Published on March 30th, 2015 |1
Sam Massell: Some “dirt” on the dirt, or a story of our society
By Sam Massell
President of Buckhead Coalition and former Mayor of Atlanta
In the scheme of “park land inventory” in Buckhead, the seven-tenths of an acre bordered by Peachtree Road, Roswell Road, and Sardis Way where East and West Paces Ferry roads
meet—Buckhead’s own “five-points”—is not significant size-wise.
In spite of City Councilman Howard Shook’s good campaign for more public lands in his (7th) District, Buckhead is the site of Atlanta’s largest Park, Chastain (at 320 acres), as well as approximately 683 additional acres through the Community’s 28 square miles.
Historically, this postage stamp size space plays important roles in the lives of many of our residents—and other Atlantans. In fact, I date back to its beginning—as a park, that is.
In the early 1970s, when I was serving as mayor of the city of Atlanta, I obtained through “Mr. Anonymous” three-million dollars from the Woodruff Foundation with which I bought this triangle for a city park. He and I felt it was an eye-sore at the very apex of the most prominent part of our community.
The triangle contained several businesses, including Jacob’s Pharmacy (a branch of the one at Downtown Five Points where the Coca-Cola elixir was first introduced to become the most famous carbonated beverage in the world); the Red Dog Saloon (of which I remember attending its Grand Opening while my wife was attending the Metropolitan Opera presentation of Rigoletto at Atlanta Civic Center waiting for my return as the second intermission
ended), and the White House Restaurant (still operating on Peachtree, but one-and-a-half blocks further north), plus a few other retail establishments.
A “behind the scenes” story is my confusion that I kept stalling construction of the park when the owners of the White House (Demos and Eva Galaktiadis) convinced me this was their livelihood and they needed first to find a new location for continuing the Southern grits for which they had become famous.
As Bob Woodruff had a policy of giving his money privately, we couldn’t name it for him, and its insignificant size ruled out calling it “The” Buckhead Park.
Although political friends have graciously suggested naming it and other places for me I’ve long had a policy opposing naming public property for persons still in life. Atlanta Mayor Bill Hartsfield got upset with me incidentally, naming an incinerator for him, but I made up for it after he passed away, naming our International Airport for him.
Thus, we just called it The Triangle Park, for which no one could fault us.
Now comes philanthropist and one we can appropriately call the Honorary Mayor of Buckhead, Charlie Loudermilk, who has pledged one-and-a-quarter million dollars toward the remodeling of the Triangle and it has been officially named the Charlie Loudermilk Park.
This refurbishing has included a clock/carillon tower, a sculpture of Mr. Loudermilk, and refocusing of its complement to the Buckhead Theater across Roswell Road in which he has also invested what we understand to be multiple millions.
Did I preface this report with reference to the property being historic?
Well, I just didn’t go back far enough. Of major importance is the claim that in the mid-1800s it was a mostly Cherokee Indian trading market, where much of the surrounding land was owned by the Irby family and the area was called Irbyville on the maps.
When someone hung a deer’s head trophy above the entrance to the Tavern, people started using that as its “Google” map point and saying to meet at the buck’s head; thus this evolved into the name of our “township”.
Postscript: On Tuesday, there will be an invitation-only ceremony from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. to re-open Charlie Loudermilk Park after more than a year of re-design and re-construction. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, sponsored by the Buckhead Community Improvement District and the city of Atlanta, the park will then open to the public at 1 p.m. with ice cream being offered to those who attend.