Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Trendy neighborhood will once again have signs commemorating Battle of Atlanta

(Click for larger image)

The corner of Glenwood and Flat Shoals roads in East Atlanta has seen a lot in the past 200 years.

Native Americans once lived here and roamed trails that later became streets. The Creek and Cherokee eventually gave way to farmers and sawmill operators in the early 1800s. Plantations soon dotted a portion of Atlanta that was still considered country when the stillness of a summer day gave way to gunfire and death in July 1864.

A cannon held the Union left flank at the intersection when hordes of Confederates under Gen. William J. Hardee (right) tried to maneuver around the federals. The furious assault was rebuffed.

Thousands of men were killed or wounded in the Battle of Atlanta, including Union Gen. James B. McPherson, the highest-ranking Union officer killed during the conflict.

Fast forward past decades of commercial and residential growth, a decline after World War II and a rebirth in the past two decades.

The corner is now a focal point of East Atlanta Village, a hip commercial and residential area calling itself “an urban oasis of community and culture.”

But there’s been one problem. Yes, residents know about and recognize the battle’s importance. An annual event in July, dubbed B*ATL (left), marks the anniversary with tours, shopping and dining.

But visitors and customers in the district -- including at a bar and grill, coffee house and pizza place at Flat Shoals and Glenwood -- have no idea that so much blood was spilled just outside their windows. There are no interpretive signs or markers.

“Today there’s no sense that where they are drinking coffee is where the main part of the Battle of Atlanta took place,” says Chad Carlson, a historian with the Office of Environmental Services at the Georgia Department of Transportation.

That’s about to change.

Working with the City of Atlanta, the DOT is scheduled to embark late this year on a streetscape/landscape project in East Atlanta Village. In addition to new street lights, a revamped entrance to East Atlanta and other upgrades, the project will erect a $1,500 Battle of Atlanta interpretive panel at the intersection (top). It features an explainer, photos and a map of the battle.

Carlson solved a mystery during research on the project.

A granite boulder and bronze plaque (right) provided by a Masonic lodge was dedicated in December 1937 at the historic intersection. (Click photo to read inscription)

They had disappeared by sometime in the late 1980s. Carlson isn’t sure what happened, but he was able to locate the plaque at the lodge, which has since moved to Lithonia, about 20 miles east of Atlanta.

The DOT is making a replica of the plaque and will place it on a new granite marker near the interpretive sign. The cost for both is about $2,000.

See 1964 Georgia Department Transportation map superimposing the Battle of Atlanta over streets and highways.

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