East Lake is a neighborhood on the east side of Atlanta, Georgia, situated in DeKalb County. It is the easternmost of the 238 neighborhoods in the City of Atlanta. It is home to East Lake Golf Club, the site of PGA’s annual Tour Championship.
One of Atlanta’s more historic neighborhoods, East Lake is located 4.5 miles from downtown Atlanta. With its 1910 to 1940s bungalows and cottages and its convenience to local eateries, shops, and transit (MARTA), East Lake has enjoyed a rebirth in recent years.
East Lake is on part of a 19th-century plantation owned by Lt. Col. Robert Augustus Alston, whose home, known as Meadow Nook, still stands across from the East Lake Golf Course. This antebellum home was built in 1856 for his South Carolina bride, and was occupied during the American Civil War. It is the second-oldest home in the city of Atlanta and was not burned by Union General William T. Sherman and his troops.
In 1892, the East Lake Land Company was chartered and land was acquired and divided up into lots. A.C. Bruce was president of the East Lake Land Company and was instrumental in getting a street car line built down a right of way (now East Lake Drive), which started running cars every 20 minutes in 1893. This helped to increase the demand for the small cottage lots, many of which were bought by Atlantans, around the lake to escape the city during the summer months. By the recession of 1896 it became a failed development. The large covered pavilion and beach served as an amusement park, during the years up to 1900.
In 1899 Asa Candler, who was then building Coca-Cola into a national icon, started using agents to secretly buy up the land around the lake and surrounding area. The Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) began looking for land to build a country location in 1902, and was stirred by one of Candler’s agents to buy 280 acres. In 1904 the Atlanta Athletic Club opened East Lake Golf Club. A street line from Atlanta through Kirkwood, served the location. The Pavilion was removed in 1907 to make way for the first clubhouse. The first clubhouse and golf course were not completed till 1908. Golf was not the primary recreation at that time. Lawn bowling, tennis, boating and wading were all the craze. East Lake was incorporated as a town in 1908.
In 1912, an auto road was constructed from Ponce de Leon Avenue to the gates of East Lake Country Club, making East Lake even more accessible. By 1916, a school building had been erected on Fourth Avenue, making East Lake the perfect suburban neighborhood. According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article in May, 1916, demand for East Lake homes was “almost to boom proportions.” In 1928, East Lake was annexed into the City of Atlanta.
In 1926 Francis Marion Swanson moved to East Lake, and bought the home at 246 Daniel Avenue, across from what is now East Lake Park. Mr. Swanson was the treasurer of the East Lake Land Company, which helped spur development of the East Lake area by providing mortgages and construction loans to home buyers and builders. Mr. Swanson and friends encouraged sports enthusiasts to move to the area, many of whom had ties to Georgia Tech. The property site of the Swanson home also has the last of the remaining “Lake Cottages” that date back to the amusement park. This cottage was a guest house for the Swanson family, whose guests included notable Atlantans and Georgia Tech personalities such as football coaches Bill Alexander and Bobby Dodd, and renowned golfer Bobby Jones. Jones would come in for weekends, and drive onto the 9th fairway from Daniel Street to avoid the crowds.
East Lake is home to two golf courses. The East Lake Golf Club, the home course of golf legend Bobby Jones, is the site of PGA’s annual Tour Championship. It was reconstructed in 1995 by noted golf course architect Rees Jones.
The Charlie Yates Golf Course is adjacent to the East Lake Golf Club and is open to the public. It was designed by Rees Jones in 1998. East Lake residents are zoned to Atlanta Public Schools (APS).
All area residents are zoned to Toomer Elementary School, in neighboring Kirkwood, Martin Luther King Jr Middle School, and Maynard H. Jackson High School. Charles R. Drew Charter School is a local APS-affiliated charter school. Children of East Lake residents are given first opportunity to enroll at Drew.