The Atlanta History Center is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta on 33 acres of green space. The Center is comprised of multiple locations: The Museum, multiple gardens make up the green space of the center, the Swan House, Smith Family Farm and Wood Family Cabin and the Margaret Mitchell House, located in midtown Atlanta. You will need more than an afternoon to see it all. The Center is the largest holder of Civil War artifacts in the country.
I began with a short walk through the gardens just behind the main Center building. There are many trails found here and there is ample signage to lead you to your destination. The Swan House is a magnificent 19th Century home, owned by the Inman family.
Designed by Phillip Shutze, the home was completed in 1928. Edward and Emily Inman used the house largely for entertaining. Mr. Inman was heir to the largest cotton brokerage fortune in Georgia. Edward died in 1931 but Emily and the family continued living there until 1965. In 1966 the residence was acquired by the Atlanta Historical Society.
The mansion holds a great number of original furnishings, many collected by Emily during her travels. The centerpiece of the home is the grand main staircase. The rooms throughout the home are large and airy.
During your tour of the house, you might just run into some of the characters that inhabited and worked in the mansion. No, not ghosts just actors that tell the story of the home.
The Cyclorama is the centerpiece of the History Museum’s collection. One of only two cyclorama’s left in the U.S., it is a intriguing look at the Battle of Atlanta and Civil War history.
The painting is hung in a cone shape and weighted at the bottom, giving the effect that the scene goes on forever. It is 370 long and 50 feet high. The viewing platform puts you at eye level with the battle scene. Cycloramas were popular in the late 1880s. It was the IMAX of it’s the time. There are a number of cycloramas on display in Europe.
Commissioned by General “Blackjack” Logan to celebrate the Union’s victory in Atlanta on July 22, 1864, the Battle of Atlanta debuted in 1886. It was painted by seventeen German artists in Milwaukee. Logan is the largest figure in the piece.
After touring many cities in the Northeast, it was purchased by Georgia promoter Paul Atkinson and moved the painting to Chattanooga. He also changed the artwork to reflect the battle as a victory for the Confederacy. He marketed the painting as the “only Confederate victory ever painted.” That was not as it was orignially intented.
The City of Atlanta housed the painting at Grant Park since 1893. In the 1934, Wilbur Kurtz was hired to restore the painting and added the diorama figures in 1936. By the 1979, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson decided to save the painting. By 2011, the painting was in disrepair and on track to be destroyed but by 2013, some of Atlanta’s wealthy citizens united to raise funds to save the Civil War artifact.
German artisans were again hired to restore the painting to his glory. Some 200 individuals worked to give the work life again. The 132 year old restored Battle of Atlanta was opened on February 22, 2019 at the History Center.
The Battle of Atlanta is a unique piece of history to see. You begin with a short film that explains the history of the artifact. After the presentation visitors are then welcome to view the painting from the viewing platform or from below on the entry level. The presenters help you through a hide and seek game of finding Waldo and it is remarkable the minute details found within the canvas.
In 1939, Mayor Hartsfield viewed the Battle of Atlanta with the cast of Gone with the Wind who were in Atlanta for the premiere of the film. Clark Gable was said to have remarked that they only way to mark the painting more magnificent was to put him it in. Mayor Hartsfield did just that and had Gable’s likeness placed on the face of a dead Yankee. Do not miss this unique Civil War artifact at the History Center.
Alongside the Cyclorama exhibit is a locomotive, the Texas. Texas was also displayed in Grant Park where the Cyclorama had been housed for a great many years in Atlanta. Before its present installation, it underwent a full restoration. It is a striking machine. In fact, it was rolled in through the back wall of the building just as construction of the building was being completed.
Texas was built in 1856 is an important link the Atlanta’s origins. The locomotive served for 51 years contributing to the Atlanta’s rise to become a railroad center. On display, just in front of Texas is the Zero Mile Post. Installed in the 1850s to mark the end of the Western & Atlantic Southern line this is one of Atlanta’s most significant artifacts. These mile posts were used to let the railroad crews where they were along a given route.
The Texas underwent a major upgrade in 1886 when many of its major parts were replaced. It is fitting that the restoration used this date as its hallmark because it was the year the cyclorama was painted. It is fitting that the Texas and the Cyclorama continue to be displayed together as they have since 1927.
Turning Point, the American Civil War
Turning Point conveys the story of the Civil War that divided the country. Here you will walk through time and some fifteen hundred original Union and Confederate artifacts of the Civil War as your guide. Throughout the exhibit you come to understand the hardships and terrors of the war. The 1864 Battle of Atlanta was a turning point in the war. The surrender of the city to General Sherman would ultimately lead to the end of the end of the war.
Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta
This exhibit is a fascinating look at the history of Atlanta through memories of its citizens. Through their individual stories and artifacts displayed they retell poignant, personal and important points about Atlanta’s past.
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story
Atlanta’s own Bobby Jones was a lawyer by profession and one of the most influential golfers of his time. He was the first golfer to win the Grand Slam, four major tournaments in one year, 1930. After his retirement from the sport in 1948, he founded Augusta National Golf Course and co-founded the home of the Master’s Tournament. He was also known for attention to the rules of the sport and his dedication to fair play.
There is much more to see at the Atlanta History Center. Be sure and put this on your must see list. At AHC, you can see it all!