Slabtown (Atlanta)

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Slabtown or Slab Town was a red-light district established in Atlanta in the 1840s, and located off Decatur Street (on the present site of Grady Memorial Hospital).[1]

Largely built with abandoned concrete plates used in construction, called slabs. This wicked development was of great annoyance to the good citizens of Atlanta, as crimes were often committed there, and many of the young men fell into bad habits from frequenting Slab Town. In these places, occurred scenes of debauchery and indecency that shocked the moral sense of the community.[2]

History[edit]

Jonathan Norcross and Slabtown's development[edit]

Dubbed the "Father of Atlanta" and "hard fighter of everything,"[3] Jonathan Norcross was the 4th Mayor of Atlanta. Born in 1808[4] and raised in Maine along with his six other siblings, he evoked the pioneer spirit and ambition. In 1844 Norcross moved to Georgia and established himself as a successful dry goods merchant and sawmill operator; becoming a prominent citizen. His sawmill mainly produced railroad ties and string timbers for the assembly of the Georgia Railroad. Reclaiming timber and debris discarded by the sawmill, poor settlers quickly began building crude shanties for their families.

Rise and fall[edit]

In 1845 pioneer life could be characterized as desolate and distinct with simple pleasures, but subsequently dangerous. About 15 years before the American Civil War was a time of ill repute for Atlanta, the period was noted for its corruption. A collection of huts, whorehouses, shacks, and saloons began scattering everywhere.[5] Jonathan Norcross commented,"the reason why the streets are so crooked, is that every man built on his land just to suit himself." [6]

Impatient to perpetuate the growth of Atlanta, its leaders demonstrated the need for law and order with hasty municipal decisions. In 1902 a successful effort to reform Atlanta targeted the infection harboring suburb disease. Determined to endure these disgraceful places no longer, a large body of disguised Atlantans moved against Slab Town by night. The men found in the huts were whipped by the "White Caps" and warned to leave town.[7] The shanties were destroyed by fire and so thoroughly demolished that similar places were never rebuilt and the inhabitants were left abandoned by force.[8]

Modern-day art and Slabtown[edit]

In early February 2010, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) and Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs project "Art on the BeltLine: Atlanta's New Public Place" [9] sequenced visual and performance art installations, as well as historic site interpretations, at different points along the Atlanta BeltLine to draw the public. A sculptural homage of the City's historic Slabtown was assembled, by contemporary art collective THE STATUS FACTION. Located on Irwin Street at the BeltLine, The Slab Town installation artistically resembles the "slab-style residences" to those abandoned for their vices in the 1800s.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Garrett, Vol I
  2. ^ Martin, Thomas H. Atlanta and its Builders, Century Memorial Pub. Co., 1902, Progress And Outlawry: Page 93
  3. ^ Kaemmerlen, Cathy J. The Historic Oakland Cemetery: Speaking Stones. The History Press, 1907, pp. 25 - 27.
  4. ^ Franklin Garrett Necrology Database - Atlanta History Center
  5. ^ Pioneer Citizens' Society of Atlanta. Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta, 1833 - 1902. Atlanta: Byrd Printing Co., 1902
  6. ^ Carter, Samuel. The Siege of Atlanta, 1864. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973, p. 40.
  7. ^ Martin, Thomas H. Atlanta and its Builders, Century Memorial Pub. Co., 1902, Progress And Outlawry: Page 93
  8. ^ Martin, Thomas H. Atlanta and its Builders, Century Memorial Pub. Co., 1902, Progress And Outlawry: Page 94
  9. ^ Art on the BeltLine:Overview

References[edit]

  • Garrett, Franklin, Atlanta and Its Environs, 1954, University of Georgia Press.
  • Martin, Thomas H., Atlanta and its builders, 1902, Century Memorial Pub. Co.
  • Pioneer Citizens' Society of Atlanta. Pioneer Citizens' History of Atlanta, 1833-1902. Atlanta: Byrd Printing Co., 1902.
  • Carter, Samuel. The Siege of Atlanta, 1864. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973, p. 40.
  • Atlanta Old and New: Prehistory to 1847
  • Atlanta BeltLine


Coordinates: 33°45′7.15″N 84°22′53.59″W / 33.7519861°N 84.3815528°W / 33.7519861; -84.3815528