Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lenox Square and the Traveling Musicians

Recently I went to Atlanta's Lenox Square to see a statue that was part of the original group that was placed there to commemorate Joel Chandler Harris's Brer Rabbit story.

Lenox Square was built in 1959 on land that was once owned by John Ottley, president of the First National Bank, who bought the property about 1900 and built a grand summer home call "Joveuse," complete with horse stables and riding trails. My mother rode horses on these trails back in the late 1940's. This picture is my mother with some friends on the trail at Lenox.

I was born in 1959 and as a child remember going to the mall when it was an open air mall. I always remembered the Traveling Musician statue because it was very odd looking. It stood by the stairs near where the post office used to be.

Atlanta has changed a lot since I was a child. Many things that I grew up with are no longer there. But I knew that the Traveling musicians were still there and on a recent trip made sure to go to Lenox to see it.

My son is getting married and the Tux rental is at Men's Warehouse. Rather than going to any location I chose Lenox so I could go see a childhood memory. My mother and my father passed away both within the past two years so this was a sentimental journey for me. I no longer live in Atlanta and moved to Dublin back in 2008. My grandmother was born in Dublin and her father was mayor in 1893. 

When I got to the store I asked the man about the statue that was still there. I knew the others had been removed in the late 70's but this one was still here. The others were of brer rabbit and the tar baby and brer bear and the frog.


I knew these statues were gone because of the changes that Atlanta went through in the political power structure and population of Atlanta. Atlanta got it's first black mayor Maynard Jackson in 1973. This was the same year I went through forced integration at Sutton Middle school which was Tuxedo elementary before. I got my first introduction to race relations in Atlanta at a young age.

You see the statues represented the Old South. Uncle Remus stories that once entertained many a young person in the South. Song of the South is a Disney movie that includes Chandler's characters. This clip with Brer Rabbit and the Tar baby. 

So the statues had to go! But the Traveling musicans did not necessarily represent the Old South so they were safe from the mentality at hand.

Imagine my surprise when the man at the store told me the statue was moved recently. I was shocked!

 He said that "People just didn't understand what the statute was." Well I knew what it was. It was a part of the original display at Lenox and for it to be removed really struck me. He said that the statue went to the Wren's Nest. The Wren's nest is one of the last Victorian Homes in Atlanta and home to Joel Chandler Harris in the late 19th Century and early 20th century. It is now a museum.
My father had taken me to the Wren's nest year's earlier so I knew about. 

I was really heart broken and proceeded to the mall area to ask where the statue had gone to. I approached a lady at the counter inquiring about the statue. One of the first things she told me is that she was one of the first black people to integrate one of the Atlanta High Schools in the late 60's. I knew immediately that she was giving me the response that I had suspected. The statue was one of the last remnants of a by gone era that was removed to make way for "progress"  in Atlanta. The conversation was cordial and she told me the statue went to Madison, Georgia.

So now I had two possible locations that the statue had gone to. I had to find out where it had gone. So......

On my way back to Dublin I stopped along the way in Eatonton to discuss this with brer rabbit at the court house. He did not know either. So when I got home I  began my research. I contacted the wren's nest and they did not know where it had gone to. I continued my research and found that it had been moved to Madison, Ga at the Morgan County Library.

The reason is quite obvious from the logo of the Library with brer rabbit front and center. From the Library's web site "Of notable interest at the Morgan County Library is "The Briar Patch Critters" that sit on the front patio at the facility. The "Critters" were originally designed for the entrance of the Lenox Square Shopping Mall (Atlanta, Georgia) in 1958 by Julian Harris."

Now that I had found out where the statute went I decided to contact the Simon property group (They now own Lenox Mall)  and hear thier reason it was moved. They stated that they wanted all the statues to be reunited. That sounds all nice and dandy but as a Native Atlantan I already knew why it was moved.

 I now look forward to visiting my childhood memory In Madison which is up the road from Dublin. It is really sad that Atlanta continues to reconstruct what was once a Southern City. In the statues' place I saw a fitting symbol of the progress Atlanta has made at Lenox.

Way up high above the parking lot where the traveling musicians statue had once stood there now stands an Atlanta Police sniper tower. In addition, the old post office area Lenox now has it's own police station.

Yes Gone with the wind is a fitting title to this little tale of Atlanta. I am glad the Old South still lives outside of Atlanta. Just another reason I prefer Dublin now to Atlanta.

My peaceful Southern Home in Dublin

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