Buckhead Heritage Spearheads Successful Effort to Restore William Bagley’s Name to Buckhead Park
Freed slaves founded the Pharr Road community known as Bagley Park, which Fulton County condemned in the 1940s
Atlanta (Nov. 30, 2022) — Buckhead Heritage Society in partnership with the city of Atlanta and Mayor Andre Dickens is restoring the historical name of Bagley Park on Pharr Road.
Atlanta Councilmember Howard Shook, who represents the Buckhead district in which the park is located, submitted the legislation to reinstate the original name of the park. Atlanta City Council passed it unanimously on Nov 21, 2022 and Mayor Dickens has now signed it.
Formerly enslaved people founded a community where the park is now in the 1870s. In 1929, William Bagley purchased six lots there after being forced to flee his 84-acre Forsyth County farm in 1912. He was a well-respected community leader. While developer Frank C. Owens laid out a formal neighborhood that he called Macedonia Park in 1921, the area became known colloquially as Bagley Park.
“My mother grew up in Bagley Park and had strong and wonderful memories of the neighborhood,” said Elon Osby, William Bagley’s granddaughter. “We didn’t know the city had renamed it until we drove by one day. It was very upsetting for our family. We are grateful Buckhead Heritage has taken up the mantle.”
“By restoring the original name of the park, the city ensures the history of the area will be preserved for all residents, including the many who grow up playing baseball on its fields,” said Charlotte Margolin, President, Buckhead Heritage. “It honors the men and women who built a thriving community and were instrumental in creating the Buckhead we know today.”
At its peak, approximately 400 families called Bagley Park home. Black-owned businesses, including a grocery store, a restaurant and a blacksmith, served them. It was also home to several churches, including Mt. Olive Methodist Episcopal Church and an associated cemetery. William Bagley died in 1939, and he and his wife, Ida, are interred in Mt. Olive cemetery.
Many of the Bagley Park residents worked as domestic help in the form of maids, laundresses, chauffeurs and yardmen for the white residents of Buckhead. According to census records, there were also several gardeners for the local golf clubs, caddies, brick masons, pin boys who worked at the local bowling alley, in-home nurses, shoe shiners, truck drivers for the ice company, and garbage collectors, fertilizer plant staff and cotton mill workers.
In the 1940s, following complaints from white residents living nearby, Fulton County condemned the area. Using eminent domain, eviction and forced negotiation, it began pushing out the residents. By 1952, the Black community was demolished, and a park took its place.
Fulton County leaders then honored William Bagley and his family by naming it Bagley Park.
In 1980, following the death of beloved Buckhead Baseball umpire and volunteer, Buckhead Baseball and the city of Atlanta renamed the park in honor of Frankie Allen. The Bagley descendants were not aware of this decision.
Buckhead Heritage has steadfastly advocated for the preservation of Mt. Olive Cemetery, which is the only remnant of the once thriving Black community. In 2010, it filed a successful lawsuit to prevent a developer from removing the cemetery. Buckhead Heritage was later named the official caretaker of the cemetery by the city of Atlanta, and is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep.
In 2022, Buckhead Heritage formed a Task Force to explore restoring the historical name of the park. After reviewing the history of the neighborhood, speaking with Bagley family members and consulting with various stakeholders, it recommended the name Historic Bagley Park, and that the athletic fields be named in honor of Frankie Allen.
The Garden Hills Civic Association and Atlanta International School supported the change, and Buckhead Baseball helps financially support the park’s cemetery conservation.
Buckhead Heritage is a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying, preserving, and promoting Buckhead’s historic resources. We are currently raising funds to update the signage in the park. To make a donation, please visit www.buckheadheritage.com/donations/.