A historical treasure in the heart of the city
A brief thirty years after the Civil War Battle of Atlanta had leveled the city, business people, civic leaders and the city’s hard-working residents had contributed to Atlanta’s resurgence as a powerful engine of prosperity. Its location as a rail transportation hub and the presence of civic-minded leaders led to new ideas and the energy and money to implement them. Among these historical innovators, entrepreneurs Joel Hurt and Samuel Inman formed the Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railway Company and started the first electric streetcar system in the U.S. It ran along Edgewood Avenue and carried the residents of Hurt’s newly platted and gracious garden suburb, Inman Park, to downtown Atlanta. The Trolley Barn housed the offices of the streetcar company and the maintenance depot for the electric cars.
Its tenure was short, however, as trolley technology developed further and various trolley lines throughout the city merged into a citywide network. After the turn of the 20th century, The Trolley Barn was used as a church, a basketball court, a farmer’s market, for various mercantile activities, and as a storage and repair facility for antiques.
By the late 1960s Inman Park and The Trolley Barn were in deplorable shape, the result of demographic changes and the construction of expressways to serve the ever-expanding popularity of the automobile. By the early 1970s The Trolley Barn was in such a state of disrepair that it had been condemned by the City of Atlanta, and another artifact of the city’s history was almost lost, joining the list of transportation-related structures torn down and forgotten, such as Atlanta’s Terminal Station.
It was fortunate that at the same time, a revival of interest in city living by young urban pioneers with more energy than money was underway. A group of Inman Park neighbors, already battling grime and decay in their old bungalows and cottages, banded together to try to save The Trolley Barn. The group prevailed upon the City to buy the building and lease it to the neighborhood group, with the understanding that they would undertake its restoration and preservation. A 501 (c)(3) organization was formed, using the old streetcar company’s name: Atlanta and Edgewood Street Railway Company (AESRC.) Its purpose was to raise funds to stabilize and renovate The Trolley Barn. Through its fund-raising efforts and the volunteer labor of many Inman Park neighborhood residents, The Barn’s restoration was officially completed in 1987 and a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, hosted by Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and attended by District 5 Representative John Lewis and other dignitaries.
Since that time The Trolley Barn has been operated as an events facility. At first it was owned by the City of Atlanta; in 2016, after a volunteer fundraising effort it was purchased by the AESRC, which uses the funds raised by its rental to continue its preservation and to further its non-profit purposes.
The Trolley Barn’s non-profit charitable mission has been affirmed and fulfilled by its all-volunteer Board of Directors as:
- Continuing preservation of The Trolley Barn
- Service to the community of Inman Park
- Service to other non-profit organizations and institutions
- Operation as a public archive
- Providing a location where the public can easily view artifacts that illustrate the history of the AESRC and the neighborhood.