Decatur is a city in, and county seat of, DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. With a population of 20,148 in the 2013 census, the city is sometimes assumed to be larger since multiple zip codes in unincorporated DeKalb County bear the Decatur name. It is an intown suburb of Atlanta and part of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, and its public transportation is served by three MARTA rail stations.
Decatur's official motto is "A city of homes, schools and places of worship." Prior to 2000, this motto was "A city of homes, schools, and churches." Residents frequently refer to the unofficial motto of the town, "It's greater in Decatur."
In 1822 Decatur was founded at the intersection of two Native American trails: the Sandtown which led east from the Chattahoochee River at Utoy Creek, and the Shallowford which follows today's Clairmont Road and eventually crossed near Roswell. The town was named for naval hero Stephen Decatur, and its early roads were named logically but soon after were renamed in a curious manner:
|“||Shallowford Road, which led to the Shallow Ford, has been renamed Clairmont Avenue, probably because it does not go to, from or past any place called Clairmont. Covington Road is now Sycamore Street, probably because it leads to Covington and has no Sycamores on it. Nelson's Ferry Road, named after the local family which ran the ferry at the Chattahoochee end of the road, has been named Ponce de Leon after a family prominent, before Castro, in Havana, Cuba.— Stephens Mitchell, "A Tentative Reconstruction of the Decatur Town Map of 1823", Atlanta Historical Bulletin, No.30, p.8, 1965.||”|
In the 1830s, the Western and Atlantic Railroad wanted to make Decatur the southernmost stop on its line. The citizens of Decatur did not want the noise, pollution and growth that would come with such a major terminal, so they rejected the proposal. In response, the railroad founded a new city to the west-southwest of Decatur for the terminal. This town later became the city of Atlanta.
During the American Civil War, Decatur became a strategic site in Sherman's campaign against Atlanta. In July 1864 Union general James B. McPherson occupied Decatur to cut off the Confederates' supply line fromAugusta, Georgia. During the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, Confederate cavalry under Major General Joseph Wheeler attacked McPherson's supply wagons and the Union troops left to defend the wagons. A marker at the Decatur courthouse marks the site of this skirmish.
In the last half of the twentieth century the metropolitan area of Atlanta expanded into unincorporated DeKalb County, eventually surrounding two sides of the incorporated town of Decatur. Concurrently many well-to-do and middle class white Americans fled the area to more distant suburbs. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed dramatic drops in property values. However, more recently the city has regained economic vigor, partially thanks to several long-term downtown development plans that have come to fruition, making Decatur a trendy small mixed-use district with easy transit to downtown Atlanta. Over the past twenty years, Decatur has gained a local and national reputation as a progressive city with a high level of citizen involvement that retains a small town feel despite its proximity to Atlanta.
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Last updated on Mar 18, 2018 12:00:pm.