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Underground Atlanta ~ Downtown Atlanta GA

We have heard of a lot of things in our day, but never anything quite as unique as Underground Atlanta.

The name alone intrigued me, and we kept trying to fit in a quick visit, while we were exploring Atlanta. It can easily be explored at night, when the museums and historical sites are closed above ground.

Underground Atlanta is full of restaurants, so we scheduled dinner for exploring this unique "underworld!" That made it easier to fit it into our crowded schedule. We were determined to fit it in after our day of museum hopping visiting the King Tut exhibit and the High Museum's spectacular Terracotta Army. 

Underground Atlanta is an underground mall, filled with unusual shops of all kinds from a candy store to street vendors with all sorts of fun bargains, regular mall type stores restaurants, frozen custard, and nightlife.

LivingHistorySites.com reviewed:

Definitely a unique experience - Underground Atlanta is interesting, especially if you are into the mall scene.  It is historically significant to the city, and we enjoyed that aspect more than the smoky underground mall! 

It is a little confusing to find the entrance into Underground Atlanta, so look for the set of PURPLE doors, across the street from the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. This will take you inside a building, with some escalators pointing DOWN. Take those escalators down to enter Underground Atlanta and start the historical adventure, and thriving mall and shopping area below. 

The first thing you will see at the bottom of the first escalator is a booth that give information. Stop, ask whoever is on duty to point out the interesting sites for you! There are two floors to enjoy in this basement shopping extravaganza!

The History of Underground Atlanta

Atlanta began as a railroad town, even before the Civil War and grew increasingly important to the South. It became the heart of the lower Confederacy, with the railroads bringing supplies through to the Confederate states. Strategically targeted for destruction by the Union, Atlanta was burned in Sherman's infamous campaign of destruction 1864. 

During Reconstruction, after the Civil War, Atlanta rebuilt, with the railroad still in the center of the city. As the Underground Atlanta's website so accurately puts it:

1866-1920: Atlanta Rises From The Ashes
In 1866, Atlantans sifted through the ashes of wartime destruction, once again building their city around the Zero Milepost. In the five years between 1866 and 1871, the city's population doubled to 22,000. In 1869, the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot was built with an impressive three-story head house. The remaining single story structure, which still stands next to Underground Atlanta, is Central Atlanta's oldest building. In the 1870's, the district included the train station, banks, hotels, saloons, grain wholesalers, law offices, a whiskey distillery and Packinghouse Row, on the northern side of Alabama Street between Pryor Street and Central Avenue. In 1887, Coca-Cola was served at Jacob's Pharmacy soda fountain on Peachtree Street a half block from Union Station. In 1889, Atlanta introduced the electric streetcar to the South. By 1900, Union Station Depot served 100 trains a day with direct rail service from New York, Cincinnati, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Macon, Augusta and Columbus. By 1910, several iron bridges had been constructed to cross the rail tracks at Union Street. Local architect Haralson Bleckley proposed that new concrete bridges be built to replace the iron bridges. A linear mall at bridge level would connect the concrete viaducts and create a series of public plazas.

1920-1929: The Viaducts Create A "City Beneath The Streets"
During the 1920's, construction of the concrete "viaducts" elevated the street system one level to permit a better flow of traffic. Merchants moved their operations to the second floor, leaving the old fronts for storage and service. Thus, giving birth to what is now Underground Atlanta.

1930-1969: Atlanta Grows While Underground Atlanta Lies Dormant
Atlanta continued to stride forward, attracting new industries and increasing its role as a transportation center for the United States. In 1943, a new park, named Plaza Park, was built over the railroad gulch. It was the only one of Bleckley's proposed plazas to be constructed. The park was replaced by a new and larger plaza, Peachtree Fountains Plaza, which has become a major entrance to Underground Atlanta. In the 1960's, Atlanta was the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. In the commercial district near Atlanta, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led numerous non-violent demonstrations to protest racial segregation.

Tragedy struck when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. The funeral procession from his church to the cemetery passed over the viaducts through the Underground Atlanta district.

1968-Present: Underground Atlanta Is Restored
In 1968, the Atlanta Board of Aldermen declared the five-block area of the original downtown historic site. Many significant architectural features survived from original storefronts, including ornate marble, granite archways, cast iron pilasters, decorative brickwork, and hand-carved wood posts and panels. One-year later, Underground Atlanta opened as a retail and entertainment center. In 1980, the construction of the MARTA rapid transit line and other factors led to the closing of the original Underground Atlanta.  Yet, upon its closing, civic and business leaders succeeded in having Underground Atlanta placed on the National Register of Historic Places and leaders vowed to reopen the area.

Underground Atlanta was reopened in 1989, at a cost of $142 million, through a joint venture between the City of Atlanta and private industry. It was redesigned to be one of the major projects aimed at preserving and revitalizing the center of Atlanta as the focal point of community life. Today, Underground offers a complete family experience, with retail shops, specialty and gift shops, fast food in the Old Alabama Eatery, unique features and entertainment, special events and fine restaurants.

I could not possibly explain this unique place any better than that!

Remember, look for the PURPLE doors to enter into Underground Atlanta, and go down the escalator! 

Underground Atlanta is located at:

50 Upper Alabama Street
Suite 007
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
Phone: 404-523-2311

Customer Service Center: 404-523-2311 ext. 7019

Mall Hours:
Monday – Saturday: 10 am - 9 pm
Sunday: 11 am - 7 pm

(Note: Winter, restaurant and club hours may vary.)