Facts About Atlanta
Atlanta is the capital of, and the most populous city in, the U.S. state of Georgia. With an estimated 2017 population of 486,290, it is also the 38th most populous city in the United States. The city serves as the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, home to 5.8 million people and the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the nation. Atlanta is the seat of Fulton County, the most populous county in Georgia. A small portion of the city extends eastward into neighboring DeKalb County.
Atlanta was originally founded as the terminating stop of a major state-sponsored railroad. With rapid expansion, however, it soon became the convergence point between multiple railroads, spurring its rapid growth. The city’s name derives from that of the Western and Atlantic Railroad’s local depot, signifying the town’s growing reputation as a transportation hub. During the American Civil War, the city was almost entirely burned to the ground in General William T. Sherman’s famous March to the Sea. However, the city rose from its ashes and quickly became a national center of commerce and the unofficial capital of the “New South”. During the 1950s and 1960s, Atlanta became a major organizing center of the civil rights movement, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and many other locals playing major roles in the movement’s leadership. During the modern era, Atlanta has attained international prominence as a major air transportation hub, with Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport being the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic since 1998.
Atlanta is rated as a world-class city that exerts a moderate impact on global commerce, finance, research, technology, education, media, art, and entertainment. It ranks in the top twenty among world cities and 10th in the nation with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $385 billion. Atlanta’s economy is considered diverse, with dominant sectors that include transportation, logistics, professional and business services, media operations, medical services, and information technology. Atlanta has topographic features that include rolling hills and dense tree coverage, earning it the nickname of “the city in a forest.” Revitalization of Atlanta’s neighborhoods, initially spurred by the 1996 Summer Olympics, has intensified in the 21st century, altering the city’s demographics, politics, aesthetics, and culture.
In 1836, the Georgia General Assembly voted to build the Western and Atlantic Railroad in order to provide a link between the port of Savannah and the Midwest. The initial route was to run southward from Chattanooga to a terminus east of the Chattahoochee River, which would then be linked to Savannah. After engineers surveyed various possible locations for the terminus, the “zero mileposts” was driven into the ground in what is now Five Points. A year later, the area around the milepost had developed into a settlement, first known as “Terminus”, and later as “Thrasherville” after a local merchant who built homes and a general store in the area. By 1842, the town had six buildings and 30 residents and was renamed “Marthasville” to honor the Governor’s daughter. Later, J. Edgar Thomson, Chief Engineer of the Georgia Railroad, suggested the town be renamed Atlanta. The residents approved, and the town was incorporated as Atlanta on December 29, 1847.
During the 2000s, Atlanta underwent a profound physical, cultural, and demographic transformation. Suburbanization, a booming economy, and new migrants decreased the city’s black percentage from a high of 67% in 1990 to 54% in 2010. From 2000 to 2010, Atlanta gained 22,763 white residents, 5,142 Asian residents, and 3,095 Hispanic residents, while the city’s black population decreased by 31,678. Much of the city’s demographics change during the decade was driven by young, college-educated professionals: from 2000 to 2009, the three-mile radius surrounding Downtown Atlanta gained 9,722 residents aged 25 to 34 holding at least a four-year degree, an increase of 61%. Between the mid-1990s and 2010, stimulated by funding from the HOPE VI program, Atlanta demolished nearly all of its public housing, a total of 17,000 units and about 10% of all housing units in the city.
In 2005, the $2.8 billion BeltLine project was adopted, with the stated goals of converting a disused 22-mile freight railroad loop that surrounds the central city into an art-filled multi-use trail and increasing the city’s park space by 40%. Atlanta’s cultural offerings expanded during the 2000s: the High Museum of Art doubled in size; the Alliance Theatre won a Tony Award; and art galleries were established on the once-industrial Westside.
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