Peoplestown is named for the Peoples family who owned 66 lots in the southeast section of the neighborhood as it was developing in the 1890s. The area developed as a fashionable single-family neighborhood with impressive Victorian homes lining the streets and small servant quarters hidden towards the rear. Early development was concentrated along the southeast sections of today’s Peoplestown.
The neighborhood was served by a street trolley which carried residents to downtown businesses.By the 1920s the residential area had expanded towards today’s neighborhood boundaries and commercial areas had developed along the southernmost borders of the neighborhood. Peoplestown was home to a diverse population, including African Americans, whites and Jewish immigrants from Western Europe. Those residents were, however, segregated within the neighborhood.
In the 1930s and 1940s, development slowed in the neighborhood and many residents moved out. Some middle-class blacks moved to Atlanta’s west side near the newly developed Atlanta University Center while some middle- and upperclass whites relocated to the newly developed areas on Atlanta’s north side. This relocation left many of Peoplestown’s larger homes to become boarding houses, which fell into disrepair.
With the end of World War II, the neighborhood again became a vital and racially mixed community. Schools, a library, post office, hospital, drug store, clothing stores, and movie theaters were close enough to the neighborhood to provide employment and recreation, allowing for a convenient urban existence. An industrial area stretched from Peoplestown to Mechanicsville and provided many jobs within walking distance. The neighborhood was also served by several schools: CapitolAvenue Elementary, Capitol Avenue High School,E.P. Johnson Elementary and, after 1958, Daniel H. Stanton Elementary.
The 1950s and 1960s brought dramatic change to Peoplestown and the surrounding areas. Federal policies, including the urban renewal activities of the Federal Housing Act of 1949, massive freeway and parking construction projects, and the development of federally subsidized rental housing, contributed to the decline of the neighborhood. This hastened “white flight,” which carried affluent residents and businesses out of Peoplestown. Although the Urban Renewal program promised replacement housing for the homes demolished by this construction and for the families who had lived there, Fulton County Stadium and its associated parking in neighboring Summerhill were built on the land intended for this purpose.
By 1990, Peoplestown had lost half of its 1950 population, dropping from 5,598 to 2,527. In 1992, residents formed Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation (PRC) and have worked for the past 12 years to build a safe and thriving community. PRC has initiated projects to support affordable housing in the neighborhood, including Columbia at Peoplestown Apartment Homes, an $8.2 million mixed-income project that offers 69 affordable units; The Square at Peoplestown, an $8.74 million complex on four acres of land that offers 94 affordable units; and Peoplestown Villas, a 20-unit apartment community where 690-square-foot apartments are available for $370 per month. PRC also combats crime through community watch and safety programs, sponsors a neighborhood book club, and has begun to renovate D.H. Stanton Park for residents’ use.
Among the most notable of the assets and resources of Peoplestown is the relatively large number of well-established programs geared towards children and families – in particular Emmaus House and the nearby Rick McDevitt Youth Center. Peoplestown is also home to the largest health care provider in the NPU – Southside Medical Center.
Since 1990, the neighborhood population has begun to grow slowly and, in 2000, 2,656 people resided there, an increase of 129 residents. Despite all of the displacement and destruction of the last 50 years, many residents have lived there for most of their lives and continue to work together to strengthen their neighborhood.