Neighborhood History

Sweet Auburn is home to businesses, residents and institutions, including the National Park Service, Georgia State University, and a number of churches. More than 1 million visitors come each year to visit the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site. GSU's 30,000+ students pass through this neighborhood every day on their way to class. New businesses have opened, with more on the way. And investors are eyeing properties in the neighborhood with plans to invest. We are also home to the Atlanta Streetcar, which provides a convenient way to travel between the Sweet Auburn historic district, the heart of downtown Atlanta, downtown attractions, and Georgia State University. Read more about our key neighborhood partnersshopping opportunities, things to do in the neighborhood, and news and events.

By Chelsea Hagood and Audrey Leous 
Auburn Ave looking Towards Peachtree St.

Auburn Avenue was a regular stop on the tours of legendary blues, jazz and soul musicians, and gave rise to home-grown talent and renowned venues. Auburn was also the magnet for sharecroppers and dispossessed residents from rural towns that came to the big city after the Civil War to seek their fortunes. An entrepreneurial class emerged, forming some of the businesses that would endure into the twenty first century.

As one of the earliest African American enterprise areas in the country, the Sweet Auburn district flourished from the mid-nineteenth century to early twentieth century. Originally named Wheat Street for Atlanta merchant Augustus Wheat, the locals petitioned the City to rename the street to Auburn Avenue - a name more stylish and grand to suit the street’s changing character. Some of the earliest landmarks of this district were institutions such as Bethel African Methodist Church, Wheat Street Baptist Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church, which became the religious and social centers for the African American community. Businesses began to surround these institutions, most prominently black financial institutions, insurance companies and the supporting service industry.

Henrys Grill, Auburn Ave

Following the rise to commercial and cultural prominence was the increased political awareness amongst the residents and businessmen in the community. The two areas in Atlanta that became the hub of political activity for African-Americans were the Sweet Auburn District and Atlanta University Center. Community leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams and Rev. Ralph David Abernathy systematically united and mobilized the African American electorate as an effort to bring about social change.

Sweet Auburn was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, due to the history, heritage and achievements of Atlanta's African Americans. It was recognized in 1992 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The revitalization has begun to pick up and many efforts have been made in the past few decades to preserve Sweet Auburn’s history and activate economic development. The King Center and National Park Service’s along with other community organizations have made efforts to revitalize the area. Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC) was one of the leading organizations that started to activate property redevelopment and increased affordable housing options.

Royal Peacock
Sweet Auburn Works.  Preserving the Legacy
522 Auburn Avenue, Atlanta GA 30312    Main: 470-240-4909    info@sweetauburnworks.com