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Southeastern Geographer Vol. XIX, No. 2, November 1979, pp. 69-79 THE ORIGIN OF THE STREET GRID IN ATLANTA'S URBAN CORE Kevin J. Laws The ubiquity oftown plans based upon a regular grid pattern of rightangled intersecting streets has often led to the erroneous beliefthat such a grid was almost automatically used in North American towns. Stanislawski , however, convincingly demonstrated that the regular grid pattern town plan was not universal on this continent. He postulated that four essential conditions were necessary before the grid system was adopted: 1) that the town's builder or builders recognize the town as an organic whole; 2) that some form of centralized control operate over the area where settlement was to be established; 3) that a desire existed for the "measured apportionment of the land"; and 4) that the builders had previous knowledge of the grid. (1 ) A factor which Stanislawski failed to mention, but which has considerable influence on the resultant spatial characteristics and patterns of urban growth is previous land ownership patterns. (2) The State of Georgia possesses a strong tradition and heritage of planned urban growth and rectangularity of urban design, which began with the establishment of Savannah (Fig. 1). Several other towns such as Ebenezer, Darien, Hardwick, and Frederica, were based upon a plan developed by General James Oglethorpe in 1733. Urban design continued to be of importance as settlers moved inland. The fall line towns of Augusta, Macon, and Columbus were all developed according to a regular grid plan. (3) It might be assumed, therefore, that Atlanta, developing as it did a century after Savannah, would have taken advantage of this heritage and an abundance of early urban experience inferentially summarized in Stanislawski's four conditions. A cursory examination of a map of Atlanta, however, reveals that the original urban core contained a highly complex arrangement of streets (Fig. 2). This confusing street pattern presents problems for the present day flow of traffic. (4) The lack of any uniform pattern (of streets) is not conducive to efficient vehicular flow although an effort to improve traffic flow has been made by the conversion of several downtown streets to one-way thoroughfares . Dr. Laws is a Lecturer in Geographic Education at the University of Sydney , New South Wales, Australia 2006. 70Southeastern Geographer Fig. 1. A view of Savanna as it stood on the 29th of March, 1734. Awareness of the problems presented by the street pattern is not just a modern realization. In 1871 J. S. Wilson, a chronicler of the nineteenth century Atlanta scene, wrote: (5) . . . the plan of the streets is not so good. Indeed, the streets do not appear to be laid offwith any regard to system or order. They turn about in various ways, and cross each other at every kind ofangle. ... It might be said that the plan of the streets is about this—where you find a road, take it. This article explores the reasons behind the seemingly haphazard arrangement of streets in the area upon which Atlanta's urban core developed . SURVEY INTO LAND LOTS. To what extent did the original cadastral survey influence the street pattern in Atlanta's urban core? The site of Vol. XIX, No. 2 71 STREET PATTERN IN THE URBAN CORE OF ATLANTA 1978 Simpson St. Baker» International Blvd goraio RR ; Memorial Drive MILE Fig. 2. Street pattern in the urban core of Atlanta, 1978. Atlanta was included in the Creek Indian territory which was ceded to the United States in 1821. Prior to the settlement of the area by whites, five counties were formed. Each county was divided into land districts approximately nine miles square. Each district was further divided into individual land lots of 202Va acres. Roth the land districts and the land lots were surveyed using cardinal directions for the establishment of baselines. (6) 72Southeastern Geographer EARLY DEVELOPMENTS. Once the land lots had been surveyed a lottery was held to distribute the land. Successful participants in the lottery obtained ownership of the land on payment of a Grant Fee of $19. Ifthis fee was not paid the land reverted to the State. In the instance of Land Lots 51, 52, 77 and 78 of the...


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