Atlanta is a relatively young city. Only incorporated in 1847, it was little more than a minor transportation center until the Civil War, when its accessibility made it a good site for the huge Confederacy munitions industry and consequently a major target for the Union army. In 1864, Sherman’s army burned the city, an act immortalized in “Gone with the Wind.”
Recovery after the war took just a few years: Atlanta was the archetype of the aggressive, urban, industrial ”New South,” furiously championed by newspaper owners, bankers, politicians and city leaders. Industrial giants who based themselves here included Coca-Cola, source of a string of philanthropic gifts to the city.
Today’s Atlanta is at first glance a large American city. Its population has reached 3.5 million. The city is undeniably progressive, with little interest in lamenting a lost Southern past.
Atlanta’s layout is confusing, following old Native American trails rather than a logical grid system, with no fewer than 32 streets named “Peachtree”; take care to note whether you’re looking for Avenue, Road, Boulevard and so forth.
The most important is Peachtree Street, which cuts a long north-south swath through the city. Sights are scattered, but relatively easy to reach on public transportation. Once you’re there, the downtown area, the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District ranged along Auburn Avenue, and the trendy neighborhoods of Little Five Points and Virginia-Highland are all easy to explore on foot.