I have lived in Atlanta all my life and her mysteries, myths and urban legends never cease to amaze me. Her citizens and visitors alike walk over hallowed battle grounds every day and pass locations with significant or quirky history that is often ignored or overlooked.
Coca-Cola is about as Atlanta as you can get and their unique bottle design is recognized all over the world. Many people believe the shape was modeled after hobble-skirts popular in 1916 when the bottle design was approved. The company website mentions this. Still others including various Coca-Cola museum employees in Atlanta and Las Vegas state there was a desire to make the bottle into the shape of the kola nut or coca leaf since those two items are key in making the official drink of Atlanta. The story goes a researcher was sent out to discover the exact shape of the items but a mistake was made along the way since the bottle actually resembles the shape of a cacao tree seed pod which yields chocolate. Another theory advises the shape of the bottle actually has to do with a sense of recognition by feel. Back in the day the only way to get an icy cold Coke was to place the bottles in containers full of ice. The company wanted to make sure when patrons stuck their hands down in the icy slush they emerged with a Coke and not the drink of a competitor. The unusual shape helped to identify their product by feel.
More times than not when you locate a Lowe’s Home Improvement Center in Atlanta you will also find a Home Depot close by. Though the two companies are fierce competitors they seem to like to cohabitate the same area. The explanation has become an urban legend that has gone awry. It has also reached viral email proportions. A popular email chain letter that makes the rounds every so often states the reason for the close relationship has to do with a marital feud. The story goes a wife of one of the Home Depot founders was jilted and in retaliation she began the Lowe’s business. This is terrible misinformation as both companies were founded by men. Lowe’s began in 1946 while Home Depot hit the scene in 1978.
A little mystery surrounds Lenox Mall – the first major shopping mall in Georgia. A huge boulder was unearthed when developers were clearing the land. What made this rock so special is it bore the name Colonel McCormack. Researchers poured over Civil War rolls but no connections were ever made that could explain the boulder carving or how it came to be on the property.
Hundreds of people walk by an interesting cornerstone every day at the Carnegie Street entrance for the Peachtree Center MARTA Station. What they do not realize is the cornerstone does not refer to the station. It was the cornerstone for a building that stood on the property prior to the station being built. Jasper Newton Smith was a real estate investor who owned the commercial building that sat at the station site. Mr. Smith stipulated that if the building was ever torn down the cornerstone could not leave the property. It hasn’t. That was not the end of Mr. Smith’s eccentricity. He is resting quietly at Oakland Cemeterywith a life-size statue of himself sitting on top of his grave.
Atlanta has been known by several other names. School children learn all about Standing Peachtree which dates back to Indian times, Terminus which referred to the eastern end of the rail line that ended in Atlanta , and Marthasville named after the daughter of a Georgia governor, but many do not realize Atlanta was also known as Thrasherville at one time. John Thrasher was an employee of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He and his crew lived in what is today downtown Atlanta while the rails were being laid and eventually Thrasher had a few homes and general store there. a state historical marker tells of Thrashers importance to the city of Atlanta located outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Marietta Street. Another tale explains how Atlanta got her name. Apparently an employee of the Western and Atlantic Railroad suggested the settlement should be called Atlantica-Pacifica but thankfully it was shortened to Atlanta. Instead of current citizens telling people they are from the A-T-L, they could be saying they hail from the A and P.
Sadly the battle that began Sherman’s March to the Sea – the Battle of Atlanta - remains somewhat of a mystery to citizens of Atlanta as well as her many visitors. The area where the fighting occurred is very heavily commercialized today and few markers tell the story. Most people simply know the story of the battle through the movie Gone with the Wind which makes it seem like the battle was one very long day as Miss Melanie was giving birth to Ashley’s baby, but in actuality the battle was a four month long siege and consisted of smaller battles such as the Battle of Peachtree Creek and the Battle of Ezra Church. The Atlanta Cyclorama is the best place to get a true feel for the battle.
The very emblem for the city of Atlanta contains a myth. A phoenix, a mythical bird from ancient times is depicted on the city’s seal. A phoenix will burn to ashes and then rise again. The cycle is thought to be a continuous process and fits the image of Atlanta dating back to the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War. A very popular statue in Atlanta titled From the Ashes aka The Phoenix Statue resides in Woodruff Park. Originally it was commissioned from sculptor Jim Segler by Rich’s Department Store. The statue depicts a woman holding a phoenix above her head. The statue symbolizes Atlanta’s comeback and rebirth of the Civil War as well as recognizes the 100th birthday of the department store in 1967.