6. Jackson Street Bridge. Fans of The Walking Dead will immediately recognize the stretch over Freedom Parkway from the opening sequence of the show when Rick Grimes enters the abandoned city on horseback. The unassuming Jackson Street Bridge is frequently used as a backdrop for amateur photo shoots for fans and those looking for the best view of the skyline at all hours.

7. Street Art. Graffiti used to be an urban scourge; now it’s being embraced as a means of transforming otherwise drab brick buildings into works of art. This is especially true in the Old Fourth Ward, with the annual Living Walls, the City Speaks conference bringing in artists from all over the U.S. to beautify streets like Edgewood Avenue, Carroll Street, and Krog Street Tunnel.

8. Local Markets. Sweet Auburn Curb Market, established in the aftermath of the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917, is where generations of locals have gone to purchase fresh food. Dozens of restaurant stalls–notably Bell Street Burritos, Arepa Mia, and Grindhouse Killer Burgers–have also opened up. The Freedom Farmers Market takes a more traditional approach, setting up Saturdays in the parking lot of the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum (one of Georgia’s native sons). Pick up produce and meats from local farmers, as well as baked goods, fresh pasta, and ready-to-eat fare.

9. History: The Old Fourth Ward is one of Atlanta’s oldest areas. That’s why developers are taking pains to preserve that heritage while giving historical–but dilapidated–buildings new identities in the modern age. Ponce City Market is a prime example of this, as is the Masquerade, a popular indoor-outdoor music venue that occupies the old Dupre Excelsior Mill complex. Get a taste of what the neighborhood looked like before gentrification began in full force by touring the Sweet Auburn Historic District.

10. Community Pride. Most Atlantans are proud of their city, but O4W residents take even greater pride in their neighborhood. They come out to support events like the Georgia Marathon, which passes through the area, with pom-poms and signs. They also throw a great party, with festivals such as the Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival, Sweet Auburn Springfest, and One Musicfest.

Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. After spending years in Charleston and Sydney, she’s back in her hometown showing others what it has to offer. Catch up with Eubanks on her blogs, Caroline in the City and This Is My South, and on Twitter @cairinthecity.


  1. Dean
    January 25, 2015, 7:44 am

    Stop the whining some of you, I’ve lived in the O4W for 15 years now and am VERY happy to see progress! If you want it to remain a slummy area, move!

    United States
    January 23, 2015, 12:56 pm

    Stephan .I suspect this is going to distress you but EAV is way hotter than O4W. http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2015/01/22/east-atlanta-named-third-hottest-neighborhood-in.html

  3. jen
    Virginia Highlands
    July 8, 2014, 11:45 am

    this is good! except this isn’t just O4W…spots mentioned r in Poncey-Highlands, Inman Park, Sweet Auburn etc.

  4. Chris Parrish
    July 3, 2014, 8:48 pm

    So, Alex, I guess we won’t be seeing you in O4W. Stay in Cobb.

  5. kissy raheem
    July 3, 2014, 2:57 pm

    There is damage in pretending that things we enjoy or benefit from are innocuous or without repercussion. There is also damage in reconstructing history to make “fun” articles that don’t have to think critically. If this was list without the ridiculous introduction I’d be mildly annoyed, but the intro is insidious.

    Translating racist public policy apology written as progress and prosperity:

    “One of Atlanta’s most desirable neighborhoods in the late 19th century before falling into disrepair in the 1960s,…”
    Translation: Before disinvestment, racist housing policies, discriminatory welfare policies, and white flight degraded the physical and social landscape forcing Blacks to dwell in urban decay

    “…the Old Fourth Ward is also where Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up (you can visit his boyhood home) and honed his preaching style, delivering sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church.”
    Translation: Remember when Black people where good, church-going, activists struggling it out against an establishment I disassociate from? Good times.

    “…In recent years, the “O4W” has become a striking symbol of intelligent gentrification…”
    Translation: Intelligent gentrification = forcible displacement of low income, black residents who’ve resided in the area for years

    “…in the Georgia capital, a place where abandoned warehouses are being converted to lofts and small businesses are thriving–while the authentic flavor of this historic area remains preserved…”
    Translation: Nothing is changing for the majority of Black people in Atlanta, meanwhile affluent white people and those who aspire to affluence can work closer to their jobs at the expense of thousands of longtime residents.

    Posted on Fb today by Sirajah Raheem

  6. john f. cook
    old 4th Ward
    July 3, 2014, 2:48 pm

    Alex i have lived in atlanta all my life my mom owns a home in old 4th ward there is no poverty or homelessness in the Ward and can you name one place that doesnt have its drug issues its a great place to live and convenient to downtown . alex you can always move if you dont like the area………

  7. Stephen
    July 2, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Edgewood Ave is already ruined by the Buckhead-ites. Try getting a drink at Mother these days, or Church or Corner Tavern. It’s ridiculous. And those who can afford Ponce City Market and “made the cut” are just going to further dilute that area, as well.

    I’m so happy that EAV is still too “scary” for most bar-hoppers. Not trying to be one of “those guys”, but when I can’t even get a goddang Tecate without a twenty minute wait and a crowd of sweaty bros rubbing up against me….that’s a problem.

  8. Noel M.
    July 2, 2014, 11:56 am

    Fantastic list! I’ll share this on FB. It’s such a rich area!

  9. chris
    July 2, 2014, 11:42 am

    Alex, there’s one in every bunch isn’t there? The article is “10 Reasons to Love”. I don’t think it said anything about there not being any negatives nor it being an attempt to perfectly characterize a neighborhood. Of course, there are negative aspects to any given thing. So in fact, I don’t think the author forgot to mention those things at all. It rather sounds like you forgot to read the title.

  10. Esther
    Taiwan, Taipei
    July 2, 2014, 12:16 am

    Good article that make me want to visit Atalanta.

  11. Alex
    Atlanta - Reynoldstown
    July 1, 2014, 1:21 pm

    You forgot to mention all the poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse in O4W.

  12. memographer
    June 30, 2014, 11:04 pm

    Great article, Caroline! Jackson Street Bridge is my favorite spot for Atlanta’s Skyline photography.