Atlanta History Center

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Offering a breathtaking 22 acres of wooded southern land in the heart of Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood, the Atlanta History Center is a true southern charmer. Offering half a dozen permanent exhibits, daily tours, two authentic southern-style homes,  world-class research center, and a bevy of rotating and temporary showings, there is something the strike the fancy of every member of your group at this one-of-a-kind historical site.

History & Exhibits

The genesis of the Atlanta History Center was begun by a group of forward-thinking young men back in 1926. Fourteen in all, these men, led by Walter McElreath, founded the Atlanta Historical Society as means to catalogue and account for the rich history of this southern city. Beginning by meeting in their own homes, the group gradually gathered archives, published bulletins, and drummed up interest in their quest. This ultimately lead to the acquisition of the land on which the Atlanta History Center now sits in 1989 as a space to permanently house their rather impressive array of Civil War era artifacts.

From that point on growth was rapid and a $15 million museum campus opened in 1993, with an $11 million addition only five years later. Since that time, permanent exhibits along with temporary and travelling shows related to the city of Atlanta and the American south have continually been added to the Atlanta History Center.

There are currently six permanent exhibits at the Atlanta History Center, each of which focuses on some aspect of the city, state, or southeast region’s history:

  • The Centennial Olympic Museum
    Completed in 2006, pays tribute to the Centennial Summer Games, held in Atlanta in 1996.
  • Down the Fairway with Bobby Jones
    Based on the life of the most famous Georgia-born golfer, this interactive exhibit has won awards for its telling of the U.S.-based history of golf.
  • Metropolitan Frontiers
    Dedicated to the city of Atlanta itself, this exhibit tells a 4-part story of Atlanta’s rise from a rural southern farming town to a major metropolis.
  • Philip Trammell Shutze: Atlanta Classicist, Connoisseur, and Collector
    The designer of Swan House, also located on the Center’s property, this exhibit tells the tale of local architect Phillip Trammell Shutze and displays much of his extensive art collection.
  • Shaping Tradition: Folk Arts in a Changing South
    An exhibit dedicated to folk art particular to the American South with a special emphasis on its development over time and displaying modern works as well as older, more traditional pieces.
  • Turning Point: The American Civil War
    One of the most comprehensive collection of American Civil War Artifacts in the world, this exhibit has over 1,400 pieces on display.

There are several additional elements to the vast expanse of the History Center including six gardens dedicated to the flora of the state of Georgia and two homes, both of which are on the National Register of Historical Places, the Tullie Smith Family Farm (1860) and the Swan House (1928). The Atlanta History Center also operates the Margaret Mitchell House which is located close by in downtown Atlanta and its adjacent Literacy Center. There is also a research library, the Kenan Research Center, located on the property which is open to scholars and students who wish to browse through the Center’s extensive archives.

Main Attraction

The Atlanta History Center is located at 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW in the Buckhead area of the city. Buckhead, known for its upscale homes and exclusive shops, is due north of the city’s center. The Center is open seven days a week with closures on select holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. Admission costs include guided tours of the Swan House and Smith Family Farm which operate on a set schedule which changes according to the season. The Kenan Research Center is only open Wednesday through Saturday.

All-inclusive admissions rates are for adults (18+), seniors (65+), students (13-18), and youth (4-12). Tours cannot be reserved ahead of time, though parties of 10 or more are eligible for private group tours and special rates. The History Center’s Museum also includes a Kid’s Corner geared at the under 12 crowd which offers games, puzzles, and other activities that coincide with the museum’s holdings. In addition, the museum hosts child-oriented programs such as Magic Mondays (for toddlers and preschoolers) and Family Fundays. There are also several educational opportunities, including camps, scheduled throughout the year.

There are two restaurants, one take-out and one formal, and a gift shop located on site at the Atlanta History Center. In addition, the Buckhead neighborhood offers an abundance of fine and casual dining options close by.

Why It’s a Must-See

For those interested in the history of the American South and the particular role of the city of Atlanta in that history, there is no better place to visit than the Atlanta History Center. Offering something for the smallest children along with resources for top scholars, this is a truly unique Atlanta attraction that is well worth the trip.