Park History

Grant Park excerpt from "Gate City," published in 1890


There are some delightful spots in and around Atlanta and a stranger would be surprised to find so many features common to the most famous summer resorts. The L. P. Grant Park is the most noted and extensive of the pleasure resorts.

This beautiful park originated in the gift to Atlanta early in 1883 of 100 acres of land on the southeast edge of the city by Col. Lemuel P. Grant. In the spring of 1888 the city purchased forty-five on the north edge of the park, so that there are now 145 acres. It is a lovely spot admirably adapted to the purposes for which it was donated. The park is not only attractive on account of its natural beauty which is said to be equaled only by Druid Hill park in Baltimore, but is interesting as a historical spot, there being two lines of fortifications running throughout the entire length of the grounds.

At the highest point in the park is Fort Walker, where stands a pedestal of Hallowell granite, upon which will be mounted in the near future a stone statue of Peace, which will be ten feet high. This fort was reconstructed exactly on the original line, and shows one of the most splendid views of Atlanta to be had from any other point around the city. Four brass cannon, which are a loan from the state, are mounted here and two valuable bronze lions, which cost $500, guard the entrance to the spot. Gen. William H. T. Walker was killed in the battle of Atlanta on the 22d of July, 1864, about a mile and a half from the fort, and in his memory the place is named.

Next in point of interest is McPherson walk, named for General McPherson, who was killed upon the same clay as was General Walker, between Atlanta and Decatur, in the woods lying east of the fort. Thus do these two points bring to mind the hero of the blue and the gray, who fell each for his country's aid. In May, 1883, an accurate topographical map was made of the park by Mr. Charles Breckh, who is an accomplished civil engineer. Since then many improvements have been made in the park, and many interesting features added. In the same year Major Sidney Root was appointed president, superintendent etc., and has continued to hold the position to the entire satisfaction of everyone in the city.

There are lovely drives through the park along shady roads and blossoming hills, and these are named after the principal cities and towns in Georgia. The principal drive is Savannah avenue, the name being given to it because of its being the longest in the park, and because of Savannah being the oldest city in the state. The length of the avenue is one mile and a half, and circles the entire space that is covered by the grounds of the park. Next in length is Americus avenue, which is over a half mile in length, and then Augusta, one-half mile long; Macon, a quarter of a mile; Brunswick, one-quarter; Columbus, one-quarter, and Rome, one-quarter-Milledgeville being only one-eighth of a mile long.

The springs are numerous and are all delightfully situated at the foot of some lovely sloping hill, or by the side of some beautiful walk, over which the boughs of the overhanging trees sway and swing in the breeze. The water of all the springs, save one, are freestone and it is cold and clear and beautiful, one being sulphur and iron principally. Their names are Bethesda, Salaam. Constitution, one without a name, and the Sulphur Spring.

Over Bethesda, which is at the foot of a lovely ivy-grown hill, stands a large statue of an angel, blessing the water, a gift of Major Root. Opposite this charmingly situated spring is the "Tarn," a dark looking little pool fringed with reeds and rushes, and holding a tiny island in the center, upon which is waving a tall caladium and clusters of ferns and cat-tails. This is one of the prettiest parts of the park, and the shade is dense and pleasant on the hottest day. Frogs croak hoarsely in the water as they bask lazily in the reeds and blink stupidly in the sun, and the songs of the birds and the rustling of the leaves make a sweet music in the air. The walks are: Emerald, which winds down beside the branch, Germania, McPherson and Serpentine. Near the latter is a tall bronze stag, eleven feet high, which cost the park commissioners nearly four hundred dollars.

Lake Abana is a very charming sheet of water and is supplied from the various springs around the park, the water being conducted to it by under-ground pipes. To the south of the lake is a tall, wooded hill from which comes a fragrant breeze perfumed with resinous pine and wild flowers, and which slopes gradually to the grass fringe of the blue-crinkled waters. On the lake there are eleven boats, each bearing the name of a flower, and these are used constantly by visitors who pay a nominal sum for the privilege of rowing on the water. In the center of the lake is a small island, built securely of rock and sand, and blooming richly in summer with blossoms of bright color. A small willow dips its slender fingers downward from the middle of the mound and adds a pretty effect to the scene. The boat house, boats and refreshment stand are rented out by the year, and last year the net profits of the boats alone was fifteen hundred dollars. By the side of the lake there is a stand where horses and carriages can be protected alike from the sun and rain.

Beyond the lake is a magnolia lawn which makes a brilliant patch of color in the park, with its beds of scarlet salvia, dusty miller, colias, gentian bloomers and ageratum, which blend in a harmony of blue and red and silver. The center bed on this lawn is laid off in the form of an opened magnolia, but on account of the many trees of that variety the lawn is named.

Around the lawn is the bicycle track, which is a quarter of a mile long and which is said to be one of the finest in the South. This lies in the northwest corner of the park and at the far end of the lake. There is now in progress a lawn-tennis and croquet ground, and this will be a very attractive addition to the new part of the park, and will be situated near the big pavilion. There are three handsomely-constructed bridges of brick and stone that :are ornamented with bronze and terra-cotta vases, and four pretty rustic bridges that are quite picturesque. All these add a charm to the scene and make the park much more attractive in appearance.

It is said that the handsomest sun dial in the world is out at the park. It was the gift of Mr. W. F. Herring, and stands conspicuous on Savannah avenue. It is made of bronze, and is thirty-three inches in diameter. The work is from the hand of the eminent optician, Waldstine, of Union Square, N. Y., who exercised the greatest care and skill in his labor, and took three months to complete the work. The dial shows Atlanta's sun time. The face is elaborately engraved by hand, and upon the outer and larger plate are indicated fifty of the world’s principal cities, showing their air-line distances in statute miles from Atlanta. Jerusalem is 6439 miles; Melbourne is 9,679 S. E.; Pekin, 7,171 W. by N. W.; Buenos Ayres, 5,611, nearly S.; Nanking, 7.641, nearly W.; Constantinople, 5,756, E. by N. E.; Berlin, 4.767. N. E.; Sacramento City, 2,076, N. W.; and St. Petersburg, 4,981, N. by N. E. The dial plate alone cost $1,000, and the dial is mounted upon a granite pedestal nearly three feet high.

There are two large and handsome pavilions in the park, a music stand, a boat
house, two refreshment stands and other less important buildings, which are used for various purposes.

The Zoo, which has but recently been added to the park through the kind donation of Mr. George V. Gress, has added much to the interest already felt in this resort, and it consists of: 1 Hyena, 2 Silver lions, 1 Black bear, 1 Jaguar, 1 Elk, 2 Fawns, 2 African lionesses, 3 Monkeys, 2 Wild cats, 1 Coon, 1 Mexican hog, 1 Camel, 1 Dromedary. Mr. Gress could not have manifested his great interest in the welfare of Atlanta, in any way that would be more appreciated than in this liberal gift which contributes so much to one of the most interesting features of the city.
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