Probably more than any other neighborhood in the city, Virginia-Highland successfully blends a vibrant business district with a diverse supply of apartments, condos and homes of all sizes. In the last 30 years, the bustling corridor of North Highland Avenue between Ponce and Amsterdam has developed into one of the city’s most lively shopping and dining districts. But its recent success is emblematic of what, on closer inspection, the friendly Craftsman storefronts reveal: the quality and heart of the community were built in from the start and have been graciously sustaining residents for over a century.
When the first streetcars trundled down Virginia Avenue in 1889, few would have guessed that 80 years later their tracks would be gone and the whole neighborhood threatened by a massive freeway project. Fortunately, a committed group of residents banded together and fought the state’s plan to bulldoze a path right through the neighborhood. At least one remnant of the effort to preserve the neighborhood found new life: John Howell Park sits on land that was originally cleared for an exit ramp, the 11 homes that were demolished marked with small columns.
While Howell Park, finished in the early 1990s, is a recent addition, the Highlands (as the area is frequently called) has long benefited from the shade and comfort provided by a number of small parks. Built to conform to the natural topography of the land and a small stream that flows through it, Orme Park is a particularly beautiful jewel nestled in the heart of the neighborhood, affording dozens of homes a few into a forested dell. Many of the neighborhood’s winding streets also feature large landscaped islands that both discourage speeders and provide a garden atmosphere that extends to the sidewalks and yards. Of course, just a few blocks across Monroe Drive and the BeltLine and you’re in Piedmont Park.
Whether you want to enjoy one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhood bars, Atkins Park, hear some live music at Blind Willie’s, get wings at the original Taco Mac (a neighborhood fixture since the early 1980s) or simply be in the district for some of the best schools in the city in Springdale Park Elementary, Inman Middle and Grady High School, Virginia-Highland offers a quality of life that is both impressively high and uniquely Atlantan.