The History of Virginia–Highland, the IntownAtlanta neighborhood, dates back to 1812, when William Zachary bought and built a farm on 202.5 acres (0.819 km2) of land there. At some point between 1888 and 1890 the Nine-Mile Circle streetcar arrived, , making a loop of what are now Ponce de Leon Avenue, North Highland Avenue, Virginia Avenue, and Monroe Drive. Atlantans at first used the line to visit what was then countryside, including Ponce de Leon Springs, but the line also enabled later development in the area. Residential development began as early as 1893 on St. Charles and Greenwood Avenues, must most development took place from 1909 through 1926 — solidly upper-middle class neighborhoods, kept all-white by covenant.
Virginia–Highland, like most intown Atlanta neighborhoods, suffered decline starting in the 1960s as residents moved to the suburbs. Less-affluent residents moved in, some single-family houses were turned into apartments, and crime increased. What could have been the death knell for the neighborhood sounded in the mid-1960s, when the Georgia Department of Transportation proposed building Interstate 485 through the area. Despite this a few middle-class families began renovating homes in the neighborhood. The neighborhoods like others had formed and kept a strong neighborhood association and a strong identity: the area was now known as Virginia–Highland.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the area continue to gentrify, and by 2012 most of the art galleries, antique stores and neighborhood-oriented businesses had given way to a still eclectic collection of retail but which attracted more affluent and less alternative clientele.
Virginia–Highland is today one of the most desirable intown neighborhoods and consistently wins awards for favorite neighborhoods.
In 1812, William Zachary bought and built a farm on 202.5 acres (0.819 km2) of land there. In 1822 he sold his farm to Richard Copeland Todd (1792–1850). Todd’s brother-in-law Hardy Ivy settled in 1832 in what is now Downtown Atlanta and the road between their two farms came to be known as Todd Road (a portion of which still exists in Virginia Highland).
In the 1880s, Georgia Railroad executive Richard Peters and real estatedeveloperGeorge Washington Adair organized the Atlanta Street Railway Company. Their first project was the Nine Mile Trolley, which started serving the area sometime between 1888 and 1890 . At first, patrons used this streetcar line to visit “the countryside” outside the city, but the line also enabled later development in the area. Adair built his home at 964 Rupley Drive (still standing and divided into upscale apartments). The iconic curves in the street at the intersections of Virginia Ave. with N. Highland and Monroe are remnants of the trolley line which required gentle curves. The Trolley Square Apartments (now “Virginia Highlands [sic] Apartments”) near Virginia and Monroe were built on the site of trolley maintenance facilities.
1893 ad for Highland Park
1911 ad for Highland View
1916 ad for North Boulevard Park
1922 ad for Virginia Highlands
1922 ad for Virginia Hills
The first land to be subdivided in what is now Virginia Highland was Highland Park, between today’s Greenwood and Blue Ridge Aves., Barnett St. and N. Highland Ave. However, the majority of the houses and streets in Virginia–Highland were constructed between 1909 and 1926.
Important subdivisions include:
- Highland View (1911) – Greenwood (north side), Drewry, and Highland View between N. Highland and Barnett; Adair (south side) between N. Highland and Todd Rd.
- Vineyard Park (1911) – built on the grounds of the Adair Mansion – Todd Road (east side), Adair Avenue (north side) and Rupley Drive
- North Boulevard Park (phase one from 1916, phase two from 1926), where Cooledge Avenue was named after E.J. Cooledge, vice-president of the North Boulevard Park Corp., and Orme Circle (And later the eponymous park) were names for A.J. Orme, its secretary-treasurer.
- Virginia Hills (from 1921)
- Virginia Highlands (from 1922) (with an “s” – note that this was before “Virginia Highland” came to refer to the entire neighborhood).
In 1916 the Arc Light Controversy raged between neighbors on Adair Ave. and N. Highland Ave.