At the Ormond Street entrance to Grant Park, overrun by dead leaves and a century of vandalism, Erskine Memorial Fountain has seen better days. But its prospects could soon brighten. The first public fountain in Atlanta, it was dedicated in 1896 at the intersection of Peachtree and West Peachtree streets in the heart of the city as a memorial to Judge John Erskine, who by all accounts was a pretty big deal — according to the Atlanta Preservation Center he "saved the legal system of Georgia." The fountain and accompanying bench stand today as a testament to Erskine, Atlanta's affinity for moving historical items at will and its famous inability to follow through. Thanks to organizations like the Erskine Fountain Fund, the Grant Park Conservancy, the Atlanta Preservation Center and a host of others, hope is not lost for the 119-year-old piece of history.
Back in 1896, the fountain was donated by Erskine's daughter, with the understanding that it would be cared for by the city. In his dedicatory remarks, Mayor Porter King went so far as to say "let it be sacredly guarded and cared for by those charged with responsibility of municipal government." King didn't suggest that neglect would be an option. "But if indifference and blight shall run rampant," he didn't say, "go ahead and let this thing rot."
Less than 20 years after its dedication, the city was reworking the intersection of the Peachtree streets, and officials were disenchanted with the notion of retaining the fountain. (It should be noted that a two-decade lifespan seems to be a constant in ATL: Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, etc.) Rather than being "permanently disposed of," as the Chief of Construction for the city stated could happen, the fountain was moved to Grant Park to be loved and cherished ... Which lasted for about a year until it fell back into obscurity and became a great place to commit acts of vandalism.
Now that Grant Park is experiencing an accelerated renaissance, concerned neighbors are taking an interest in the historic relic. As part of Phoenix Flies, there will be a tour and history lesson about the fountain. However, for those who like their history a little boozier, expect a fundraising gala on April 18, featuring biscuits and martinis, which sounds like an awesome way to support restoration and preservation.
· Erskine Fountain Fund [Atlanta Preservation Center]
· The Erskine Memorial Fountain [History Atlanta]
· Erskine Fountain Fund [Facebook]
· Random Pieces of Atlanta's Building History Exist Today [Curbed Atlanta]