The World War I memorial in Pershing Point Park. (Photo by Atlanta Preservation Center.)

The World War I memorial in Midtown’s Pershing Point Park is on its way to becoming a City landmark.

The Atlanta City Council on Nov. 6 — just ahead of Veterans Day — unanimously approved an ordinance designating the Fulton County World War I Memorial at Peachtree and West Peachtree streets as a landmark building/site, which would give the City review powers over any changes or demolition. 

The City already owns the site, but advocates say that offers no real protection at Atlanta’s current rate of redevelopment. Earlier this year, the nonprofit Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) pressed for landmarking the entire park after advocacy by one of its members, Alexander Heideman, who researched its history. 

A group of residents bought the land in 1918 and gave it to the City on the condition that it remain open space. Originally named Goldsboro Park, the space was renamed later in 1918 for Gen. John J. Pershing, the famed commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in the war. Shortly thereafter, the City approved a plan by a group of “War Mothers” to raise funds and erect a memorial in the park to locals killed in WWI, which was dedicated in 1920.

The City’s Historic Preservation Studio advanced the landmarking proposal but reduced it to the memorial and an immediately surrounding area after finding that the park was heavily altered in a 1969 renovation. That work, according to the office’s report, included moving the memorial and changing the area around it. 

The report notes some additional historical facts. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh visited the memorial with the Daughters of the Confederacy and laid a wreath in October 1927 as part of a “victory trip” after his pioneering solo transatlantic flight that year. 

A second monument, the report notes, was added in 1928 to Betty Jones, a philanthropist who founded the War Mother’s Service Star Legion of Fulton County. 

The council’s approval can be confirmed by Mayor Andre Dickens, which is expected to be a formality. APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell noted the timing of the decision and Veterans Day’s roots in an observation of the armistice in World War I.

“It is very appropriate that this was done this week, as this memorial honors World War I,” he said. “Veterans Day represents the time when all sides declared a truce, marking the end of warfare at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918. It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  We have found a way through historic preservation to ensure that we still remember 105 years later.”

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  1. Memorials to those involved in “the great war” proliferated in the years after the end of the conflict. The city of Atlanta was no exception as its memorial plaque was erected in 1920. But in the previous year (May of 1919) a 20 foot tall obelisk with a globe on its top was unveiled about 20 miles to the south in the small town of Fairburn, which was then located in Campbell County. (In 1932 Campbell and Milton counties would be merged into Fulton County.)
    On the flank of the granite monument are the names of 24 local soldiers who died as a result of the conflict…both white and black. Also inscribed are the words: “Erected 1919 by the people of Campbell County in memory of their soldier boys who served in the great war.” The WW1 monument stood in a prepared place in the center of US HY 29 until it was moved a few blocks south to Holley Hill Memorial Park for safety reasons in 1967…..where it still stands today. It is said by historians to be the first such monument erected in the state of Georgia, and one of the earliest of its type in the nation.
    I am quite familiar with this monument because the name of my great-grandfather is also inscribed upon it. He was a local physician who examined the young men to ascertain their fitness for war-time service in Europe.

  2. The City’s decision to focus landmarking efforts on the memorial and its immediate vicinity reflects an approach that balances preservation of historical elements with the need for potential future adaptations to the park’s layout.

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