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Renovations at Grady Hospital uncover intricate, long-hidden bas-relief sculpture

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Created by Julian Hoke Harris, the sculpture was behind a wall for decades and will now be celebrated

Two images showing the massive stone sculpture of the “New South.”
The sculpture, hidden behind a wall for ages.
G. Boyd Leake

Demolition of a midcentury building at Grady Memorial Hospital in downtown has uncovered an intricately carved sculpture, hidden for decades within hospital walls.

Carved by noted artist and longtime Georgia Tech professor Julian Hoke Harris, the sculpture depicts life in the “New South”—a term coined by Henry Grady, for whom the hospital is named.

According to Robert Craig—a professor of architecture at Georgia Tech and one of the most highly regarded historians on Atlanta architecture—the sculpture is one of two that were commissioned by Harris when Grady was built. The companion represents the “Old South” of Gone with the Wind and such.

Senior Policy Advisor at the Atlanta Mayor's Office of Sustainability, G. Boyd Leake, indicated that the rediscovered sculpture will be kept and highlighted “as a focal point for a new entryway garden.”

However, it seems the fate of the “Old South” sculpture isn’t so clear.

Comparing photos from when the hospital building opened with photos of today shows that the sculpture was removed at some point. On a recent walk around the hospital, city observer Terry Kearns discovered what appears to be a large portion of the sculpture, dumped on the ground next to a parking lot.

In the last year, the location of the sculpture has been covered up by the new Marcus Trauma Center.

Postcard of the tan tower, before the interstate was built in front of it.
A view of the hospital after completion in the 1950s, with the “Old South” sculpture visible at the far right.
via Atlanta Time Machine
Where the “Old South” sculpture once was is now a blank wall, while a remnant of the piece sits in the corner of a parking lot.
Google Maps and Terry Kearns

Ironically, these are not the only Harris sculptures to make news in the neighborhood recently.

Preservationists are concerned about two hauntingly beautiful bas-reliefs on the recently closed Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness building. Records indicate that Grady Hospital will take over that building and could potentially demolish it.

Here’s hoping the Harris sculptures can live on.