In 1952 the City of Atlanta tripled in size, annexing areas to the south, west and north. To the west the communities near and along the Chattahoochee River became part of the city. Bolton, Riverside, Chattahoochee, Cascade, Adamsville, Grove Park, and Center Hill were all incorporated into Atlanta with that annexation. Buckhead, Lakewood Heights, and the communities down to the Clayton County line were also brought in. Attempts had been made to expand Atlanta throughout the 1940s, but those efforts had been voted down in a 1947 referendum. Finally, in 1951, legislation was passed to expand the city limits at the beginning of 1952.
At least part of the motivation for the annexation was racial. The areas annexed were overwhelmingly white at the time of annexation. In 1943 Mayor William B. Hartsfield wrote a letter to several hundred citizens, mostly directed at residents of Buckhead,
“The most important thing to remember cannot be publicized in the press, or made the subject of public speeches. Our Negro population is growing by leaps and bounds. They stay right in the city limits and grow by taking more white territory inside Atlanta. Out-migration is good, white, home-owning citizens. With the federal government insisting on political recognition of Negroes in local affairs, the time is not far distant when they will become a potent political force in Atlanta if our white citizens are going to just move out and give it to them. This is not intended to stir race prejudice, because we all want to deal fairly with them, but do you want to hand them political control of Atlanta?”
A Feb 12, 1951 article from the Atlanta Constitution, that outlined many aspects of the Greater Atlanta Plan of Improvement (as the annexation plan was called), had this to say about the scope of the annexations:
The most far-reaching fact of the plan is annexation.
On the north, the projected city limits would run in a straight line east and west across Fulton County about two and one-half miles above the Buckhead shopping district.
On the west, it would follow the Chattahoochee River — to include Bolton, Grove Park, and Center Hill — to a point about one-half mile downstream from the Bankhead Highway Bridge.
The line would then travel due South just east of the Botanical Gardens to include the Adamsville Community. Then east for a mile, and then south on Mt. Gilead Road between Fairburn Road and Campbellton Road and annexes to Atlanta the Cascade section.
The new limits would then turn due east along a line with the northern boundary of East Point and follow the East Point limits to the Hapeville limits.
It would turn south at the eastern extremity of the Hapeville limits and down to the Clayton County line. Then, following the Clayton line, it would travel east to the Dekalb County line and follow the Dekalb line north to the present Atlanta limits. It would pick up the Dekalb line on the north of the Atlanta limits and follow that line to the northward extremity of the proposed limits above Buckhead.
On the south, it would annex Adams Park, Fort MacPherson, Perkerson Park, Lakewood Heights, the Federal Penitentiary, and Blair Village.
As the preceding description shows, the 1952 annexation was enormous relative to the existing size of the city. It tripled the square mileage of Atlanta, and added approximately 100,000 people. The map accompanying this article shows what Atlanta looked like before annexation, and what it looked like after 1952.