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Georgia Tech Steam Whistle is Driving Midtowner Looney

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From time to time Curbed receives emails that are best responded to directly, in public. This is one of those times.

"Hi, I wanted to touch base with you and ask if you knew about the Georgia Tech Whistle. I recently bought a condo in Midtown and work at a local hospital on night shift. I hear the whistle sound every hour--> waking me up. I performed a quick review of literature and even called GT campus and was told the whistle will stay based on tradition, etc.... and sorry.... I am not asking to stop the whistle or end tradition, but how about decrease the volume/frequency for those of us who do not attend college at GT and are inundated with frequent piercing unwelcomed sounds waking me from sleep. — David"

Hi David!

Thanks for the question, but, unfortunately for your sleep schedule, it looks like you've already found your answer. As you likely read, the steam whistle has been at Georgia Tech for about 120 years. The whistle is blown five minutes before class changes, so on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays that's pretty much hourly between seven and five.

To this day, the university still receives complaints from local residents and workers. In 1981 the complaints came to a head, and the president of the university shut off the whistle. However, after a major outcry from students and faculty the whistle was put back into operation. University officials have instituted changes to make the sound less intrusive, though those haven't been totally effective. As you seem to know.

In the past, groups of students have just stolen the damn whistle, but breaking and entering in order to plunder historic government property probably comes with a stiffer penalty now than in, say, the 1980s. You could try filing an ordinance complaint, but based on Atlanta's current noise control rules, it isn't likely the whistle would be ruled as intrusive. The whistle is also used during football games whenever the Jackets score a touchdown and intermittently when they win a game. That much whistle could probably qualify as a noise violation, but it's unlikely to solve your daytime issues.

Starting in the 2000s, the whistle was blown during speeches memorializing people of Georgia Tech who had died that year. Apparently, they even send replica whistles to the families of those who passed. With all of the baggage and symbolism tied in, Techies will probably remain attached to the whistle for a long time.

· The Georgia Tech Whistle[BuzzPedia]
· ARTICLE IV. NOISE CONTROL[Noise Pollution Clearinghouse]