By Shannon McCaffrey
The Atlanta Urban Design Commission has recognized The Grant Park Conservancy’s Historic Preservation Project with an Award of Excellence for the restoration of three historically significant landmarks in the park: the Milledge Fountain, the Lion Bridge and the Erskine Fountain. The Award of Excellence honors projects, programs or people that have contributed to the enhancement of Atlanta’s physical character.
“We are honored for our Historic Preservation Project to be recognized by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission,” Grant Park Conservancy Executive Director Michelle Blackmon said. “Revitalizing these unique architectural features not only makes the park more attractive and welcoming to visitors today, but it provides an important link between its past and present.”
Blackmon was joined by GPC Historic Preservation Project Manager, John Sitton as well as Conservancy staff members Nikki Zimmerman and Alisa Chambers when she accepted the award on behalf of the Conservancy Tuesday night at a ceremony marking the 44th annual Atlanta Urban Design Commission Awards.
As Atlanta’s oldest park, Grant Park holds an important place in the city’s landscape. The Grant Park Conservancy’s Historic Preservation Project was launched in 2017 with the aim of restoring architectural features disintegrating after decades of neglect. The Conservancy raised more than $450,000 for the repairs and worked with contractors and artisans to ensure the restoration was historically accurate.
For years, the Milledge Fountain sat dry and silent at one of the park’s busiest entrances. Today water flows again from the 1927 fountain and a new welcome plaza – with a seal marking the site as “The People’s Playground” – greets visitors. The fountain has again become a gathering spot, popular for special photos, picnics, and even small weddings.
The Lion Bridge had been a carriage and pedestrian entrance since about 1886. But years of erosion had left the foundation severely compromised and the distinctive lion head features had crumbled beyond repair. With painstaking care, the north wall was disassembled, stone by stone to allow for repairs to the foundation, then reassembled. A cast was created to craft four lion head replicas and brick pavers were installed between the walls of the bridge to create a picnic patio. Additionally, a rain garden was installed to protect against future erosion.
At the Erskine Fountain, an overhaul restored the bronze fountain, added in seating and installed a cobblestone entryway. A Daffodil Project garden now graces the site, honoring children who were killed during the Holocaust. Water again cascades from the 1896 fountain, originally donated to Atlanta to celebrate the life of Judge John Erskine.
The Grant Park Conservancy is grateful for the funding it has received from many organizations and individuals to make this restoration work possible. That includes generous support from Park Pride, the Friends of Erskine, the Callahan Incentive Grant from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Grant Park Neighborhood Association, and gifts on behalf of Congregation Bet Haverim.
The Grant Park Conservancy is committed to the restoration, beautification and maintenance of historic Grant Park. In partnership with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks & Recreation, the Conservancy works to focus new resources toward restoration and maintenance efforts and to adapt to the changing needs of its users. For additional information visit www.gpconservancy.org or contact Michelle Blackmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.