After spending a week in the office or working from home, many Atlanta residents want to spend the weekend outdoors enjoying the beautiful Georgia weather. Luckily, amenities exploring the city’s rich history such as historic park tours at Piedmont Park are readily available!
Held each Saturday from March to November at 11 a.m., free, guided 60 to 90-minute walking tours depart from the Green Market Information Booth near the 12th Street entrance to the park. The tours give insight into the development of the park throughout the past two centuries. Piedmont Park has a storied history, from its beginning as a forest to its transformation into a farm to fairgrounds and finally its culmination as a premier Atlanta urban green space.
Originally a forest, the land purchased in 1834 for $450 was transitioned into farmlands. By 1895, the land transformed once again into fairgrounds. The most notable events held were the Piedmont Exposition of 1887 and the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895. The latter was more closely related to a World’s Fair and ran for 100 days, featuring 6,000 exhibits and attracted over 800,000 visitors.
Some features created for the exhibition remain today, such as the ball fields that hosted the first game between Georgia and Auburn, the oldest intercollegiate football rivalry in the South. Stone balustrades scattered around Piedmont Park once held steps leading to the main building built for the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. By the turn of the century, the fairgrounds were in decline. The city of Atlanta elected the Olmsted Brothers, pre-eminent landscape architects of the time, to develop a master plan for the future Piedmont Park. Due to budget limitations, full implementation of the master plan for Piedmont Park did not reach completion until 1995.
In 1989, the green space was in another decline yet again, leading a small group of concerned citizens and civic leaders to join to form the Piedmont Park Conservancy. This private, nonprofit organization dedicates time to the restoration and preservation of Piedmont Park. Since its founding, the Piedmont Park Conservancy raised $66 million in private funds from corporations, foundations and individual contributions. The funds helped to complete the Master Plan, including the renovation of Oak Hill, Lake Clara Meer and the Meadow. The Conservancy, through funding, helps keep the park clean, safe and beautiful while providing many different educational programs.
After a day of exploring and enjoying Piedmont Park, residents and out-of-town guests can visit the many attractions found near the public park. The park’s prime location at 12th and Midtown ensures visitors are never far from the park, shops, restaurants and all the cultural and entertainment venues that downtown Atlanta provides. Popular destinations aside from the park include STK Atlanta, Cafe Intermezzo, The Nook, Ponce City Market and more.
Piedmont Park is an ever-evolving piece of land in the city of Atlanta. In 2022, the Conservancy will join various organizations for Olmsted 200. The event will celebrate Frederick Law Olmsted’s bicentennial birthday, the Olmsted Brothers’ father and designer of New York City’s famed Central Park.
To learn more about the history of Piedmont Park or events happening at the park, visit here.