Anyone that knows me can tell you I am a lover of art, music and movies. Above all, I absorb history. I read encyclopedias and books about president as a child. I’ve been called “Sravipedia” before, and I play trivia with friends almost every week, and usually win!
Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and West Point, Georgia, living in Athens, Georgia during college, and the D.C. suburbs after college, I lived in places rich in history and culture. The only times I explored these parts of the city were when friends and family visited though. Why did I wait for those opportunities to explore?
After a trip to New Orleans with my parents where we vowed to be tourists in the city where I was born and they lived for seven years, I decided to do the same in Atlanta and all over Georgia. I am the Cajun Peach, after all. I’m not talking about just Stone Mountain, the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola, though they are definitely worthy places to visit. That’s where we took friends and family in Atlanta when they were visiting. And the Indian grocery store, of course.
Growing up, we took every person who visited us in West Point to the West Point Dam because that was the only interesting thing in our hometown. Twenty miles away were Callaway Gardens, FDR’s Little White House and FDR State Park. That usually got us at least a day, maybe two if the visitors were horticulturalists like my mother. Me being the history and presidential buff, I had to read every plaque in FDR’s Little White House.
My heart soared the weekend that my mother and I went to Plains to attend President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School Class at Maranatha Baptist Church. The rooms at the Plains Inn where we stayed are designed for each decade that President Carter has been alive, from the 1920s until the 1980s when his term as president ended in January 1981. The home that the Carters have lived in since the 1960s is just as modest as the one that he grew up in. It would be hard pressed to find a president that has given back so much to his country after his term ended, and we are lucky to have such history in our own backyard.
When I was in college at the University of Georgia, and for 11 years after college (after a 2 year stint in the Washington D.C. area), I was fortunate to live in Athens, a city even older than West Point, where I grew up, and Atlanta, where I live now. The North Campus of UGA and downtown Athens are filled with historic markers dating back to the late 18th century when the city began and the university was founded. The town escaped the destruction of Sherman’s March during the civil war because it is northeast of the direction Sherman was headed to Savannah.
In Jackson County, Crawford Long was the first to use an anesthetic in surgery in 1842. Doctors Day was started in his honor on March 30, 1933 on his birthday in nearby Winder, Georgia, and is now celebrated nationwide.
In my own backyard, history dates back to the 1840s when Atlanta began as Terminus, but Atlanta’s history has been burned down, torn down, rebuilt and paved over many times in those decades. We have so much history just in the city limits of Atlanta that we either forget, or have never learned about. Visit the Atlanta History Center, the State Capitol Building, the Margaret Mitchell House, and you will just scratch the surface of the history that surrounds us.
I make the most of the city that I live in. I enjoy learning about the history, seeing the sights, and taking in concerts. I have season tickets to Broadway shows at The Fox Theatre, memberships to the High Museum, Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and Oakland Cemetery. Oakland Cemetery may be my favorite place out of all of these. One of the first graves you see when you walk in is Martha Atalanta Lumpkin Compton, the daughter of Governor Wilson Lumpkin. Atlanta was first named Terminus in 1837, then Marthasville on December 23, 1843 in honor of Governor Lumpkin’s daughter, and finally became Atlanta on December 29, 1845.
Atlanta’s history is being rediscovered and valued, and even preserved thanks to The BeltLine and projects like Ponce City Market. Even the restoration of the Clermont Hotel deserves a hand. It went from motor lodge to seedy motel to condemned building and is now beautiful hotel property with a rooftop lounge. At least they didn’t change Clermont Lounge!
Thanks to tours like Phoenix Flies and organizations like Atlanta Preservation Center and Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, I have learned and continue to learn about the history of Atlanta and Georgia overall. In March, I did a tour of Pullman Yards with Phoenix Flies, and learned about the filming being done here, and the future of the restoration project.
I have an annual parking pass for Georgia State Parks, and try to take as many trips out of the city as I can to explore our state treasures. I do travel throughout the country and overseas, but I know that there is so much to see in our own state. I can’t ignore our own backyard.