Kirkwood is a national historic-designated streetcar suburb, designed by architect Will Saunders and situated entirely in DeKalb County, bordered by Lake Claire, East Lake, Edgewood, and Oakhurst neighborhoods.
In addition to the large stock of historic homes, one of Kirkwood’s greatest attributes is its capacity for new homes that meet the needs of modern living while maintaining the traditional fabric of the surrounding community. Since the mid-1990s, Kirkwood has experienced a surge of new single family homes through infill development on existing lots and the construction of small enclaves, such as Hawthorn Park. Additional projects on the horizon have included three new subdivisions totaling approximately 50 homes with continued infill development.
Kirkwood traces its beginnings to residential development begun in the 1870s. While no one would consider Kirkwood a suburb of Atlanta today, an early tour book described it as an “area of beautiful suburban villas.” By 1910 streetcars provided express service to and from Atlanta three times daily, and streetcars continued service along some streets including Kirkwood Road until the early 1950s.
Prior to the Civil War, the most prominent landholders were the Kirkpatrick, Dunwoody, and Clay families. The name Kirkwood was likely derived from a blending of the Kirkpatrick and Dunwoody family names.
The Historic Marker "Battle of Atlanta Began Here" located near the intersection of Memorial Drive and Clay Streets marks the first two brigades of the North and South that would set off the battle that would leave countless soldiers and civilians dead and lead to the burning of Atlanta.
Kirkwood was incorporated as an independent municipality in 1899. Governed by its own city council and mayor, the town boasted its own water system, school systems and fire department. The former Kirkwood School is a handsome building from this period, located on Kirkwood Road NE just north of Bessie Branham Park. Individually nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, the primary building on the property’s south side was originally designed by John Francis Downing, the son of the noted Atlanta architect W. T. Downing. Both buildings now comprise the Kirkwood Lofts apartments as a result of a $1 million renovation in 1997.
Kirkwood is home to five of Atlanta's public parks that are situated throughout the neighborhood. Additionally, Kirkwood has worked to establish the Eastside Greenway; a series of linear parks, green space and urban trail network traversing the neighborhood. The "Trolley Line" of the PATH (Atlanta) network also crosses the community along much of Hosea Williams Drive and Woodbine Avenue.
While Kirkwood's residential community began to flourish by the late 1990s, the community's business district running along Hosea L. Williams Dr. (Then Boulevard Dr.) remained stagnant. In 2001, the community obtained Neighborhood Commercial (NC-3) Zoning that allowed for consistency in planning efforts.
In 2003, work began on Phase I of a $1.5M streetscape project in the district that, coupled with earlier zoning changes, served to create an environment that would attract small business and private commercial development to the area. The streetscape project increased pedestrian access by narrowing street crossings, slowing traffic, installing protected crosswalks and bicycle lanes on Hosea Williams, and building wider decorative sidewalks. The visual element of the project added historic street lighting, removal of several power poles, decorative brick pavers, trash cans and bike racks.
The Kirkwood Business Owners' Association (KBOA) represents local businesses and installed new gateway signage and landscaping at the main traffic island on Hosea Williams Drive. The KBOA also promotes and markets Kirkwood Events and businesses.
Today, Downtown Kirkwood has become what neighbors call "the small town in the big city," hosting its own post office, newly constructed fire station, police precinct and public library. Residents and visitors also have a host of shopping and dining options at their disposal, including: day spas, furniture galleries, gift shops, restaurants, bars, a wine store, coffee shops, real estate offices, professional/creative spaces, salons, dance studios, yoga studios, and more.
Festivals & events
Kirkwood Spring Fling, Kirkwood Wine Stroll: Kirkwood Family Find: Kirkwood Home For the Holidays, B*ATL Event: Held each July in commemoration of the area's geographical role as the starting point of the Battle of Atlanta during the civil war, Kirkwood, East Atlanta and East Lake host the B*ATL celebration across their communities. Events include a Gala Dinner and House Tour, a 5K run, van and walking tours, a re-creation of the Frontlines with Re-enactment Soldiers and artillery, a Civil War Village with civilian re-enactors, historic music concerts and dramatic performances, storytelling and more.
Historic Kirkwood hosts a large stock of Victorian and Craftsman style homes along with new homes in traditional styles. In 2009 The Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization, in conjunction with the state historic preservation office and the faculty and students of the Georgia State University Heritage Preservation program, successfully nominated the Kirkwood Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. With nearly 2000 contributing resources, the Kirkwood Historic District is the largest historic district in the State of Georgia in terms of contributing resources.
The Craftsman Bungalow, the most prominent architectural home style in Kirkwood reflects the areas growth throughout the community’s early 20th century as a streetcar suburb of bustling Atlanta. The style was renowned for its simple lines and down-to-earth functionality, a clear departure from the grandeur of earlier Victorian homes of the late 19th century. Local Architect Frank Ruggles, a Boston-born transplant to turn of the 20th century Kirkwood exercised the craftsman influence in many of his unique designs throughout the neighborhood. Many of the Ruggles-designed homes can still be seen along Warlick Avenue and along much of Howard Street NE. Urban pioneers revered the essence of these simpler times and today the community's craftsman homes are highly sought after, fetching a premium on resale.
The Kirkwood Neighbors’ Organization and Neighborhood Planning Unit-O work closely with developers, builders and the city of Atlanta to ensure that new development is sensitive to a variety of needs throughout the community.
Residents are zoned to campuses in the Atlanta Public Schools district that include the Fred A. Toomer Elementary School, Charles Drew Charter School, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and the Maynard H. Jackson High School.