Photo: Photo by HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Photo by HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

5 things you never knew about Peachtree Street

Peachtree Street runs north and south, directly through the history of Atlanta. Although there are no direct highway interchanges between Peachtree and the interstates of the Downtown Connector and Georgia 400 corridor, the road remains the spine of our metropolitan landscape and the most prominent road in the South. And for Peachtree Street, there are thousands of stories to tell. Here are five facts about Peachtree Street you might not have known:

1) It was probably meant to be Pitch Tree Street

Atlanta grew on lands once home to the Creek people. Among their native villages in today's Atlanta was a place called Standing Pitch Tree -- pitch being another name for a pine tree. The Peachtree Trail was a path that stretched from north Georgia to the Creek's Standing Pitch Tree. The route was called the Peachtree Trail when over time the settlers' incorrect pronunciation of "peach" overtook "pitch." The name was forever determined in 1812, when construction began at the site of the old Peach (or Pitch) tree trail on a project to be called Peachtree Road. This road began at Fort Daniel (in present-day Gwinnett County) and ran the course of the Pitch Tree trail to the Chattahoochee River. Portions of Peachtree Street today still trace that original route.

2) Look both ways

It's common knowledge that "Gone With the Wind" is an all-time Atlanta historical artifact. It was written in the basement of a boarding house on Peachtree Street and set in Atlanta, and later debuted at the Loew's Grand Theatre on Peachtree. But it may come as a surprise to know that Peachtree Street was ultimately the demise of the novel's author as well. Margaret Mitchell was struck by an off-duty taxi driver driver near Peachtree and 13th streets while en route to see "A Canterbury Tale" at the Peachtree Art Theatre. Although she was rushed to Grady Hospital, Mitchell never regained consciousness and died five days after the incident on Aug. 16, 1949.

3) The big race is actually the biggest race

While you are likely aware of the city's annual Fourth of July kickoff -- the AJC Peachtree Road Race -- you may not know that the Peachtree is, in fact, the world's largest 10k. More than 60,000 participants run the 6.2-mile haul from Lenox Square to Piedmont Park.

4) The truth intersects the continental divide 

It's sometimes shared in passing that Peachtree Street follows the Eastern Continental Divide -- the high landmark where water to the east reaches the Atlantic Ocean and water to the west feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, the story is mostly incorrect. While Peachtree Street does sit atop a ridge, the Eastern Continental Divide follows the railroad tracks from DeKalb Avenue in Decatur to Five Points (before turning south toward the airport). However, when Whitehall Street (which met Peachtree Street at Five Points) was renamed "Peachtree Street SW," the story was in some measure made true. The Eastern Continental Divide does from Five Points follow a portion of Peachtree Street Southwest.

5) Coke put a little pep in the Peachtree step

Everyone knows that Coca-Cola is an Atlanta institution. But give Peachtree Street some credit. In 1886, when Atlanta passed legislation to usher in prohibition, Civil War Col. John Pemberton responded by taking the wine out of his "nerve tonic," and Coca-Cola was born. Although the history of the product extends back to the city of Columbus the year before, the nonalcoholic iteration of the world's most famous beverage became an invention of Peachtree Street. To further solidify the Coca-Cola legacy on Peachtree Street, it's worth noting that the soft drink was first sold at Jacobs Pharmacy located, of course, on Peachtree Street at Five Points.

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