Nelson Street Bridge renamed after Atlanta Black orphanage founder

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

The group behind Atlanta’s $5 billion Gulch redevelopment is renaming the Nelson Street Bridge after a formerly enslaved Georgian named Carrie Steele Logan, who founded the nation’s oldest Black orphanage.

Nelson Street Bridge provided drivers a shortcut over downtown Atlanta’s dense network of rail yards for century before the city condemned it in 2017.

But last month, the Centennial Yards Company reopened it as a new, redesigned pedestrian walkway. And now, Centennial Yards says they’ve renamed the bridge as the Steele Bridge.

Historians say Logan is one of the first Black landowners in Atlanta even though she was born into slavery in 1829 and orphaned at a young age. After emancipation, she moved to Atlanta to work as a railroad stewardess.

Logan saw an abundance of abandoned Black children on the rail yards, which inspired her to house them in boxcars and even her home. By 1888, she founded the Carrie Steele Orphan Home in Atlanta to provide housing, education, and job training to Black children. Her orphanage still exists long after her death in 1900. She was buried in Oakland Cemetery, where her gravestone reads “the mother of orphans.”

The new, colorful Steele Bridge is lined with potted plants and wooden seats across 500 feet between Ted Turner Drive and Elliott Street. It is a part of the city’s plan to transform the parking lots and railroad lines known as “the Gulch” into a mixed-use destination to revitalize downtown.

Centennial Yards was created by the California-based CIM Group and another group led by Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks NBA franchise. CIM agreed to reserve 20% of the project’s residential units for affordable housing for 99 years. The developers also promised to provide 38% of the project’s contracts to female and minority-owned local businesses.

Centennial Yards is hosting a two-hour ceremony for the bridge renaming at 2 p.m. on April 4, according to the company. The program will include remarks from Mayor Andre Dickens, City Councilman Byron Amos, and representatives from the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home. The event and the festivities are open to the public. Guests can register for the event at