Today, there is a stark contrast between Downtown and Midtown Atlanta. Over the past 30 years, Downtown Atlanta has been on the decline. Companies are leaving, buildings are beginning to decay, and the driving force of commercial business in the area revolves around Georgia State Students, most of which are absent for a quarter of the year, and conference attendees. Downtown to many Atlanteans can give off a dreary presence these days. However, a quick walk over the Peachtree St. bridge will abruptly transition you into Midtown. All of the sudden, you are surrounded by filled restaurants, expensive high-rises, and new tech company headquarters. When did Midtown become this booming area of both the finance and technology industries? 30 years ago, the contrast between Downtown and Midtown was quite the opposite. One of the largest contributing factors to the transformation of Midtown was that of Georgia Tech and the development of Technology Square under the leadership of Dr. Wayne Clough. Since 2015, hundreds of companies have set-up regional headquarters, research facilities, and in some cases, international headquarters in and around Technology Square. Today, Tech has developed relationships with many of the companies who have moved to the perimeter of the campus, but this was not the case 30 years ago.
While I only had time to take a quick selfie on my way to work, Piedmont Park has been one of my favorite places in Atlanta for my whole life. I spent many summer days in the park with either my family or the various summer camps I went to as a kid. Today, I’m lucky enough to be able to live just a 5 minute walk from this beautiful park. Because of its location and size, Piedmont Park has become one of the most popular green spaces in Atlanta. My favorite spot in the park is the long meadow that runs along 10th street (Pictured).
With a history spanning back nearly 200 years, Piedmont Park holds a special place in the hearts of many Atlanteans. Initially, like many other areas in Atlanta, Piedmont Park was just a forest. That is, until 1834, when the land was purchased by the Walker family to start a farm. They were able to purchase the land for $450, which is crazy given that figure is half of my rent. The Walker Family used the space as farmland until 1887, when the Gentlemen’s Driving Club (Horse Riding) purchased the land. After the land was purchased by the Driving Club, an arrangement was made with the Piedmont Exposition Company to hold expositions on the unused parts of the land, turning the unused land into fairgrounds. The fairgrounds were used for 20 years, and eventually grew in to disrepair. In 1909, the city decided to transform the fairgrounds into a park; thus Piedmont Park was established.
While the park has gone through several refresh projects and expansions, some of the original stone structures that were built for the 1895 Cotton State and International Exposition remain present such as the stairs leading up to the tennis courts and ball fields; the same area where Booker T. Washington delivered his Atlanta Compromise Speech. What was once the Gentlemen’s Drivers Club horse track, is now a half-mile running loop. Since Piedmont Park has been present for much of Atlanta’s growth, there are signs of Atlanta’s dark past that remain in the park. The park includes two monuments; the Pioneer Women Monument, dedicated to the Atlanta Pioneer Women’s Society, and the Peace Monument, an early 20th century confederate monument. The Peace Monument has been the subject of controversy in past years and there was even an attempt to tear it down by protesters a few years ago . Because of a Georgia law prohibiting the demolition of confederate monuments, signs have been added in front of the statue to give further historical context to the dark history that surrounds the statue . While this statue is a symbol of a darker time for Atlanta, the park itself represents to me the progress that has been made in our city, as on any given day you will see people of all walks of life, running, walking, picnicking, and playing various sports together.