Neighborhood Planning Unit V (NPU-V) includes the six intown Atlanta neighborhoods of Adair Park, Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and Summerhill/Capitol Homes. (For the purposes of Neighborhoods Count, the neighborhoods of Summerhill and Capitol Homes have been combined. While many residents of the two areas consider them to be different neighborhoods, the City of Atlanta defines them as one “statistical neighborhood” and reports data for them together.)
These neighborhoods are some of Atlanta’s oldest residential areas, with a rich history that mirrors much of Atlanta’s history. The neighborhoods were formed during the decades following the Civil War. As Atlanta regained its importance as a railroad crossroads for the Southeast, the NPU-V neighborhoods grew up around the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia rail yard.
Today, the CSX and Southern rail lines continue to form portions of the borders of NPU-V neighborhoods while also serving as the dividing line between some of the neighborhoods. In their developing years, these neighborhoods were served by horse-drawn trolleys that were replaced by electric street cars in 1893. These cars carried residents to and from jobs and shops in downtown Atlanta.
The five neighborhoods were home to a diverse array of residents. Adair Park became a predominantly white neighborhood of blue collar workers near the turn of the 20th Century. Mechanicsville became a racially, ethnically, and economically diverse neighborhood with western and eastern European Jews, Greeks, and African Americans settling there. Peoplestown was also home to Jewish immigrants, African Americans, and native whites while Pittsburgh was founded as an African-American neighborhood to provide a haven for black residents and businesses during segregation. Summerhill was also diverse, with African Americans, Jewish immigrants, and native-born whites.
While the neighborhoods of NPU-V thrived from the 1870s to the 1940s, they began to decline during the 1950s. The northern expansion of Atlanta’s business center lured many wealthy and powerful white residents northward. Middle-income African Americans moved to the suburbs and closer to the developing black colleges and universities – Atlanta University, Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College. The diversity of the neighborhoods declined and by the 1950s, they were becoming predominantly working-class African-American communities.
The negative impact of this residential migration was compounded by decades of misguided federal, state, and city policies and programs, beginning with the 1949 Federal Housing Act, which provided communities with funding to support “urban renewal.” This urban renewal in Atlanta gave the city power to acquire tracts of land that were deemed physically or economically depressed.