February is Black History month, and as such I like to turn our collective attention to those all-but-forgotten communities which once dotted the Buckhead landscape.
If you are a frequent reader or a student of local history, you will know most of these. There are some recently introduced wrinkles, however, that will make this particular column of interest even though I seemingly write something similar every February.
The earliest of these communities was Piney Grove, which, according to the Buckhead Heritage Society, may have dated back to the 1820s, making it one on the earliest settlements in Buckhead. Today it would be between Georgia 400 and a midrise condominium building off Lenox Road.
The Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church served the community and lasted until 1996. The church building was demolished after suffering storm damage. All that lingers on is a cemetery, which holds the remains of 300 souls.
Nearby was Johnsontown, which African-Americans settled in 1912. There is a plaque at the Lenox Square MARTA station commemorating the community, with the dates 1912 to 1981. The land was acquired for the station.
Around Mayson Chapel Baptist Church in south Buckhead off Piedmont Road, the Armour settlement grew. The Rev. George Gladstone founded the church in 1909 by to serve the “Armour Community,” according to the Piedmont Heights neighborhood website. The church was built in 1930 and served as a school during the week, the only school for African-Americans in the community.
It remains on Mayson Street to this day, hemmed in by warehouses and office buildings in the Armour Junction industrial district.
New Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church is an active house of worship on Arden Road despite the fact many of its parishioners moved away a generation ago. The church and a cemetery are on land left in 1872 by early Buckhead landowner James H. Smith. He stipulated in his will two of his parcels were to be given for use as a church and school for the African-American community.
Camp meetings were held there before Smith donated his land. African-Americans had been gathering there at least as early as 1869 for a day of worship and celebration. That is the year New Hope recognizes as its founding.
About a year ago I wrote about Sanders Memorial Baptist Church. It was not a faction that split off from New Hope, as I wrote. It was a Baptist church, and some of the New Hope members simply joined the newer church. Around Sanders Memorial off Margaret Mitchell Road grew the community of Sandersville.
A reader whose mother and aunts grew up in Sandersville wrote me an email about the community, lamenting the decline in the congregation as many of the families moved away. The church is on Clarendale Drive, though it is used infrequently. The writer said as all of the homes on Clarendale were owned by African-Americans, and her mother and her aunts were the first black students at Northside High School.
Macedonia Park was on Pharr Road where Frankie Allen Park is today. A thriving community dating back to 1921, it was served by the Mount Olive Methodist Church as well as two other churches. It had two grocery stores, restaurants and a blacksmith. The Fulton County Parks and Recreation Department razed the community in 1952 to make way for a park serving Buckhead.
It had been known as Bagley Park — a name some of us stubborn residents continue to use — for William Bagley, the unofficial mayor of the community. All that remains is a cemetery on Pharr Road and the name Bagley, which is the name of the road through Frankie Allen.
Lynwood Park is the last of these and still exists in many people’s memories. Considered the oldest black community in DeKalb County, it was located on House Road, which today is Windsor Parkway.
It once had 1,000 residents. They were schoolteachers, mechanics, construction workers, nurses, etc. To this day, the community celebrates Lynwood Park Community Day, even though most, if not all, of the smaller lots have been purchased and the homes replaced with McMansions.
I realize I am barely scratching the surface, and if you know of other communities, please write me at the email address below.
It is important that we accurately document these disappearing places and hold on to what was here before, in most of these cases, our families came to Buckhead.