On June 15, 1890, the Atlanta Constitution announced the birth of the suburban town that would eventually became College Park. The article described the purchase of 900 acres of land on the Atlanta and West Point Railroad, one half mile south of East Point and extending nearly three miles along the rail line. The Atlanta syndicate of businessmen who purchased the land named it Manchester, hoping it would become an industrial city, like its English namesake. By April 21, 1892, the directors announced that they would create their own college, Southern Baptist Female College. Shortly thereafter, Mr. L. W. Stanton received a grant of 25 acres and $5500 from the Manchester Land Company to build Southern Baptist Female College. The design by F. L. Rosseau, a noted architect of Birmingham, Alabama, was similar to ones he had designed for two female colleges in Alabama. Rosseau later lived in College Park. The 200-room building was the largest educational institutional building in the South. During this same time period, Dr. Robert Crenshaw founded the Atlanta Dental School which ultimately became Emory University School of Dentistry. George C. Loorley, co-President of the Southern Baptist College, and Dr. J. B. Hawthorne established Southern Military Academy.
Finally, in 1895, the Southern Baptist Female College, which had hit hard times, was transferred to Dr. Charles Cox and the school’s name changed to Cox College. Cox College became a center for literary programs, concerts, operas, and May Day festivities. Cox College had departments of music, painting, and elocution, and offered a Bachelor of Arts degree, and in 1900 had 200 students.
From May through July 1892, a contest was held via the Atlanta newspapers to rename Manchester, population 100, with the prize being a choice lot in the city. About 8,000 names were submitted and the lot was deeded to Mrs. Mary Malinda Gordon Roper, of LaGrange, a first cousin of Dr. Cox, and the only sister of General John B. Gordon (1832-1904) , former Georgia governor and United States Senator from Georgia. Mrs. Roper’s letter, which was published in the Atlanta Constitution on June 24, 1892, was dated May 16, LaGrange, Georgia:
“I would like to suggest what I consider a beautiful, appropriate and suggestive name for your promising town. None of the names so far seem to me to be sufficiently suggestive. “Attica”, though a pretty name, means nothing to the average ear. You need a name that will be suggestive to every one of colleges and culture and at the same time of green trees, flowers and fresh air. From this standpoint the name I wish to suggest seems to me to be an ideal one —College Park.”
On January 29, 1896, the city was officially proclaimed “College Park” to reflect the educational facilities and fine residences.
The same year, Dr. Charles Cox asked the mayor and the city council for the privilege of renaming the streets. Avenues laid out east to west were named for famous colleges: Rugby, Mercer, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, et cetera. The streets which ran north to south were named for famous men: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lee, Napoleon, et cetera.
In 1897, Southern Military Academy, which had struggled for survival, was closed after two years and sold. Some residents of the community persuaded Colonel J. C. Woodward (1866-1939) former president of the Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, to open the Georgia Military Academy on the site in 1900. It became a boy’s preparatory military school. Today, known as Woodward Academy, it is the largest private school (in terms of enrollment) in the continental United States and one of the most highly regarded. Many Georgia Military Academy graduates, such as Robert W. Woodruff of the Coca-Cola Company, have made important contributions to business and the larger Atlanta community. Other graduates have become generals, admirals, national political figures, congressmen, senators, successful businessmen, and professional practitioners.
In 1902, the Georgia Railway and Electric Company made extensions from Atlanta to supply needed trolley service to the suburbs and outlying areas, including College Park, population 517. In 1908, John Temple Graves (1856-1925), a College Park resident, ran for Vice President of the United States. He had served as editor of the Atlanta Georgian and the New York American. Mrs. Oscar Palmour (1881-1958), nee Mary Louise Crenshaw, organized the first metropolitan Atlanta garden club in College Park during 1909. She later went on to become the president of the Garden Clubs of Georgia and chairman of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs. For her work with garden clubs, she had an exhibition chrysanthemum named for her in 1954, the “Mary Palmour”. A new brick and stone railroad depot was built on the Atlanta and West Point Railroad at West Main Street and Harvard Avenue in 1917.
This depot, in good condition today, continues in service. The City of College Park’s involvement in World War One was marked in 1921 by the erection by the College Park Woman’s Club of a marble monument at East Main Street and Hawthorne Avenue. It honors all who served from College Park as well as those who died. Another monument honoring World War One involvement is on the Woodward Academy Campus. In 1922, the Woman’s Club, which began as the College Park Literature Group, erected a brick and columned building at West Main Street and West Rugby Avenue on property donated by A. Woods White, a College Park resident who founded the Bank of Georgia. The club remains active today.
A new Post Office building was built at the present location on West Main Street in 1937. Within the post office a mural was placed in 1938 featuring the arrival of the Atlanta and West Point Railroad to what is now College Park around 1890. It was painted by Jack McMillen and is one of only a few dozen that survive in Georgia. The supervising architect for the post office was Louis A. Simon.
Cox College continued as a viable institution after the death of Dr. Charles C. Cox in 1905. His brother, William S. Cox (1862-1930s), assumed control of the college and remained so until it closed in the 1930s. William S. Cox had been the supervising architect for the completion of the Cox College main building in 1895 and for other campus buildings. The Cox College property remained in the family until 1940, when the last family member to own it sold it jointly to the city and county. The college buildings were then torn down. The marble cornerstone of the school’s main building rests today, with a sundial on top, in front of the modern city hail as a monument to the college. It was unveiled in 1949. In 1940, the City of College Park, population 8,213, and the Fulton County Board of Education purchased the Cox College campus including the existing buildings. The buildings were demolished and replaced by a twenty-eight-acre Community Center Complex. The City Auditorium was built in 1941 on the college site. In this building, designed by the noted Atlanta firm of Burge and Stevens, the city continues to host civic and cultural events. In front of the auditorium is a monument to the city’s World War II veterans. It was dedicated in 1948.
Among the city’s many community organizations were the College Park Woman’s Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, Masonic Orders, Eastern Star, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, Boy and Girl Scout Troops, and Campfire Girls. Georgia College Presidents often gathered at Georgia Military Academy for their annual meeting. Visitors to the area have included residents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, as well as many national and foreign dignitaries who enrolled sons in Georgia Military Academy.
From the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, College Park Historic District, College Park, Fulton County, Georgia, National Register #96001338.