A guide to Inman Park, Atlanta’s first planned suburb

The vibrant walls of the Krog Street Tunnel are ever-changing with various artists making contributions. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
The vibrant walls of the Krog Street Tunnel are ever-changing with various artists making contributions. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

The neighborhood boasts restaurants, a presidential center and fairy princess towers.

The Atlanta Constitution described Inman Park as “where nature had lavished her best gifts… a place of homes, of pretty homes, green lawns and desirable inhabitants… Everybody is friendly and neighborly.”

That neighborhood review, written in 1896, is still true — for the most part. Inman Park is a place of pretty homes where everybody is friendly and neighborly. But “desirable inhabitants?” That doesn’t sound neighborly. If there was any question what was meant, the article continues: “All save those who would make desirable residents have been excluded.”

My, my, how things have changed.

“Inman Park at its most basic is a community of homes that are special, funky, not cookie-cutter, and that goes for the residents,” says Ann W. Cramer, who has lived in her 1908 home for 50 years. “There is such a collective of people. There are folks who have been here 50 years and young people moving into homes that are being converted into condos. The community has not stopped evolving; this is not a stagnant neighborhood. There is a constant influx of families and the diversity and richness of all the residents make it home.”

Inman Park, Atlanta’s first planned suburb, is a wonderful place to get lost in. Nestled in between Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points and Poncey-Highland, the neighborhood almost begs you to park the car and just walk around. Or better yet, take MARTA to the Inman Park station, cross the street, grab a cup of coffee and a pastry at Proof Bakeshop, meander through the winding streets and take a breather at the many small urban oases, such as Springvale Park.

Castles and fairy princess towers

The first thing you will notice is the homes. They are colorful, distinct and one-of-kind. Some look like castles, others like they escaped from a gingerbread home subdivision. Most were built in the late 1800s or early 1900s and eventually became quite run down. A revitalization took place in the 1970s, which coincided with these “restoration pioneers” waging a mighty and successful fight against the building of I-485 through the neighborhood.

Many of the colorful houses have large porches and turrets. 
Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson.
Many of the colorful houses have large porches and turrets. Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson.

Credit: Betsy McPherson

Credit: Betsy McPherson

For instance, there is Beath-Dickey House, a Queen Anne home built in 1896 with a turret, steep gables and porches. Coca-Cola’s Ernest Woodruff’s home is still there with a wrap-around porch and lots of stained glass windows. Another Coke magnet, Asa Candler, built Callan Castle and it’s a mix of Victorian, Jacobean Revival and Classic Revival. Whatever it is, it’s big with 14,000 square feet.

Callen Castle was once the home of Asa Candler, who founded The Coca-Cola Co.
Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson.
Callen Castle was once the home of Asa Candler, who founded The Coca-Cola Co. Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson.

Credit: Betsy McPherson

Credit: Betsy McPherson

Not all the houses are mansions. There are charming cottages that harken back to Craftsman, Romanesque Revival and shingle styles. That’s the fun of Inman Park. Each corner, each street encourages architectural voyeurism.

“We were like a lot of couples at the time, wanted a big house that didn’t cost much that needed some work. We got a little more of a decrepit house than we wanted. All the families grew up together. It’s been fun watching the community become a community,” says Jeff Cramer, a retired Atlanta high school teacher.

You also may notice that many of the homes have a banner or flag of a butterfly — the neighborhood’s logo. The butterfly was designed by Ken Thompson in 1970 to uplift the restoration pioneers.

Cramer’s wife, who retired as director of IBM corporate citizenship and corporate affairs, says those struggles made Inman Park what it is today. “There is constant churning, and there is a complex interaction. Yes, there’s gentrification, and while we’re rooted as a preservation district, it’s very avant-garde and politically engaged. It’s full of paradoxes — and we know our zoning laws. We stopped the road, and as a result, got a beautiful park where we bike and go to the farmers market.” Dozen of Inman Park mansions and the entire neighborhood of Copenhill were torn down for the road. Subsequently, Freedom Park, next to the Carter Center, was built.

Restaurants

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of small locally-owned restaurants, scattered through the area, and of course, there is the Krog Street Market. One could spend a day at Krog Street Market, known as one of the best food courts in the country. And, speaking of nationally known, one of the country’s best steakhouses is Kevin Rathbun Steak, located nearby in an old cotton warehouse.

Krog Street Market in Inman Park /Courtesy of Barry Cantrell
Krog Street Market in Inman Park /Courtesy of Barry Cantrell

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

Credit: Yvonne Zusel

A few blocks away is a charming eatery, Julianna’s Coffee & Crepes, that specializes in Hungarian crepes called “palacsinta.” Since 2007, The Albert has been a favorite local hangout where residents (pre-COVID-19) loved to sit at the bar and eat wings, burgers and hot dogs. Today, they sit outdoors (limited indoor seating) and do the same. The owner is Tia Landau, and her father was Albert Einstein’s godson, hence the name.

Serving up some hip attitude as well as pizza, appetizers and cold beer is Lloyd’s Restaurant & Lounge where the slogan is “Where nobody knows your name.” The place isn’t fussy, but the patrons are loyal even if the restaurant admits that “You need Lloyd’s like you need a heart attack.”

The North Highland Pub has been a neighborhood staple for 21 years and often voted as one of the top pubs in the city. Here, they do want to know your name and are quick to serve up tacos, salads, burgers and entrees. In the same block are neighborhood favorites, Folk Art, Il Localino (Charles Barkley’s favorite restaurant), and Wisteria.

ExploreIntown Atlanta dining news
Wisteria’s Chef/owner Jason Hill delights guests with his Southern dishes with a twist since 2001. 
Courtesy of Wisteria.
Wisteria’s Chef/owner Jason Hill delights guests with his Southern dishes with a twist since 2001. Courtesy of Wisteria.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

A couple of blocks down North Highland is a mixture of old favorites, such as Fritti and Sotto Sotto, along with new restaurants such as BeetleCat (whose lobster roll was named the world’s best by Maine-based Down East magazine), Victory Sandwich Bar, Bread & Butterfly, Bar Mercado, Barcelona Wine Bar, Hampton + Hudson and Delbar Middle Eastern. Parish recently closed and will be replaced by the Painted Park, an eatery that will have a grassy area along the Eastside BeltLine for lawn games.

Other great restaurants scattered around Inman Park are BoccaLupo, Voga Italian Gelato, One Eared Stag, and the Wrecking Bar Brewpub. It should also be noted that before many of these fine restaurants dotted the scene, Savi Provisions offered up a variety of gourmet dry goods and baked goods (not to mention wine).

BeetleCat’s lobster roll has garnished kudos as the best lobster roll in the country — from a Maine-based magazine. Photo courtesy of BeetleCat. 
Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee.
BeetleCat’s lobster roll has garnished kudos as the best lobster roll in the country — from a Maine-based magazine. Photo courtesy of BeetleCat. Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee.

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Credit: Andrew Thomas Lee

Local sites

Freedom Park draws locals for picnics, bike rides and walks. And, the park stretches north to south from Ponce de Leon Avenue to the Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA station. (In adjacent neighborhood Poncey-Highland, there is the Carter Presidential Center, which attracts dignitaries and visitors from around the world. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum offers a fascinating look at the incredible life of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and his presidency.)

Perhaps one of the neighborhood’s best-known sites is Trolley Barn, which opened in 1889 as the service and housing facility for the city’s first electric street railway. Like most of the nearby houses, it eventually fell into disrepair but now is restored and a popular nonprofit rental facility.

The Romanesque-style Inman Park United Methodist Church was dedicated in 1898 and was constructed with Stone Mountain granite. Fun fact: the check that founded Emory University was written in the church’s archive room.

Krog Street Tunnel, which links Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown and Inman Park, is famous for its every changing colorful street art.

A woman walks through the Krog Street Tunnel, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Atlanta.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
A woman walks through the Krog Street Tunnel, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Brandon Camp / Special

Credit: Brandon Camp / Special

Party

Inman Park does love a festival and a parade. The Inman Park Festival is a three-day extravaganza, which has been canceled this year. However, in any other year, the festival is a hoot. It consists of a tour of homes, music across three stages, a dance festival in the Trolley Barn, arts and crafts, a kids zone and a street parade. The highlight is the parade, featuring favorites such as the Trash Monarch, Precision Attache Case Drill Team and the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable.

The Trolley Barn opened in 1889 for the city’s electric streetcars and is now a nonprofit rental facility. 
Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson
The Trolley Barn opened in 1889 for the city’s electric streetcars and is now a nonprofit rental facility. Courtesy of Food Tours Atlanta. Photographer Betsy McPherson

Credit: Betsy McPherson

Credit: Betsy McPherson

Speaking of “must-sees,” the Inman Park community is quite involved in the Little Five Points Halloween parade. Known as one of the top Halloween events in the country, it is a wacky event that features outrageous costumes, over-the-top floats and marching bands. “Parental consent may be advisable,” Ann Cramer laughs.

But it is her husband who may best describe Inman Park’s allure. Walking with a friend visiting for the first time, his friend looked at him and said, “This place is magical.”

In Other News