Collier Heights named historic district by City Council

The northwest Atlanta community was once home to Martin Luther King, Sr., and Ralph David Abernathy


Collier Heights, the northwest Atlanta community once home to Martin Luther King, Sr., and Ralph David Abernathy, has finally been designated as a historic district by the city.

The Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a proposal on Monday to create the historic district and asked Mayor Kasim Reed to sign the measure posthaste. Residents from the neighborhood, an early suburb for African-Americans, were in attendance as councilmembers passed the ordinance. The move protects the community from demolition or substantial changes that alter its character.

“This has been many years in the making,” Councilwoman Moore said in a statement. “A lot of hard work has been undertaken to preserve a rich part of Atlanta’s history.”

In 2009, Collier Heights was added to the National Register of Historic Places’ index of 80,000 landmark sites, buildings, and monuments considered worthy of preservation. In addition to being the home of numerous Civil Rights-era activists, minority construction pioneer Herman J. Russell and Dr. Asa Yancey, the first black medical director at Grady Memorial Hospital, also resided in the neighborhood.

More importantly, Collier Heights was the first neighborhood in the United States to be built by black city planners. Georgia State University graduate students, who compiled information about the community for its 2008 NRHP application, wrote:

While many African-American suburbanization opportunities in Atlanta at this time were the result of “white flight” or transitioning, which transformed many previously all-white neighborhoods into majority-black areas seemingly overnight, Collier Heights is unique. This mid-century neighborhood, located in an area of west Atlanta not annexed into the city limits until 1952, is the quintessential example of upper-and-middle class suburbanization in Atlanta during the mid-20th century with one significant distinct: it was developed as the result of an African-American initiative, and it specifically served an African-American population.

“This designation not only celebrates the historic significance of Collier Heights to our city, it also shows that once again Collier Heights is the address of choice for many new families,” Councilman C.T. Martin said in a statement.

Aside from Moore and Martin, the proposal’s two co-sponsors, several other councilmembers noted the district’s importance in their own personal lives. Councilman Michael Julian Bond said the beautiful neighborhood, which had served as a “second home for him as a young lad,” was “well-worth preserving.” Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who attended elementary school in Collier Heights, also praised the ordinance.

“My understanding is that Councilwoman Moore has been working on this since the beginning of time,” Bottoms said.