Author is standing right in front of the plaque signifying Kile's Corner.
Close-up of the “Kile’s Corner” plaque.
This is a wide shot of the intersection of Marietta and Edgewood. In the background, one can spot the plaque although it nearly blends into the urban environment.
Wide shot of the plaque on the intersection of Marietta and Edgewood.

At the crossroads of two busy downtown streets lies a not so insignificant marker of early Atlantan history. To the untrained eye, it’s nearly imperceptible. The above image captures the William Oliver Condo building, and towards the western side of the building is a humble plaque. On closer inspection, the details are rather sparse: this plaque signifies the original location of a store owned by a Mr. Thomas Kile where the first municipal election took place in 1848. Originally, this grabbed my attention because I wanted to know more about the city’s history before the Civil War. Who could have known that such an occasion would warrant only a small marker and not something more eye-catching?

Atlanta at the time of the election was not yet even ten years old. Founded in 1837, the city was the junction for the Western and Atlantic, Georgia, and Macon and Western Railroads.1 One day, Atlanta would grow into a larger railroad hub, but in those days, the city would have looked unrecognizable not only to 21st-century residents but also to folks after Reconstruction. The fall before the 1848 election, a Mr. William N. White from New York state resided in Atlanta for three months and documented his experiences in his diary and private letters. According to his account, the built environment was modest, to say the least. All 2,500 residents lived in a “city” with no churches but had two small schools, two hotels, 30 stores, and three newspapers. Surprisingly, Atlanta in late 1847 had yet to elect a city government, so one can imagine the rough character of a place where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” Nevertheless, Mr. White surely had a memorable, albeit short, stay in a state he deems the “Italy of America”: comfortably warm in its climate and in the temperament of its people.2

On January 29, 1848, 215 eligible voters casted their votes to elect Atlanta’s first mayor and six city council members. Mr. Moses W. Formwalt who was a tinner by profession emerged victorious as the new mayor and reportedly served the city well for his one-year term. For the longest time, his grave in Oakland Cemetery not only suffered from neglect but also had no distinguishing grave markers. It wasn’t until late 1916 when a proper granite monument was erected in Formwalt’s honor.3

Atlanta may have changed greatly since Mayor Formwalt’s time, but vestiges of past eras remain embedded in the city we now call home.

  1. Ambrose, Andy. “Atlanta.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, last modified Jun 8, 2022.; Timothy J. Crimmins, “The Atlanta Palimpsest: Stripping Away the Layers of the Past,” Atlanta Historical Journal 26, no. 2-3 (Summer-Fall 1982): 30 ↩︎
  2. “Early Days of Atlanta as Described in Diary of Pioneer: City Had No Government, Not Even a Church, Before Election of Moses Form Walt, Its First Mayor, to Whom Monument Was Unveiled Last Week. Early Days of Atlanta as Described in Diary,” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), November 26, 1916, sec. MAGAZINE SECTION, ↩︎
  3. “COMMITTEE IS TO HUNT FOR DEAD MAN: Grave of Atlanta’s First Mayor to Be Located. MONUMENT WILL BE REARED Councilman Holland Will Introduce the Necessary Resolution. MOSES W. FOOMWALT WAS FIRST MAYOR No Headstone Marks the Spot Where This First Mayor of Atlanta Was Buried.,” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), April 28, 1900,; “LAST RESTING PLACE OF THE FIRST MAYOR LOCATED IN OAKLAND: Grave of Moses W. Formwalt, Atlanta’s First Chief Executive, Found through Aid of P. H. Bell, an Atlanta Lawyer.,” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), March 17, 1907, sec. C,; “Monument Is Unveiled Wednesday In Honor of City’s First Mayor,” The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), November 23, 1916, ↩︎