Thursday, July 2, 2020

Goizueta Gardens: Swan Woods

One of my favorite outdoor spaces in Atlanta is Swan Woods at the Atlanta History Center! It's filled with charm, relaxation, and little surprises. 

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

If you've come across any of the doors by Tiny Doors ATL, you know what a delight spying one of them is. The one at the Atlanta History Center is particularly splendid! It's near the beginning of the Swan House Trail on the lawn side at the far northwest corner.

These amazing doors are Karen Anderson Singer's love letters to Atlanta. She's the Founder, Principal Artist and Director at Tiny Doors ATL.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

One of the newer enhancements in Swan Woods is an elevated boardwalk. The preexisting nature trails are still there and I encourage you to explore those, too, if you're so inclined. This elevated path stretches from the Swan House lawn to the Wood Family Cabin! 

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I forget about the wildlife in this garden every time I go, so some of them are a surprise. Don't be too surprised at what you see...you are in the woods, after all. You'll certainly see a wide array of birds and butterflies, and certainly more.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

On Sunday, April 17, 1988, this portion of the Atlanta History Center's gardens was designated a Garden of Peace, the first in a global network of gardens for contemplation and meditation. 

"The Peace Tree", a 14-foot bronze sculpture by Soviet artist Georgi "Gia" Japaridze, was part of an art exchange with the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, Atlanta's sister city in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. The sculpture was dedicated on Sunday, September 24, 1989, with the mayor of Tbilisi in attendance.

To get to the Garden of Peace, take the first "exit" (short side steps) off the elevated Swan Woods Trail having entered at the far front of the Swan House lawn.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Some gardens have benches and other gardens have BENCHES! This one is in the middle of Swan Woods, waiting for YOU to sit, enjoy, contemplate, relax, and commune with nature. 

It also makes me think of fantastical Elvan lands. Cosplay, anyone? Personal photo shoots are an option here, as they are at many local attractions.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

I'm not sure what this is. My first thought was a bird bath, but it's much smaller than bird baths I've seen, but there are small birds, so maybe... It's adorable whatever it is. This is one of the reasons I like this garden so much...lot's of little surprises everywhere!

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The Wood Family Cabin is an 1830s log home, the third historic home at the Atlanta History Center. The others are the 1928 Swan House and the 1840s Smith Family Farm. The wildflower meadow is filled with plants native to Georgia's Piedmont region.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

The cabin is believed to be approximately 200 years old, going back to when this part of Georgia was the frontier! It was moved to the Atlanta History Center in 2014. The Center uses the Wood Family Cabin to tell the story of Native Americans, white settlers, and folk traditions of the rural South. It's also a destination during the Center's "Candlelight Nights" holidays celebrations.

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

"Ambrose" the elephant came to the Atlanta History Center (then the Atlanta Historical Society) in the early 1970s, but she had been well-known in town since the early 1890s! Yes, this, seemingly quaint, marble sculpture is a majestic 130 years old! 

It sat in front of the White Elephant Saloon, named not for the elephant, but because the saloon's proprietor, C.P. Johnson's friends told him that he was going to have a "white elephant on his hands" for opening a saloon where there were already several, an area dubbed the "Whiskey Belt". He opened anyway and kept a white china elephant on the bar.

Jim McWhorter, a friend of Johnson's, gave him a block of White Georgia Marble and a young sculptor, Alex Reeves, carved the elephant. Not terribly familiar with elephants, Reeves would visit Zoo Atlanta to study details of Cleo, a resident elephant at the time. It took four months to carve and weighed 18,700 pounds! 

Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Goizueta Gardens - Swan Woods | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor

Johnson sold the saloon in the early 1900s to J.M. Breslin who moved the sculpture to another property he owned. Ambrose became quite coveted by many and especially by Hunter Perry (1887-1969), who worked at Adair Realty and Trust Company. When Breslin decided to return to his homeland of Ireland in 1920, he told Perry that if he cold sell his property, Ambrose would be a gift. In the late 1930s, the Perry's and Ambrose moved to Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Then a widower, Hunter Perry passed in 1969. His estate was left to his sister who was happy to gift Ambrose to the Atlanta History Center asking only that Perry's name, year of birth, and year of death were placed with sculpture. Today, Ambrose sits in her own special place just outside of the Swan House Boxwood Garden. 

There are other Ambrose stories out there. The information I've shared here comes from a January 1971 Atlanta Constitution article that also cited a 1926 article.

Swan Woods is one of my favorite gardens at the Atlanta History Center, this post sharing only a few of the reasons. Enjoy your visit!

The Other Gardens: This is the second post in a series sharing the beauty of the nine gardens on the Atlanta History Center's 33-acre campus. You can find them all here.

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