Auburn Avenue’s long-awaited history, cultural project moving forward
By David Pendered
A walk along Auburn Avenue can be described as inspirational, even spiritual. Soon the words educational and attractive may be added. A highlight of a pending beautification project is a huge mural and 10 big light boxes that are to tell the corridor’s history.
The Auburn Avenue History and Culture Project has been in the drawing books since at least 2013. Atlanta issued a request for bids on Aug. 28 to construct the project, which stretches from Peachtree Street to Old Wheat Street. A pre-bid conference is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Bids are due Sept. 28.
The story of Auburn Avenue is one of great achievement. In 1956, Fortune magazine described Auburn Avenue as, “the richest Negro street in the world.”
The mural showcases Auburn Avenue over a 40-year period. A gallery of black and white photos portrays a history that begins in 1918 and culminates in the 1950s, by which time the corridor was known as “Sweet Auburn.”
Beneath the images, seven blocks of text and photos detail slices of history. Here’s their order in the renderings:
- World War 1, Parade, 1918;
- Atlanta Life Building, 1932;
- Butler Street and Houston Street, circa 1950;
- Yates and Milton Drugstore, circa 1920s;
- Big Bethel AME, circa 1922;
- View down Auburn Avenue with gas station, 1950s;
- Sweet Auburn, 1954.
The mural is to stretch 267 feet, 7 inches along the underpass. It is to reach as high as 21 feet, 11 inches. Images will be printed on an aluminum that’s to be high gloss white. A protective laminate is to be applied to the mural from the base to a height of 8 feet.
The light boxes are to be 12 feet long and 1 foot high. White letters on a dark background are to be 6 inches high. The renderings clearly state that the names on the light boxes will not duplicate the mural. Here’s their order in the renderings:
|John W. Dobbs Book Depository||Prince Hall Masonic Temple|
|Atlanta Daily World||Wheat Street Baptist Church|
|Rucker Building||Ebenezer Baptist Church|
|The Royal Peacock||Fire Station #6|
|Odd Fellows Building||Cox Brothers Funeral Home|
|Herndon Building||Auburn Branch Carnegie Library|
|Butler Street YMCA||Haugabrooks Funeral Home|
|Atlanta Independent Newspaper||WERD Radio Station|
|Top Hat Club||Bronner Brothers Beauty Supply Company|
|Citizens Trust Bank||Southern Christian Leadership Council|
In addition to the mural and lightboxes, the project includes the installation of wayfinding signage, historic markers and decorative lights.
Atlanta will own the project. Construction costs are being provided by the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, an affiliate of Central Atlanta Progress, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Here’s how the ADID described the current appearance of the corridor in a 2013 statement:
- “Existing historic markers and signs along Auburn Avenue are damaged, inconsistent and uncoordinated. They lack a cohesive neighborhood identity and character. The Auburn Avenue History and Cultural Information Transportation Enhancement (TE) project is being funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and seeks to create a consistent character along the corridor.”
The existing historic markers are to be reviewed for the content of their message. Additional information will be added to new signs, as needed, to tell a more robust story. Existing signs that are damaged are to be replaced with additional content, as appropriate.
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