Cabbagetown is an interesting neighborhood composed mostly of cottages, shotgun houses, and small bungalows, giving it the feel of a small town while being located only minutes from downtown Atlanta. These homes were formerly occupied by poor whites recruited from the Appalachian region to work in the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill. The mill closed in 1977, and eventually the residents were forced to leave the area with no other viable employment available. During the time that the mill workers lived there, the neighborhood was well known for people gathering on each other’s front porches as children played in the streets.
This period in Cabbagetown history was well documented by Atlanta photographer Oraien Catledge. He spent nearly every weekend taking pictures of the mill workers and their families. And each weekend he would give away prints from photos he took the prior weekend. A select number of these photos were assembled into the book Oraien Catledge: Photographs by Constance Lewis, after curating a show at her Opal Gallery, formerly located in Little Five Points. Lewis is currently curating a new Oraien Catledge Cabbagetown show for the Robert Anderson Gallery in New York, which opens on March 22 and runs through May 26, 2012.
The neighborhood went through a period of decline until the mid-1990s. Now it is home to a collection of yuppies, artists, and other folks typically more affluent than their predecessors. The porches vary in size, but most harbor a collection of chairs or sofas. But on a sunny Saturday afternoon, those famous porches largely sit empty now. Very few residents are out in the streets except for the occasional dog walker or jogger. There are no children playing in the streets.
The residents have preserved the look of the neighborhood for the most part. Many homes have been restored to their former state, but the feel is clearly different. The old cotton mill is now a residential loft community, fenced in and well secured. A row of quaint neighborhood shops and restaurants across the street from the lofts attract a few pedestrians. The neighborhood still has an identity apart from other areas of town, and is certainly distinct from the suburbs. I enjoy each time I visit to photograph and walk around the area. But the days when these small homes were packed with large working class families, bonded together by employment for the same company, are long gone.
Dodge & Burn is a series of photo essays documenting local culture with a focus on artful imagery, movement, and light. Check BURNAWAY’s homepage for new photography every week, and watch our Flickr account for regular updates!