Historical Preservation's Impact on Atlanta's Economy and Physical State
All cities have a history; Atlanta is no exception. In fact, many significant events have taken place on its soil that has shaped the city and its development. For example, the Cherokee nation established settlements around the city before European colonization. From there, settlement occurred and with it eventually the American Revolution. Many years later, Sherman’s March to the Sea passed through the city during the
Civil War. In the 1960’s, various civil rights events also took place within. From this brief look at Atlanta’s history, it is evident that our city would be quite different without these events taking place. Further, the city would also be drastically different if the historical sites that existed from these time periods were not preserved. At an obvious level, the shape of the city would change because particular buildings and attractions would no longer exist; however, when looking at the benefits of such sites, the development of Atlanta would also be significantly different. More specifically, the historical preservation of sites and buildings around Atlanta has led to rapid economic growth that shapes the city’s aesthetic and future innovations.
Before delving into specific examples of this phenomenon it is first essential to consider the general benefits mentioned in the introduction. In order to effectively address this, I will utilize sources from the annotated bibliography assignment. The first benefit of historical preservation is the “job creation…and training” (Rypkema), which in turn leads to the creation of skilled workers who are essential to a healthy, thriving economy. (As an effect, population and per capita may also increase through the addition of more, better-paying jobs.) Along with the economic development, historical preservation shapes the city due to the fact that “historic preservation in Georgia spurs investment, attracts visitors, revitalizes downtowns, and effectively leverages scarce resources” (Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division). While all of these components are equally important to Atlanta’s economy and infrastructure, it’s also important to analysis how historical
preservation and the economic development shapes Atlanta’s physical appearance. In more detail, the historical sites and buildings provide a specific look or aesthetic to the area creating what O’Connell calls “communities with character”. Not only does this quality foster a sense of pride for residents but also attracts tourists to experience the area’s unique flavor. In turn, the local economy benefits from the tourism sector, though the communities visual aesthetic. An example would be the Sweet Auburn neighborhood pictured above.
From these points, one may feel highly persuaded that historical preservation is the best solution for the question of decaying buildings, but there are also disadvantages one should consider. For example, most historical buildings do not provide the same accommodations for those with disabilities as newer buildings. Is the visual aesthetic and economic contribution worth the strain on the disabled population? Furthermore, one must also consider the rights of property owners versus making the historical site assessable for the general public.
Overall historical preservation has shaped the city and its sites as we know them today. In order to address the central theme, analysis of several examples is necessary to understanding our Atlanta.
For more information on Georgia’s history, please click the link below to view the Capitol’s official website.
Georgia State Capitol
Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the Georgia State Capitol stands as one of Georgia’s most notable and recognizable historical buildings. Built in the late 1800’s, the Capitol itself is composed of marble and the highly visible gold dome. Within its marble walls are antique paintings, furniture, and fixtures. One of the most obvious ways this example of historical preservation contributes to economic development and the shape of Atlanta is through the legislation that enters its doors. However, one may argue that this transaction of ideas could occur anywhere, so it may be more helpful and accurate to focus on the building through the lens of tourism for the sake of the piece.
Unlike many historical sites, the Georgia State Capitol does not have an entry fee, which means that there is no profit being directly made from patrons visiting the site. However, tourism to the Capitol does still contribute to Atlanta’s economy indirectly. By this, I mean that the site attracts tourists to the Atlanta area. When visitors come to the Capitol they will most likely enjoy a meal and maybe spend additional time in the city shopping or even visiting other locations. All in all, the preservation attracts people to the area who will inevitably spend, in turn, strengthening Atlanta’s economy and providing funds for future innovations.
In addition to the economy, the Capitol also adds to Atlanta’s visual aesthetic. Could you imagine the skyline without the golden dome peeking out of the horizon? For example, pulling into the city on the Westbound MARTA train line, the Capitol is one of the first recognizable buildings to welcome visitors to the city. Further, visitors may have a similar experience when driving down Piedmont Avenue or even walking. To summarize, without the Capitol, Atlanta would have a completely different look and lose the economic activity associated with one of its most notable buildings.
In addition, the Capitol also exemplifies a solution to a problem identified in the opening paragraph. Namely, the lack of accommodations for the disabled or those with special needs, such a mothers with strollers. Because of recent construction projects to preserve the building’s infrastructure, the Capitol has also had innovations such as installing ramps and elevators to make the building more accessible for all citizens. Not only does this address the problem one may raise to argue the point, but it also provides an example of how the needs of historically preserved buildings can yield jobs that contribute to the economy, the people, and the history.
For more information on the Georgia State Capitol, the link for the site’s official website is included below.
Like the Georgia State Capitol, Oakland Cemetery was established in the late 1880’s. Upon entering the brick gate, one is aware of the immense amount of history present through both the structures and residents. For example, one may stumble upon Margret Mitchell’s resting place or grand marble mausoleums inscribed with the date of a member who had passed away centuries ago. Regardless of individual experience, the site acts as a significant piece of both Atlanta’s past as well as its present and future economy.
In a similar regard to the Capital, Oakland also does not require payment from visitors but still contributes to the economy just from attracting people to the area. One example that can be seen from the site is a restaurant called Six Feet Under. At this location, they are known for their seafood, beer, and a balcony that overlooks the cemetery. From this example, it’s clear to see that historical sites’ preservation has created new innovations and business that contribute both to the physical space as well as the economy of Atlanta’s surrounding economy.
Further, Oakland also promotes the use of Atlanta’s public transit, due to its close proximity to the King Memorial station. By promoting this use of transformation the site contributes to MARTA innovations as well as the economy in general.
For more information on Oakland Cemetry, the link for the site’s official website is included below.
Centennial Olympic Park
In 1996, the summer Olympic games came to Atlanta, Georgia. Not only did this give a boost to the local economy, but the city gained the world’s attention. In commemoration of the games, Atlanta created Centennial Olympic Park with brick paths that lead to sculptures, fountains, grassy rest areas.
Aside from the visual aesthetic Centennial offers, the park also contributes greatly to both Atlanta’s economy as well as appearance. Let’s begin with the economy. As many are probably aware, within Centennial are several popular tourist
locations including the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Children’s Museum, the Center for Human and Civil Rights, and the College Football Hall of Fame. Due to the volume of visitors these sites receive, they contribute significantly to Atlanta’s economy. However, these funds are dependent on the historical preservation of Centennial, due to the fact that the park is the connection between the attractions. It’s where families enjoy their lunch in-between attractions. It’s where children splash around in the dancing fountain on a hot summer’s day. It’s where school children walk beaming with excitement. It’s where people come together in Atlanta. Centennial and Atlanta are synonymous. Which means that the park is integral to Atlanta’s physical appearance.
For more information on Centennial Olympic Park, the link for the site’s official website is included below.
An Area of Particular Concern when Considering Historical Preservation
Another relevant topic of discussion is whether or not certain events in the city’s history should be preserved. As exemplified in the introduction, Atlanta has been home to several historical happenings throughout the decades. Some of these events are considered good by the mainstream opinion, while others are seen in a negative light. There is no question that the good qualities of the city should be preserved and celebrated, but what about the bad? Should we ignore our past in order to move forward or should we preserve our mistakes and learn from them as a united people?
Further, these questions apply to the three sites discussed above. To begin, some of the paintings and statues within the Capitol are of past leaders who supported slavery and segregation policies. Should these paintings be dismantled? Aside from those politicians, one leader stands in juxtaposition: Martin Luther King Junior. Is the inclusion and representation of his beliefs enough to correct the injustices committed by past leaders?
In a similar regard, Oakland Cemetery is home to numerous Confederate soldier’s graves. Of course, this part of Atlanta’s history was wrong due to the injustices pushed upon African Americans, but it’s also important to remember that there are actual people and families connected to those headstones. How should we honor those who lost their lives, while not promoting injustices?
Furthermore, Centennial Olympic Park also falls into this category, due to the number of homeless people displaced in the wake of the summer Olympics. This negative effect is minimized, due to the unpleasant nature of the subject, but should it be preserved in order to raise awareness of the homeless population’s plight in Atlanta?
Regardless of your political opinion, it is important to remember that there are always negative aspects to history. Relating back to historical preservation, those who preserve the sites need to weigh the importance of depicting an accurate betrayal of the site versus a politically neutral view. According to Winsboro, “their [historians] efforts to ensure accuracy and balance in approving or maintaining displays and symbols of yesteryear resource personnel must be aware of the consequences today of supporting, rejecting, or modifying displays or symbols of the Lost Cause version of history”, defining and depicting the weightiness of the matter. Due to the heated debate over such past symbols, I assume that this topic will only gain relevance in the future.
A General Consensus of Atlanta's Historical Preservation
On a broader scale, the benefits of historical preservation can be seen throughout the entire city, in addition to the specific examples. As mentioned previously, sites attract tourist to the area which fuels the tourist sector of the economy. This also promotes innovation in the city to improve the experience for visitors. (This innovation could include new signs, decorative street art, fountains, and sitting area.) Not only do these innovations shape the physical appearance of the city, but also historical sites themselves play a significant role in Atlanta’s
aesthetic. Examples of this visual aesthetic would include Hurt Plaza, the Flatiron Building, and Cenntinial Park. Furthermore, historical preservation also contributes to the economy through the need for skilled workers.
Even though the benefits are evident, it is also to weigh the disadvantages identified in the opening paragraph. One such disadvantage mentioned was that of accessibility for those with disabilities. Although many sites are hard to access for such individuals, changes have also been made to accommodate such needs. For example, there is a ramp at the Capital to allow disable patrons access to the build. Looking at the issue of property rights will still remain to be a significant problem in the future when regarding historical preservation. It may take some time to figure out the proper way to go about setting the dispute between public entitlement and private property as buildings gain historical significance.
In sum, Atlanta’s rapidly growing economy is in part due to the successful preservation of historical sites. Further, these sites shape the physical appearance that made our city and the communities within unique.
Rypkema, Donovan. “Culture, Historic Preservation and Economic Development in the 21st Century.” Columbia, http://www.columbia.edu/cu/china/DRPAP.html. Accessed 4 March 2017.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division. “Economic Incentives.” Georgia Department of Natural Resources, http://georgiashpo.org/incentives/development.
O’Connell, Kim A. “Caught Between Housing & History”. Journal of Housing & Community Development, Sept./Oct. 2004, http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=9&sid=2b9fcc29-0ecb-4482-9e97-e457bac7d8dc%40sessionmgr104&hid=119&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=14503054&db=a9h
Winsboro, Irvin D.S. “The Confederate Monument Movement as a Policy Dilemma for Resource Managers of Parks, Cultural Sites, and Protected Places: Florida as a Case Study”. The George Wright Forum, 2016, http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=fe21fff3-1617-4bca-a8fb-c0171317b170%40sessionmgr104&vid=3&hid=4202
Built Environment Analysis Description
For more information on the project, the link to Dr. Wharton’s website is included below.