Monday, April 1, 2013

The Gate City Guard

Atlanta has some absolutely incredible sculpture…from “Ballet Olympia” at the Suntrust Building in Downtown to “Homage to King” in Freedom Park to “Gate City Guard” in Piedmont Park.

"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
Practically everyone who’s ever been to Piedmont Park has seen “Gate City Guard”, sometimes referred to as the Peace Monument, but I’m not certain many realize its significance, which is rather profound. It’s a testament to Atlanta’s forward thinking.

After the Civil War, many—from both sides—found “Reconstruction” a challenge. And it makes sense…the emotional constructs created by war are not, by most, dispelled with the announcement that a war has ended.

"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
The story is more complex than I’ll explain here, but in short, a group of Atlantans recognized the importance of a monument to the first “Northern Mission” being erected in Atlanta. The result: “Gate City Guard” and healing of our citizens' spirit.

To further describe this magnificent sculpture, let me borrow from Atlanta INtown Newspaper:

“…Allen George Newman’s work as “perhaps the city’s most beautiful.” The winged goddess of Peace announcing the South’s surrender is ordering a Confederate soldier to lay down his weapon. The Atlantan whose passion inspired the creation and erection of the Peace Monument was Colonel Joseph Francis Burke, commander of the Gate City Guard on its reconciliation tour of the north. Burke was a resident of today’s Midtown community and once lived on the corner of Peachtree Place and Crescent Avenue.”

Today, on the Saturday closest to October 11, the original dedication date in 1911, the public is invited to a rededication ceremony. On that date in 1911, various sources report that 50,000 to 75,000 people attended that original dedication. To put that into perspective, at the time of the 1895 Cotton States Exposition, held in Piedmont Park, the City’s population was only 75,000.

To me, the “Gate City Guard” not only has an historical significance, it represents Atlanta’s forward thinking and forward momentum. Yes, there are  times when it has seemed not quite the case, but we’ve been fortunate to have brave souls step up throughout the years to keep us heading in the right direction.

"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
"Gate City Guard" in Piedmont Park
I’m hopeful that the reappearance of construction cranes on our City’s skyline is a rededication to moving our beautiful City forward, for the betterment of all her citizens. And I invite you to join me in Piedmont Park on a Saturday morning in October for the rededication of the “Gate City Guard.”

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