Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Stewart Avenue

It isn't on maps, any more, but another chunk of the Dixie Highway was long known locally as Stewart Avenue. It apparently earned a fairly notorious reputation in recent decades, culminating in the early 1990s when a group of suburban guys went down there for a bachelor party. After heading to a strip club, they ... well, accounts vary:

a) they picked up some hookers, went to a motel, found out the hookers were transvestites, and refused to pay;

b) they went to the motel in full knowledge that some of the hookers were transvestites, but there was still a dispute about payment, or;

c) the pimp tried to rob them.

Either way, when all was said and done, the groom and best man were dead, and a predictable uproar followed (though finding details on it is tough now: there's a surprising dearth of material on such a sordid story, though admittedly it's not the type of thing Atlanta would put in a tourism brochure). The city vowed to clean up the drugs/prostitution/murder smorgasbord that was Stewart Avenue, and in true Atlanta fashion, step one was renaming the street. It's now Metropolitan Parkway.

This all happened years before I even thought of moving down here. Articles now praise the transformation of Metropolitan Parkway, and all I can say is that if it's an improvement now, good God, it must have been really bad back in the early '90s.

To be fair, I've been down there about once a year over the past few years to shoot some photos, and there are signs of improvement -- and I've never felt threatened. There are some new and more upscale businesses down there, the ever-present Atlanta townhomes going in, and I guess many of the strip joints are gone, though the Gold Rush -- the one the ill-fated bachelor party went to before the motel -- is still there. (Drop by and say hi!) The Alamo Plaza Motor Court, the site of the shootings, is now an apartment complex so boring that I couldn't be bothered to take a picture.

But in general, it ain't pretty. There's a lot of boarded-up businesses, including the arson-hit FJ's Tavern building, the site of a triple murder about five years back.

There's a lot of signs for businesses that are not just gone, but otherwise completely eradicated; there's no trace of the buildings that once held the Greenwood Motel or the West Texas Music Club.

Undoubtedly, though, things will continue to improve -- Hapeville, nearby, seems to be quiet and suburban now, which I gather wasn't always the case. The townhomes will take over, at the expense of the current residents, most likely. But for now it's a chance to get past the gloss that Atlanta tries to put on things. It's not always pretty, but it's just as much a part of the city's history and personality as Buckhead or Five Points or Virginia-Highland.


Anonymous said...

Like many Atlanta neighborhoods, the Stewart Ave area was once a thriving, functional, family friendly environment though most atlantans know it only through infamy as a place to acquire illegal substances and prostitutes.

The story you reference was ,unfortunately, hardly a one time occurrence as violence and deadly assault were all too often a reality in the area. The described incident represented the "final straw" in an established history of crime for that area, which led to some token reform on the part of city leadership. However, a quick name change and the repair of a few pot holes is hardly a fix.

I grew up there and , like many, was sad and frustrated that little could be done to stop the crime ( and the indifference to it ) that spread like wildfire in the late 70s.

From 1966 to the mid 70s , things were pretty solid though even in 75 the neighborhood experienced started to experince undeniable decline - many houses for sale everywhere, long time businesses closing coincided with the opening of seedy bars, clubs, ripoff used car lots, and open solicitation for prostitution.

While there are signs of some revival in the Capitol View area (Stewart and Dill and also near Perkerson Park), there remains much work before that area could experience even a fraction of what it was in the late 60s and early 70s.

I drove by the area (around the Stewart Lakewood Shopping Center) and saw that some developers had put up some new houses on Perkerson Rd across from the antebellum mansion. So some investors are taking some chances. Combine this with the numerous "for sale" signs on the same street near where Nalley Chevrolet once was, once can see that
some of the residents are eager to sell out to developers. And just up the street across from Bishop Bros. Auction, there are new condos but they are surrounded by nothing on either side.

Anyway it would be great to see this part of town revitalize and , as you mentioned, nearby Hapeville (as well as East Point), are growing so its probably only a matter of time.

Michael said...

I grew up in the area and have been gone for the better part of 20 years. I don't miss it!

Jerry said...

They can change the name as many times as they wish. It will still always be Stewart Avenue.

money said...

I currently live in Capitol View which is the neighborhood that is assessible by the old Stewart Ave. The neighborhood is currently going through an ongoing gentrification. My Partner and I moved in about 3 years ago and we love our new neighbors. Our community is organizing and we are pushing forward with much needed new development in our business district and we are shooting for a mini police precinct. Many homes are now being bought and renovated by new homeowners and even now more presence is seen on Dill Ave with new neighbors. I have to say that this is a good mix neighborhood that is very gay friendly. We all call ourselves urban pioneers as we continue to better our homes and community. We do have monthly pot luck diners at different houses. There are some great ranch homes around the park, craftsman bungalows and country victorians. We are having a fundraiser for Perkerson Park with our 1st Annual Sprig Forward Festival on March 27. Come out and meet the new neighbors and see the change that is coming over the next few years.

gacottage said...

Does anyone know what is going on at the old Nalley Chev. dealership on Metro. Pky.? Looks like some one has invested a great deal of money in parking lots,lighting,buildings redone.Looks like a new antique or flea market could be opening. Great idea for the area.I wish the old Lakewood show would return there.

Julie Kelly said...

I worked at Fj's Tavern years ago. Met some great people there the three years I was in Atlanta. I knew one of the men murdered there. I miss the people there.

Robert Bennett said...

It will always be Stewart Ave to me.I remember going to zayre'club Nikki's, eastern video,masters &masters recording studio. I never saw any hookers but I didn't hang there at night.

Robert Bennett said...

I hate the I lost the demo tape I had for a song we recorded at masters&masters with DJ craze called What's Up Chump. But the studio was on the backside of fitness center on Stewart Ave.