The city of Atlanta has renamed a popular Buckhead park to commemorate the Black community that lived in the area before they were driven out for redevelopment.
Mayor Andre Dickens recently signed legislation to rename Frankie Allen Park off Pharr Road to Historic Bagley Park. The athletic fields, where Buckhead Baseball leagues play, will keep the Frankie Allen name. The legislation was introduced by Councilmember Howard Shook, who represents the area, and approved by the City Council last month.
Formerly enslaved Black people founded a community where the park is now in the 1870s. At its peak, the community was home to some 400 families and included two grocery stores, two restaurants, a blacksmith shop, and Mount Olive Methodist Episcopal Church and cemetery, according to the Buckhead Heritage Society.
William Bagley purchased six lots where the park is now in 1929. He had moved to the area after being driven from his Forsyth County farm during the county’s infamous racial cleansing of 1912.
The neighborhood was officially named Macedonia Park by its developer, but William Bagley’s popularity with local residents led to it being called Bagley Park, said the historic society.
Many of the Bagley Park residents worked nearby for white Buckhead families as maids and chauffeurs. Others were employed as gardeners at local golf clubs, nurses, truck drivers, garbage collectors and cotton mill workers.
As more affluent white residents moved into the area in the 1940s, creating neighborhoods such as Garden Hills, Peachtree View and Peachtree Heights, they complained to Fulton County officials about Bagley Park residents. The county condemned the area and used eminent domain, eviction and forced negotiation to push out the Black residents.
By 1952, the homes and business of Bagley Park were demolished and replaced with a park to be used by the neighborhoods and other developments. Fulton County leaders later named the park for William Bagley and his family, but in 1980 it was renamed to honor Frankie Allen, a Buckhead baseball umpire who died that year, according to the society.
“My mother grew up in Bagley Park and had strong and wonderful memories of the neighborhood,” said Elon Osby, William Bagley’ granddaughter, in a written statement.
“We didn’t know the city had renamed it until we drove by one day,” she said. “It was very upsetting for our family. We are grateful Buckhead Heritage has taken up the mantle.”
Mount Olive Cemetery is all that remains of the once thriving Bagley Park community and is one of the last remnants of Buckhead’s Black history. William Bagley died in 1939, and he and his wife, Ida, are buried there.