Old Fourth Ward

Historic Fourth Ward Park at night

The Old Fourth Ward, often abbreviated O4W, is a neighborhood on the east side of Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The neighborhood is best known as the location of the Martin Luther King, Jr. historic site. However, the Old Fourth Ward has also garnered national attention as “a cradle of culinary and artistic innovation and as a symbol of gentrification.

With a Walk Score of 79, most errands can be accomplished on foot for denizens of the O4W.


The Old Fourth Ward is defined as the area that stretches from Piedmont Avenue and Downtown Atlanta on the west to the BeltLine and the Poncey-Highland and Inman Park neighborhoods on the east. Through it runs a main thoroughfare named simply, Boulevard. West of Boulevard the Ward reaches from Ponce de Leon Avenue on the north to Freedom Parkway on the south, below which is Sweet Auburn. East of Boulevard, it reaches from Ponce de Leon Avenue on the north to the east-west MARTA rail line and Oakland Cemetery, and theGrant Park and Cabbagetown neighborhoods on the south. The neighborhood can be divided into three areas, with Freedom Parkway and Boulevard serving as dividing lines.

The area north of Freedom Parkway and east of Boulevard is one of the city’s most up-and-coming areas. It is home to The Masquerade, a music venue hosting national acts, and Historic Fourth Ward Park, a product of the BeltLine. In the very northeast corner of this area is the 2.1 million sq. ft. former City Hall East, which a developer, Jamestown, plans to spend $180 million to convert into Ponce City Market, a complex of retail, restaurants, boutiques, offices and residential space, featuring a food hall of national importance along the lines of Jamestown’s own Chelsea Market in New York. This area has also seen an influx of young professionals. As a result, there have been several new mulifamily developments bordering the park, including AMLI Old Fourth Ward, AMLI Parkside and BOHO4W. The area furthest east along the BeltLine was once an industrial area where former factory and warehouse space now contains restaurants and galleries, located in complexes like Studioplex and Southern Dairies.

The area west of Boulevard and north of Freedom Parkway was once called Bedford Pine, and, prior to the 1960s, it was a slum called Buttermilk Bottom. In the 1960s, slum housing gave way to massive urban renewal and the construction of large projects, such as theAtlanta Civic Center, the Georgia Power headquarters, and public housing projects. Bedford Pine was officially absorbed into the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, whose boundaries officially extend west to Piedmont Avenue. However, Central Atlanta Progress, in an effort to improve the area’s image, have renamed the area west of Central Park “SoNo,” or “South of North Avenue,”despite the fact that the areas fall under the jurisdiction of the Old Fourth Ward.

The largest concentration of single family homes are found south of Freedom Parkway, especially south of Irwin Street, and the area is perhaps the most eclectic part of the Old Fourth Ward. Auburn Avenue and Old Wheat Streets possess the unique character of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood and Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. In addition, Old Fourth Ward’s primary nightlife district is centered around the intersection of Boulevard and Edgewood Avenue, where there is a concentration of bars and restaurants.


What is now the Old Fourth Ward is a smaller version of the historic Fourth Ward political area in place until the 1950s when the city changed to a district system. It is one of the oldest sections of the city, with the westernmost blocks developing soon after the Civil War. Different parts of the ward were, at different times, considered white, black, or mixed-race areas. From the 1910s onward, as Atlanta politicians moved to institutionalize racially-segregated residential areas, Old Fourth Ward continued as a rich patchwork of whites living as close neighbors with blacks.

The foremost thoroughfare in today’s Old Fourth Ward, Boulevard, was in the 1890s called “one of the most desirable residential streets in the city.” However, after the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917, Boulevard’s grand houses were destroyed and replaced by brick apartment buildings.

As with most of Intown Atlanta, the Old Fourth Ward declined precipitously during the 1950s and 1960s as wealthier residents moved further out from central neighborhoods. Streets, houses and businesses that sat upon the land that is now Freedom Parkway were also razed to make way for a freeway that was never built. What was once a consistent and dense grid pattern of streets is now difficult to recognize, with Freedom Parkway occupying what had once been multiple city blocks.

Gentrification of the Old Fourth Ward began in the 1980s, and continued at a more rapid pace during the first decade of the 2000s. New apartment and condo complexes with ground-floor retail sprung up, particularly along the BeltLine, Ponce de Leon Avenue, North Avenue, and Highland Avenue. New residents were attracted to the neighborhood due to its close proximity to Downtown, Midtown, Inman Park, and Virginia-Highland, its urban vibe, its walkability, and its cultural offerings. By the 2010s, Old Fourth Ward had become one of the most dynamic and sought-after areas of the city, winning Creative Loafings 2010 award for “Best Bet for Next Hot ‘Hood”.  The area, which remains majority black, has seen a huge influx of whites in recent decades. The trend began in the 1980s, and from 1980 to 2000, the area west of Boulevard went from 12% to 30% white and the area east of Boulevard went from went from 2% to 20% white.

In 2010, Creative Loafing awarded Old Fourth Ward “Best Bet for Next Hot ‘Hood.”  In 2011, the neighborhood celebrated the opening of the Historic Fourth Ward Park and saw the kickoff of the Ponce City Market project.


After decades of neglect, Edgewood Avenue, which connects the Old Fourth Ward to downtown and Inman Park, has become a bar and restaurant district, home to a number of Atlanta’s most eclectic nightspots, including Corner Tavern, Noni’s, Church, Circa and the Sound Table which was recognized as one of the 50 Best Bars in America by Food and Wine magazine. Bar and restaurant-owners are attracted to Edgewood’s “non-corporate” feel, mostly due to its urban layout and historic buildings showcasing turn-of-the-century architecture. On the northern side of the district lies The Masquerade, a mid-sized concert venue that has both indoor and outdoor concert space, with the live music mostly consisting of alternative music styles such as Indie rock, Metal, Punk Rock, Rockabilly, and Electronic.

Most information on O4W courtesy of Wikipedia.