City looks to buy historic Chattahoochee Brick land, site that used convict leasing

The old Chattahoochee Brick Company site in northwest Atlanta sits mostly vacant. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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The old Chattahoochee Brick Company site in northwest Atlanta sits mostly vacant. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The city of Atlanta is moving to purchase and preserve a massive swath of land in northwest Atlanta that was once owned by a brick company that participated in the state’s convict leasing system.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Tuesday that the city is partnering with The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit, to buy the 75-acre site once owned by the Chattahoochee Brick Company.

After the Civil War, the company used people incarcerated at Georgia’s prisons, mostly African-American men, to perform backbreaking work. Leased through a state-run system operated from the 1860s until the early 1900s, they suffered and some even died on the job from abuse and a lack of care.

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The land is located near the Chattahoochee River just north of Bolton Road. Local residents have fought for years to oppose development on the site, which is owned by South Carolina-based biofuel shipping company Lincoln Energy Solutions.

The land was recently loaned to rail giant Norfolk Southern, which had plans to build a rail terminal there. The city took legal action to stop Norfolk from developing on the land, and the company backed out of its plan days later.

ExploreNorfolk Southern backs out of Chattahoochee Brick development plans

Bottoms said city officials have worked with the Conservation Fund and Lincoln over the past several months to buy the land. The property would be preserved as park land, greenspace and recreational land.

“It is our responsibility to protect the sanctity of this property and honor the thousands of victims who suffered and lost their lives on this land,” Bottoms said in a statement. The city has not said how much it will pay for the land.

A resolution supporting the purchase was set to be introduced during a City Council committee meeting Tuesday, and could be approved by the full council on Monday. The city said it would work with neighborhoods and community advocates to make a plan for the future of the property.

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