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Past Tense

Opinion: Roswell Road was Roosevelt Boulevard…for a moment

Roswell bridge

The photograph, from the book, “Roswell: A Pictorial History,” is of the Roswell bridge over the Chattahoochee River in 1925.

Roswell Road was once a 40-foot-wide concrete road, and between 1925 and 1927, it was known as Roosevelt Boulevard. The road was named for President Theodore Roosevelt, whose mother’s childhood home was Bulloch Hall in Roswell. Roosevelt returned home with great fanfare in 1905, riding the Roswell Railroad from Chamblee to Roswell. He died Jan. 6, 1919.

Mrs. William Lawson Peel, president of the Atlanta City Beautiful Club, wrote an editorial for the Aug. 18, 1921, Atlanta Constitution pushing for the new Roosevelt Boulevard. A meeting later that month was planned for property owners and interested parties to attend. Colonel George Hope, Arthur Burdett and Harry Stearns arranged the meeting.

Concrete paving of the road began by September 1921. It was estimated 2,000 trees would be needed to make the road into an attractive 16-mile boulevard leading from Buckhead to Bulloch Hall in Roswell. Roswell was in Cobb County at the time, so the county’s cooperation was needed. (Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 7, 1921, “Wider Roswell Road in planned”)

In December 1921, a meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners was held to vote on the road improvement and name change. The board voted unanimously in favor. Many residents and property owners along Roswell Road were present for the meeting. The article claims, “Plans to make Roosevelt Boulevard one of the finest thoroughfares will be started immediately.” Mrs. Peel announced that she had secured trees to be planted every 50 to 75 feet along the road. (Atlanta Constitution, Dec. 8, 1921, “Road named for Roosevelt”)

Another piece of the project was a new concrete bridge over the Chattahoochee River leading to Roswell. Construction of the bridge cost $175,000.

Roosevelt Boulevard and the new bridge were dedicated on July 18, 1925. The Atlanta Constitution reported, “6,000 Georgians attend dedication of Roswell bridge and formal opening of Roosevelt Boulevard to public.” The bridge was christened with river water by Margaret Carpenter, daughter of the Cobb County Road commissioner. A wreath was placed on the bridge in memory of J.D. Wing, by his daughter Virginia Wing.

This story was originally discovered in 1999 by Jim Perkins, previous author of Past Tense. He found an entry in the Aug. 3, 1927, minutes of the Fulton County Road and Revenue Commission indicating a proposition to change the name back to Roswell Road had been advertised for four weeks without objections. Therefore, the road once again became Roswell Road.

By the 1940s, complaints about the condition of the concrete road began to appear and repaving was completed by 1953. The part of the story I am curious about is whether any of those trees were planted along the boulevard? If I find out, I will let you know.

You can email Valerie at pasttensega@gmail.com or visit her website at pasttensega.com.