Founded in 1823, Decatur is the second oldest municipality in the Atlanta metropolitan area and the seat of DeKalb County. Decatur adjoins Atlanta's city limits six miles east of Atlanta's central business district. Decatur has 18,000 residents and 8,000 households, although its daytime population swells to 24,000.
The courthouse square in downtown Decatur is located on a rise of land where two Indian trails once crossed. Historically, the courthouse square served as the community-gathering place. Today it continues to be the focus of festivals and special events, and serves as the heart of the community.
Decatur was incorporated December 10, 1823, and named after Stephen Decatur, a U.S. Naval hero. It is said that early residents rejected a proposal by the Western and Atlantic Railroad to make Decatur a major stop on its new line in the 1830s. These citizens did not want the noise, smoke, and confusion, and turned the railroad down. The railroad thus moved seven miles west to a small settlement called Terminus. In 1843, that settlement was renamed Marthasville, and two years later became Atlanta.
The Old Courthouse on the Square houses the DeKalb History Center and the Jim Cherry museum, where you can explore DeKalb County history and see Civil War memorabilia. Visitors to Decatur can also find helpful information at the Welcome Center located inside the front door of this beautiful old building. Historic Decatur Cemetery provides further insight into past decades.
As Decatur thrives in the 21st century, and can be proud of their success in preserving a sense of place while incorporating new development and encouraging economic growth.
Downtown Decatur is surrounded by beautiful, historic neighborhoods reflecting a variety of architectural styles. The tree-lined streets, strong sense of community and nationally recognized public school system continue to draw young families to the City. New office buildings, built by developers sensitive to Decatur's vision of maintaining its small town character, surround a vibrant retail center and a courthouse square that provides a link to the City's history.
Discover Decatur, online and in person. You will find a traditional small-town atmosphere--and the sophistication and excitement of a college town--along with all the benefits of living in a major metropolitan area.
Take a stroll through Decatur and see how friendly neighbors, tree-lined streets, great schools, parks and playing fields, libraries, colleges, and businesses all make our town a wonderful place to spend some time. Decatur is just minutes east of downtown Atlanta, minutes west of Stone Mountain, and the MARTA rail station is right under our downtown square, so getting there is a breeze. In addition, while you are enjoy these points of interest:
Agnes Scott College
141 E. College Ave.
Established in 1889 as Decatur Female Academy, Agnes Scott College was the first school in Georgia to be fully accredited (1907) and is still known for its high academic standards. The campus covers eight blocks and encompasses many residential properties and the Bradley Observatory, which is open to the public the second Friday of each month.
Columbia Theological Seminary
701 Columbia Dr.
Columbia Theological Seminary, an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), prepares women and men for leadership in ordained and lay ministries through degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities. Its beautiful 52-acre campus anchors the southeastern quadrant of the City.
229 Bell St.
A walk through this woodsy, park-like retreat is a stroll through history. Markers of early pioneer settlers are often rough, lichen-covered stones. Later Victorian style markers tend to be ornate with sentimental epitaphs. The oldest part of the cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery's unique well house was built in 1881.
Decatur City Hall
509 N. McDonough St.
Built in the Neo-classical Revival style, by architect William Sayward. Originally used as the City Library, City Hall, and City Jail all in one, the building is now used for administration.
Decatur Railroad Depot
301 E. Howard St.
Built in 1891, the depot was a busy, important part of the life of early Decatur. As current preservation and restoration projects are completed, the depot will once again be a focal point for community activities.
Corner of Church St. and Bell St.
This two-roof tenement structure dates to 1870. It is framed with heavy timber, using mortise-and-tenon joinery. The Decatur Preservation Alliance moved the building to Bell St. from its original site on Claremont Avenue.
Corner of N. Candler St. and Sycamore St.
The first two-story house in Decatur is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. According to legend, General Sherman stopped here during the Civil War.
Historic Sycamore Street
Originally called Covington Road, this was once a stagecoach route to Augusta through Covington, Madison and Eatonton. It is characterized by its fine houses - some of the largest in Decatur.
Historic House Complex
716 and 720 W. Trinity Pl.
Two significant Decatur structures and two log cabin homes are located at this site. The Mary Gay House, operated by the DeKalb Junior League, is named for Mary Gay, author of Life in Dixie During the War. Some of her anecdotes later inspired scenes in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. Mark Twain referred to Mary Gay in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in which some of her poetry is quoted. The Swanton House was home to Ami Williams, one of DeKalb's earliest settlers. It is now operated as a museum by the DeKalb History Center.
The M.A.K. Local Historic District
The MAK Local Historic District is named for the three streets (McDonough, Adams and Kings Highway) included in Decatur's first locally designated historic district. The neighborhood is Decatur's first residential subdivision and sought listing as Decatur's first local historic district to protect its unique character.
One of the oldest parts of the City of Decatur, this area was the City of Oakhurst before it was annexed by the City of Decatur in the 1920s. It features many examples of bungalow-style residential structures, has a small commercial center, and is the location of the old Scottish Rite Hospital, which is listed on the National Register of Historic places.
The Old Courthouse On the Square
101 E. Court Square
In 1823, the site for the public square was chosen at a point where two Indian trails met. The present courthouse is the fifth built on this site. Constructed in 1898, the building suffered extensive fire damage in 1917 and was rebuilt utilizing the granite walls and great columns of the original structure. It now serves as a welcome center and the home of the DeKalb History Center.
The Pythagoras Masonic Lodge
108 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.
The Pythagoras Masonic Lodge building, built in 1924, was designed by noted architect William Sayward, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
368 W. Ponce de Leon Ave. Located in a distinctive art deco building, Sharian is one of Decatur's oldest businesses. Since 1931, Sharian has been recognized as a premier retailer of fine oriental rugs, offering antique, semi-antique, and new rugs. With decades of knowledge, they also provide professional cleaning, restoration and appraisals. Sharian's showroom is worth a visit.
South Candler Street
Called "the road to the depot" in Caroline McKinney Clarke's The Story of Decatur, 1823-1899, it has some of the loveliest Victorian homes remaining in Decatur. The South Candler Street neighborhood and the campus of Agnes Scott College were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, becoming Decatur's first official historic district.
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