The Ruins: A Taste of Decatur History and a Local Adventure

By: Mahalia Ashraf, 1st Year Health Policy & Management

Warmer days are upon us and so are some adventures in Decatur! Graduate School is busy and I often find myself missing out on being outdoors with the excuse that I do not have enough time. Well, guess what? There is a place right here in Decatur that isn’t too far and can still grant you that sense of excitement that comes from trying something new and exploring nature!

Decatur Water Works, more commonly known as “The Ruins” is a historic site located in Mason Mill Park right off Clairmont Road. The Ruins was once home to a water treatment facility that was completed in 1907 but has been abandoned since then and has become a hub for the local Atlanta graffiti culture.

The facility was responsible for providing water to the city until the 1940’s with the surrounding area utilized as a public park beginning in the 1930’s. The Works Progress Administration (WPA as a part of the New Deal) project created the park and added many amenities including grills, tables, and a stone bridge over Burnt Fork Creek which are still seen today. During World War II, when still a water facility, Decatur Water Works was the primary water supply facility for the Naval Air Station that is now Peachtree DeKalb Airport. The property was strictly for military use and was not utilized for any recreational purpose or as a civilian water supply during the war. Due to its historic and industrial significance, the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

What can you do at The Ruins today? Here are some fun suggestions for a hidden Decatur jewel:

  1. Trail: As a part of Mason Mill Park, The Ruins connects Mason Mill Park to Medlock Park through the South Peachtree Creek Trail. The walking paved trail from Mason Mill Park turns into a wooden boardwalk that looks over Burnt Fort Creek. The total trail is 2 miles from Mason Mill to the Medlock Park section and perfect for a quick break from studying that is right next to Emory! At a walking pace, it takes about 30-40 minutes one way. Bringing a water bottle would be a good idea especially if you plan on going during sunnier hours. The path is quite peaceful with the pleasant sound of the water in the backdrop, local Atlanta greenery, and a view of some of the residential houses in the area.
  2. Photography: The abandoned brick walls and old water plant buildings serve as a great backdrop for a photo session with your friends or if you need a fun area to practice some of your photography skills. Be mindful of the brush as the landscape in the Ruins is not maintained (it’s quite literally in “ruins”).
  3. Picnic: Mason Mill Park has a park pavilion and picnic area where you can relax and rest after completing your hike and getting some great pictures! Seating areas are available through the park (and also along the trail) for quick breaks. The park also has a small convenience store where you can purchase snacks and drinks.
  4. Tennis: Still haven’t gotten your exercise fix? The Tennis Center is available to play with your friends and get some more activity in.
  5. Treat Yourself! After spending some time at the Park, make a quick trip to the Menchie’s off Toco Hills for some frozen yogurt or Saigon in North Decatur Square for some bubble tea!  If you have more time, visit the Jeni’s or Butter N’ Cream in Downtown Decatur.

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