Decatur's official motto is "A city of homes, schools and places of worship." But residents frequently refer to the unofficial motto of the town, "It's greater in Decatur."
Decatur is a city in, and county seat of, DeKalb County. With a population of just over 20,000 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 in-town suburb of Atlanta and part of the Atlanta metropolitan area, and its public transportation is served by three MARTA rail stations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.2 square miles, all land. The eastern Continental Divide bisects the city along the CSX (formerly Georgia Railroad) trackage right of way.
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.
In the 1830s, the Western and Atlantic Railroad wanted to make Decatur the southern-most 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 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 from Augusta.
In the last half of the 20th century metropolitan Atlanta expanded into unincorporated DeKalb County, eventually surrounding two sides of the incorporated town of Decatur, more recently partially thanks to several long-term downtown development plans that have come to fruition. Decatur is a trendy small mixed-use district with easy transit to downtown Atlanta. Over the past 20 years, Decatur has gained a local and national reputation as a progressive city with a high level of citizen involvement that despite its proximity to Atlanta retains a small town feel.
Decatur is known for its food scene and was named one of the South's "Tastiest Towns" in 2012. In 2016, the New York Times called it "Atlanta's gastronomic equivalent of Berkeley or Brooklyn.”
Noteworthy restaurants and establishments include Brick Store Pub, which was named one of the best beer bars in the nation by Beer Advocate. Cakes & Ale Restaurant, twice recognized by Bon Appetit as one of the best new restaurants in the USA. Revival, from the 2016 James Beard Finalist Chef Kevin Gillespie. The Pinewood Tippling Room, recipient of OpenTable's Diners' Choice Award. Kimball House, named 2014 Best New Restaurant by Southern Living and many more restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, ice cream and yogurt parlors and bakeries.
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