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Building Atlanta Viaducts

Forty years before Underground Atlanta became world famous, longtime Yancey Bros. Co. customer MacDougald Construction Company built the viaducts that would create the future tourist attraction.

By the 1920s, downtown traffic was choking, as cars lined up to cross the Peachtree Street viaduct. Atlanta voters knew they needed more viaducts across the wide railroad yard, and they passed a $1 million bond referendum to pay for them. Fulton County, Georgia Power Co., and the railroads more than doubled that amount so that viaducts and laterals could be built for Prior Street, Central Avenue, Hunter Street, Alabama Street, and Wall Street, and an elevated sidewalk between Whitehall Street and Prior Street Bridge. The entire project, if laid end to end, would have been almost a mile long.

The bridge work required significant excavation through the downtown area. In one area, according to Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett, workmen hit an old cistern that had been part of the city’s water system.

When completed in 1929, the viaducts allowed cars and pedestrians to move unimpeded, and trains to move through downtown without worrying about encounters with automobiles.

Storefronts in the five-block downtown area moved up one floor into remodeled spaces along Upper Alabama Street, and the former retail spaces on the first floor were neglected or used as storage until they were rediscovered and reopened in 1969 as Underground Atlanta.

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Foundations 1914 - 1938
Era Stories