When we saw the latest addition to the Atlanta BeltLine’s permanent art collection—a thirteen-ton sculpture crafted out of old train tracks—our first thought was: This seems mighty familiar. Then we realized, Iron Column is simply the latest in a line of wrecking-ball rubble reassembled in an effort to preserve something of Atlanta’s bulldozed past.
Crafted from old sections of track, switches, spikes, and other artifacts found on the BeltLine, Phil Proctor’s sculpture also pays homage to another aspect of Atlanta’s railway past: It’s modeled after the Corinthian columns of Downtown’s once-grand Union Station, demolished in 1972. Located on the Eastside Trail, close to the skate park.
Carnegie Education Pavilion
Better known as the “Carnegie arch,” this structure is composed of pillars and other Beaux Arts scraps from the Carnegie Library, which opened in 1902 and was demolished in 1977. Erected during the public art push preceding the 1996 Olympics, the pavilion was designed by Henri Jova, the architect better known for seventies structures like Colony Square. Fun fact: The floor of the pavilion contains the seals of nine local colleges, including Spelman and Emory. Located in Hardy Ivy Park, across Peachtree Street from SunTrust Plaza.
Equitable Building Columns
While it would be logical to presume the blocky 1960s Equitable Building replaced the structure of the same name, logic doesn’t always factor into our city’s planning decisions. The current Equitable Building occupies a lot that once housed the Piedmont Hotel; the original Equitable was located across Woodruff Park—where SunTrust Tower (now part of Georgia State) stands. After the first Equitable was demolished in 1971, artifacts were snatched up by collectors. Several columns remain at the original location, others were placed at the new Equitable tower. Located at 25 Park Place.
The Federal Reserve Eagle
When the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta decamped to Midtown in 2001 from the Marietta Street property it had occupied since 1918, it took along six souvenirs: five columns from the old structure and a custom, 3,300-pound bronze eagle with a sixteen-foot wingspan. The bird now roosts on one of the columns, which stand on the lawn in front of the new ten-story white marble tower. Fun fact: Though it looks classic, the eagle is of Mad Men vintage, created by sculptor Elbert Weinberg in 1964. Located at the intersection of Peachtree and Tenth streets.
Photographs by Caroline C. Kilgore. Column: Rebecca Burns. Depot: Kuhns, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center. Carnegie postcard: Courtesy Rebecca Burns. Equitable Building: A. Wittemann, Kenan Research Ceenter at the Atlanta History Center. The Federal Reserve: Marion Johnson, Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.
This article originally appeared in our February 2014 issue under the headline “In the history column.”