Before Atlanta grew to be the biggest city in what is known as the Empire State of the South, it was the home of the Zero Milepost. The Zero Milepost marked the endpoint of a 138-mile railroad that started in Chattanooga. Around that endpoint, a bustling railroad city called Terminus began to form.
General William Sherman ran his Union soldiers through Terminus, burning most of it to the ground. However, the people remained resilient and again built around the milepost. Viaducts, or types of bridges, were built in the 1920’s. All the shops moved up, abandoning underground roads and aged storefronts below.
The forgotten places beneath became what is Underground Atlanta today. Plazas were constructed above starting in 1943, but in 1969 The Underground once again became the home to shops. The stores no longer resembled Jacob’s Pharmacy, the first store to sell Coca-Cola in 1866. Where people first took sips of Coke, they now buy vibrant Jordan shoes from Foot Locker.
Falling in behind the modern retail stores, chain restaurants and nightclubs moved in. Next came the Pac-Man Play Arcade. A sharp contrast to the history that surrounds it, the arcade breaks up the musty darkness with its lively music and brilliant lights.
On one side of the Underground sits a classical diner, Johnny Rockets. On the opposite half, dozens of kiosks reside, selling smartphones and rap mix tapes next to concrete blocks where old hotels stood nearly 200 years ago. Take a stroll from the historical side to the opposing MARTA station entrance, and you can see how Terminus became Atlanta and how it got from there to here.
The Underground has experienced a number of closings and reopenings for a variety of reasons. The war, MARTA, crime, and other reasons that lead to lack of retail eventually caused Atlanta to look for another solution. In mid-March, the city bought out the rest of the lease that The Underground had and now it looks to sell the subterennean mall to anyone with a plan for the area. The timeline below will help put the ups and downs of the plaza into a more visual perspective.
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The 1970’s was probably the only decade that the Underground Atlanta really enjoyed any success over a period of time. The gallery below features some of the advertisements that a pedestrian would find while walking through the Underground for the restaurants and bars that were open.