Our Past Pictures Series examines a string of images from the history of Atlanta. For this edition we look at images associated with Lemuel P. Grant, timely since the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta is upon us, which started on July 22nd, 1864.
Lemuel Pratt Grant is considered one of the founding fathers of the city of Atlanta. Born in Maine in 1817, he came to Atlanta before it was Atlanta with the railroads in the early 1840’s. Like other company men that came with the railways, such as the patriarch of the Peters family that built Ivy Hall, Grant purchased large tracts of land in the growing city that would become Atlanta.
While Grant is remembered by most Atlanta residents for the park that bears his name (he donated the 100 acres in 1882 that would eventually become Grant Park, the Atlanta Cyclorama Civil War Museum and Zoo Atlanta), during his lifetime Grant was widely known as an inventive engineer. For example, after the Civil War he rebuilt a huge downtown viaduct which had been burned down by Union troops. It was this ability to build things that made him a great candidate to design the fortifications around the city of Atlanta.
Starting in August of 1863 the designs put forth by Grant were started. His plan offered a 10-mile circle around Atlanta roughly a mile outside of downtown, with 17 redoubts or forts strategically placed. One of these redoubts was Fort Walker; the remains of the fort can still be seen at the top of the highest hill in the southeast corner of Grant Park.
On the north Grant’s fortifications ran roughly near Ponce de Leon; on the east they ran along Boulevard; on the south they followed McDonough Drive and on the west they ran along Ashby Street. When Sherman’s troops surrounded the city in July of 1864, they decided to siege the city rather than take it with frontal assaults.
I will not go into the details of the siege that followed throughout August. Because of maneuvers, the capture of railroads and skirmishes throughout the month, Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood decided to pull out of the city on September 1st. On September 2nd the Mayor of Atlanta and several leading citizens surrendered the city to Sherman’s subordinates.
Lemuel P. Grant’s home, built in 1856, was not burned by Union forces during the occupation of Atlanta. The remains of the home are still in the Grant Park neighborhood as a testament to Atlanta history, restored by the Atlanta Preservation Center. I say remains because all that is left is the first floor; the top two floors of the original Italianate structure were lost to neglect and time.
Grant died in 1893, but his mansion is in its original location; there are only three of these antebellum homes left within the city of Atlanta. Rumor has it that Union forces did not burn the home because they found Free Mason garments or literature. General Sherman ordered the homes of Free Masons should not be harassed by Union soldiers or touched by the torch.
The Atlanta Preservation Center purchased the home for $109,000 in December of 2001 and have since improved the home to its current state. In addition to housing the Preservation Center offices, it serves as an exhibit space. They host art and photography exhibits, along with book signings and other affairs. Check the Atlanta Preservation Center website for details of upcoming events and to stay current on Atlanta preservation.