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Georiga History:   Atlanta | Geogia Coast | Savannah

Though steeped in history, Atlanta nevertheless remains a comparatively new city by East Coast standards, having been founded only in 1837 as the end of the Western & Atlantic railroad line (it was first named Marthasville in honor of the then-governor's daughter, nicknamed Terminus for its rail location, and then changed soon after to Atlanta, the feminine of Atlantic -- as in the railroad). Today the fast-growing city remains a transportation hub, not just for the country but for the world: Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport is one of the nation's busiest in daily passenger flights. Direct flights to Europe, South America, and Asia have made metro Atlanta easily accessible to the more than 1,000 international businesses that operate here and the more than 50 countries that have representation in the city through consulates, trade offices, and chambers of commerce. The city has emerged as a banking center and is the world headquarters for such Fortune 500 companies as CNN, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Holiday Inn Worldwide, and United Parcel Service.

Atlanta's character has evolved from a mix of peoples: transplanted Northerners and those from elsewhere account for more than half the population and have undeniably affected the mood and character of the city. Irish immigrants had a major role in the city's early history, along with Germans and Austrians; the Hungarian-born Rich brothers founded Atlanta's principal department store. And the immigrants keep coming. In the past two decades Atlanta has seen spirited growth in its Asian and Latin-American communities. Related restaurants, shops, and institutions have become part of the city's texture.

For more than four decades Atlanta has been linked to the civil rights movement. Among the many accomplishments of which Atlanta's African-American community is proud is the Nobel Peace Prize that Martin Luther King Jr. won in 1964. Dr. King's widow, Coretta Scott King, continues to operate the King Center, which she founded after her husband's assassination in 1968. In 1972 Andrew Young was elected the first black congressman from the South since Reconstruction. After serving as ambassador to the United Nations during President Jimmy Carter's administration, Young was elected mayor of Atlanta. Since his term ended in the early '90s, Young has kept busy being co-chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and president of the National Council of Churches.

The traditional South -- which in romantic versions consists of lacy moss dangling from tree limbs; thick, sugary Southern drawls; a leisurely pace; and luxurious antebellum mansions -- rarely reveals itself here. Even before the Civil War, the columned house was a rarity -- and prior to the construction boom of the 1850s, houses of any kind were rare. The frenetic pace of rebuilding that characterized the period after the Civil War continues unabated. Still viewed by die-hard Southerners as the heart of the Old Confederacy, Atlanta has become the best example of the New South, a fast-paced modern city proud of its heritage.

In the past two decades Atlanta has experienced unprecedented growth -- the official city population remains steady, at about 420,000, but the metro population has grown in the past decade by nearly 40%, from 2.9 million to 4.1 million people. A good measure of this growth is the ever-changing downtown skyline, along with skyscrapers constructed in the Midtown, Buckhead, and outer perimeter (fringing I-285) business districts. Since the late 1970s dozens of dazzling skyscrapers designed by such luminaries as Philip Johnson, I. M. Pei, and Marcel Breuer have reshaped the city's profile.

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