A Love Letter to Atlanta’s Inman Park

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

Living in Inman Park in the mid-to-late 90s was a time of discovery for me. Little did I know when I signed the lease for my lofty shotgun apartment in 1996, but I had found a place in one of Atlanta’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods at that time.

Just a few months earlier, I’d picked up and moved over 800 miles south of my Pennsylvania roots, ready and willing to immerse myself in the culture of the South. Surrounded by a cast of creative souls in an enchanting patch of Atlanta, I became smitten with this offbeat piece of the city the moment I checked into “454”—the street number and adopted name of my building. 

Perhaps it was the edgy Bohemian subculture I hadn’t experienced before. Or maybe it was the flurry of late-night chatter between neighbors quaffing vodka on the rocks while lounging on our roomy front porch. It could’ve been Tracy Chapman’s ”New Beginning” humming in the background, or the sturdy, 100-year-old oaks in the vicinity, all swaying in the gentle summer breeze. Whatever led me to my newfound infatuation, it came with the essence of classic, southern gentility, and Inman Park felt like home.

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Aerial view of the Atlanta BeltLine. (Copyright 2015, Jenni Girtman/Courtesy of ACVB & AtlantaPhotos.com)

The Bones of the Neighborhood

I had long been an old-house enthusiast, even before I lived in Inman Park. The swoon-worthy architecture—multi-colored Queen Anne and Eastlake Victorians, Italianate, Romanesque Revivals, and the masculine Craftsman bungalows—drew me to rent my modest one-bedroom flat in a gray clapboard house that had been converted into a quadruplex. The two-story apartment building sat perched over North Highland Avenue—one of the area’s main drags—lending a tree-house feel, particularly from the second floor.

But that house was merely one beauty in a variegated stockpile of storied structures in the neighborhood. Inman Park features an arsenal of late 19th- and early 20th-century homes lining its lush, leafy streets. While some houses have been converted into apartment rentals, many more are modest single-family residences, and some are elaborate mansions with well-manicured gardens.

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A Victorian home in Inman Park. (Copyright 2008 Kevin C. Rose/Courtesy of ACVB & AtlantaPhotos.com)

One could wander through the neighborhood and encounter these architectural gems on every block, or take a self-guided walking tour instead. Start at the intersection of North Highland and Colquitt, which leads to Sinclair, Seminole, and eventually, Euclid and the offbeat Little Five Points—a cavalcade of eclectic shops, eateries, and watering holes—before getting lost in a web of storybook streets. 

If there’s one street not to miss, it’s Elizabeth. I coasted up and down countless times, pretending that one of the gorgeous Victorians belonged to me, and dreaming about relaxing on the swing of my spacious robin’s egg blue-ceilinged veranda. Surely I could live here one day!

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Shoppers at Little Five Points. (Copyright 2012, James Duckworth/Courtesy of ACVB & AtlantaPhotos.com)

Old and New

Like neighborhoods in countless cities, Inman Park has evolved, parts of it taking on a new face, and other parts still reaching for its extraordinary days of yore. Many recently built Victorian and Craftsman-style homes fill in what were once vacant parcels, so the Inman Park of today is more densely populated and more polished (and also more expensive). But thankfully, the underlying bones of the neighborhood remain, still as sturdy and astonishing as years ago.

North Highland Avenue was and is home to several culinary stops anchoring the neighborhood. For instance, Wisteria prepares southern-inspired dishes like Georgia peach salad, shrimp and grits, and Low-Country seafood boil—but with a fine-dining touch. Meanwhile, a few minutes down the block, chef Riccardo Ullio’s acclaimed Sotto Sotto is arguably one of Atlanta’s best for Italian fare. Smoked burrata, seafood risotto, and sausage strozzapreti are just a few of the tantalizing menu’s highlights. 

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Storied homes line the streets of Inman Park. (Courtesy of Inman Park Neighborhood Association)
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Storied homes line the streets of Inman Park. (Courtesy of Inman Park Neighborhood Association)
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Storied homes line the streets of Inman Park. (Courtesy of Inman Park Neighborhood Association)

A local favorite since 1969, North Highland Pub—a reliable spot for a burger and a beer—is within a stumble of my former apartment. I’m glad to see it’s still going strong after all these years. And once a marketplace for salvaged architectural elements, the Wrecking Bar on Moreland Avenue transformed to become Wrecking Bar Brewpub. The gastropub offers a seven-barrel brewing system, a tasting room alongside it, and a full menu with farm-fresh ingredients harvested at the Wrecking Barn in Loganville, Georgia. 

As empty stretches have become developed commercially as well, they’re now dotted with sleek condos, unique retail stores, and of-the-moment restaurants. In recent years, the area approaching the border of the Old Fourth Ward has exploded. It’s become a destination for trendy shops like Bill Hallman (relocated from its original outpost in Virginia-Highland), and City Issue, one of the city’s best collections of mid-century modern home furnishings. 

A variety of eateries have upped the food and drink game. There’s Parish: The Brasserie & Neighborhood Cafe for hearty brunch plates (I recommend the wild mushroom omelet or fried chicken and waffles). And nearby, try BeetleCat—an “oysterette”—where tasty lobster rolls and crab fried rice reign supreme. For more culinary choices, Krog Street Market is an impressive warehouse-turned food hall. The complex features a diverse lineup of dining spots serving everything from sushi to pizza to Middle Eastern fare.

The Great Outdoors

From lush backyard gardens to tree canopies and fully landscaped yards, there’s no shortage of nature throughout this downtown enclave. But beyond the private properties, there’s Springvale Park, a serene, 10-acre plot tucked off Euclid Avenue, and far removed from the urbanity of Little Five Points. It’s a modest yet relaxing retreat in the heart of Inman Park, offering a pond, playground, and wildlife, including ducks, geese, and turtles.

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Parish serves hearty brunch dishes. (Tracy Kaler)

Steps from North Highland Avenue, the eastside trail of the Atlanta BeltLine is one of Inman Park’s most fabulous additions. Derived from old railroad corridors, the BeltLine is a sustainable redevelopment project providing a 22-mile loop of trails, parks, and a modern streetcar, while connecting more than 40 of Atlanta’s Intown neighborhoods—one of which is Inman Park. Walk, bike, jog, or stroll along the line, taking in the sights and colorful persona of the neighborhood. 

Yes, 1996 was a long time ago, but sometimes it feels like yesterday. I’m grateful for those short years I lived in Inman Park, and I hold on to the memories—the smells, the sounds, and the people I met. I adore the old, and appreciate the new. Nearly 25 years later, I still miss it.

Tracy Kaler is a travel writer based in New York. She’s written for The Telegraph, Barron’s Penta, amNewYork, and other publications. When she’s not glued to her laptop, she’s wandering the city she loves or off discovering another part of the planet.