Atlanta

‘This is our crown jewel’ How Piedmont Park went from a farm to one of Atlanta’s most popular places

ATLANTA — It’s a popular spot to walk around, take in a concert or even enjoy a festival, but the area where Piedmont Park sits has not always been a public park.

As WSB-TV celebrates its 75th anniversary, Channel 2′s Berndt Peterson walks us through how one of the city’s most popular parks came to be.

Piedmont Park sits in the shadow of the Atlanta city skyline. It is bordered by Piedmont Avenue on one side, Monroe Drive on the other, and 10th Street to the south.

“Piedmont Park is the green heart of Atlanta. You are standing on the steps of history everywhere you walk,” said Courtney Bugler with the Piedmont Park Conservancy.

Park docent Blake Reeves told Petersen that the park’s beginnings predate the city itself, dating back to 1821.

“It is purely a farm. This was the original 202-acre plot that was given away by the state of Georgia, and it was a family farm,” Reeves said.

Some 20 years after the end of the Civil War, as a new South was rising, the land was sold and became home to what would later be called the Piedmont Driving Club -- the horse and buggy kind of driving.

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In 1895, the park became home to a World’s Fair. The cotton states and international exposition attracted 800,000 visitors from every corner of the globe.

The grand entrance still stands. A tropical garden constructed for the fair became the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the field hosted what has become the oldest college football rivalry in the south -- Georgia vs. Auburn.

In 1904, the City of Atlanta bought the property for $98,000. Blueprints for a park were drawn up.

By the roaring 20′s, a stone bathhouse was built for visitors who back in those days, swam in the lake.

In the decades that followed, the park became the home of huge festivals and concerts.

It became a place where the city came together to celebrate but also to mourn. And sometimes to protest.

The Piedmont Park Conservancy was formed in 1989 to restore a park that had been in decline.

Today, 6 million people come through the park every year.

“This is our crown jewel. I can’t imagine Atlanta without Piedmont Park,” Bulger said.

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