Inman Park. By Christine V. Marr and Sharon Foster Jones. Arcadia. $19.99. 126 pages.
The verdict: Who knew that sprawl started so elegantly?
Inman Park was Atlanta’s first suburb. Joel Hurt’s concept of a posh neighborhood only a trolley ride from downtown attracted prominent Atlantans such as Asa Griggs Candler and Ernest Woodruff, who built the Victorian manses that still line Edgewood Avenue and hunted foxes in Springvale Park.
The neighborhood has suffered its share of travails. Dark years followed its heyday, 1890 to 1910, when wealthy residents decamped for Druid Hills and later left Atlanta altogether. And the area endured three Battles of Atlanta: Built on the ruins of Civil War plantations, it narrowly avoided being plowed under for a 12-lane expressway in the early ’60s, and its residents spent the ’80s fighting Freedom Parkway.
Inman Park has its battle scars. Steps to nowhere on North Highland Avenue, for instance, are tombstones of houses razed for the highway. But the neighborhood survived and is now a thriving community.
Christine V. Marr and Sharon Foster Jones chronicle its up and downs in “Inman Park” (Arcadia Publishing, $19.99), a book that features more than 200 intelligently annotated vintage photos as well as an informative essay and chapter introductions that provide context. The book belongs to the South Carolina publisher’s national series “Images of America,” which includes profiles of a number of metro Atlanta towns and neighborhoods, including College Park, Marietta and Druid Hills.
The authors, both Inman Park residents (Jones still lives there) and amateur historians, met while docents for Atlanta Preservation Center’s walking tours of their neighborhood. Jones interviewed residents and flushed out a host of stories and family photos. Marr combed local archives and came up with plat maps, old advertising circulars and news articles as well as photos.
Their result is more than a neighborhood scrapbook. It represents, in many ways, the universal trajectory of America’s urban communities. Riven first by the automobile, then by racial fears. Resettled by urban pioneers. Resuscitated by the preservation movement. Revalidated by new urbanism. “Inman Park” is a cautionary tale with a happy ending.