Rose Hill Community homesteads and topo model by Randy Taylor, based on 1924 Sanborn & 1928 Atlanta maps. (Photo by Roger Bakeman.)

Atlanta cherishes its parks — and for good reason. They are a big part of what makes this city so livable and enjoyable. But have you ever wondered how those open spaces came to be? Dare we ask?

Since 2006, the Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project supports community-based public history research, education, and restorative justice work in today’s Candler Park neighborhood. The project reconnects historic stakeholders and today’s citizens through listening, learning, and documenting the African American community’s 19th and 20th century roots in Early Edgewood-Candler Park.

Do we have the curiosity, courage and humanity to probe beneath the play spaces and dig deeper, into the stories and memories, old city maps and directories, U.S. census records and county deeds? Can we rediscover and acknowledge the human histories that echo beneath our feet?

For example, a group of us has been probing the origins of our Atlanta neighborhood’s city-owned Candler Park. For centuries this land was part of Muscogee (Creek) territory, until it was ceded to Georgia in the 1821 Treaty of Indian Springs, and then parceled out to white settlers through a Georgia Land Lottery. With further research we’ve deduced that in the late 19th and early 20th century, flood-prone terrain such as Candler Park was difficult for white-owned realty companies to market to white property buyers. 

Real-estate syndicates such as former Atlanta mayor Asa G. Candler’s Edgewood Park Realty Company devised strategies to capitalize on their investments in other ways. Shoddily constructed houses were built and rented out at above-market prices to African Americans seeking to settle their families and build a life. During the Jim Crow Era, Black citizens were restricted by law and custom to the locations allowed, often placing them in convenient proximity for white employers.

Extensive research into city records and news media from the time revealed that one hundred years ago in 1922, the Edgewood Park Realty Company’s Black renters and the for-let houses they occupied were ordered removed to comply with conditions of a new land deed agreement. The fifty-four acres of sharply contoured land and flood-prone creeks were sold to the City of Atlanta for $10 (and likely other benefits) with the goal of creating a whites-only Candler Park Golf Course. This was part of city leaders’ visions, and according to an Atlanta Journal headline, “Candler Park to be Most Beautiful in All America.” Dynamite was used to regrade the “reclaimed land.”

Conversations about the Rose Hill Community Commemorative day’s experiences were shared over box lunches at communal dinner tables set up inside the 11 homestead footprints. (Photo by Eddy Anderson.)

Research also revealed that for 50 years (1892-1942), what is now Candler Park’s soccer field was once a hillside of land parcels owned by members of the African American Rose Hill Community. In 1942, the City of Atlanta used its “health nuisance” ordinances, 1940 housing study and eminent domain to remove these once land- and home-owning Black families from the 9.5-acre Rose Hill/Mayson Ave. N. subdivision — now along Candler Park Dr. — abutting the parkland in Candler Park. 

As City tactics morphed over time, Rose Hill residents were effectively displaced, their homesteads and land wrecked. The hillside was excavated away to create flattened playing fields for whites only — a restriction that did not change until the desegregation of Atlanta parks in 1963.  

Similar displacements occurred elsewhere in metro Atlanta and the South, such as Bagley Park in Buckhead as well as across the nation. In New York City, for example, the vibrant African American community of Seneca Village was displaced by 1857 to make way for what is now known as Central Park.  

There is deeper history waiting to be unearthed… in how many of our neighborhood parks? There are clues in the geography, even in the absences.  

Yet still today the dirt talks back

thirteen decades deep.

Time’s phantom limb pulses

as the roots of Rose Hill speak…

Public historians arise!

Click here to learn more about the BiRacial History Project.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you for the history which is so informative and inspiration to and for future generations to come. This should have been printed in our Georgia History books. Maybe someone one day will write a book entitled Bi-Racial History of Geographic. It’s time true facts are shared and stop printing half facts.

  2. A very important project. I am glad that you are part of Phoenix Flies. In the interest of accuracy re: the comment on Central Park in New York City, you should know about the book recently published titled Before Central Park by Sarah Cedar Miller, historian emerita of the Central Park Conservancy. Beginning at the beginning with the early farms that were established there through the City’s purchase of the land for their new “Central Park” Miller chronicles the owners and residents of what was Seneca Village. Interpretative signage in that corner of the park tells the Seneca Village story. Evidently many owners rented their houses – these were an investment – and remained in the lower part of Manhattan. Landowners could vote. And all owners were paid for their houses/land at fair market price by the City for the new park. Miller includes the extensive research she did at the end of the book. It was not clear in this article whether the Rose Hill Community owners were paid when the City took their houses/land by eminent domain as the law provides.

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