Lanier Monument Restoration
The classical monument to Sidney Lanier has been a part of Atlanta's Piedmont Park since 1914. It is meant to serve as a reminder of Georgia's celebrated native son and the American Renaissance, a time of increased national confidence. Years of vandalism and the removal of Lanier’s bust from the monument clouded this message. The 2012 restoration of this monument by the partnership of the Atlanta Preservation Center (APC), the Piedmont Park Conservancy and Oglethorpe University cleared the way for this important reminder and serve as an example of the importance of Atlanta’s public monuments.
Lanier was born in Macon, Georgia in 1842. He graduated from Oglethorpe University in 1860. He served in the Civil War, where he contracted tuberculosis which eventually caused his death at age 39. Today, Lanier is remembered primarily as a poet for his beautiful poems such as “Song of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glen.” He is credited by his alma mater for bridging Southern romantic literature and 20th-century realism.
Lanier was an accomplished musician and composer. He took to the flute at a young age and, after the War, played for sevens seasons as First with the Peabody Symphony in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a noteworthy composer who created virtuoso works that frequently mimicked the sounds of nature. In addition to his contributions as poet, critic and musician, he taught and practiced law.
The Sidney Lanier Monument was erected by the Piedmont Park Association in 1914 with funds bequeathed to the Association by Mrs. Livingston Mims. Livingston Mims was the 37th Mayor of Atlanta. The monument was designed by Carrère & Hastings and the bust for its niche created by Edward C. Potter. This same cast list was in place for the creation of the New York Public Library and its “Library Lions.”
Mid-century, pinching of the bust from the monument became a prank of Atlanta’s college students. In 1985, after several adventures and increased vandalism of the monument, the bust was removed from the monument and taken to Oglethorpe University for safe keeping and to celebrate the University’s sesquicentennial.
After two years of work, spearheaded by the APC, restoration was completed in February 2012. A copy of the original bust was made by the Atlanta sculpture studio, CherryLion (pictured right, preparing the bust to make mold). This was installed in the monument's niche, restoring the monument to its original configuration. The restored monument has the additions of a marker commemorating its restoration and a planting of rose bushes donated by the Honorable Anne Cox Chambers.
The restoration of the monument is a wonderful example of how organizations can partner to successfully restore and honor important historic sites in the City of Atlanta. The Piedmont Park Conservancy, Oglethorpe University and the Atlanta Preservation Center worked together for, and now celebrate the completion of, this project with four events which coincided with Lanier’s 170th birthday.
An invitation-only black tie cocktail and dinner party led the weekend’s events on February 2, 2012. Held at the Piedmont Driving Club, this evening included cocktails, dinner and a petite performance of Lanier’s music and poetry with comments about his life and work.
Candace Keach, flautist and Marty Willet, actor, presented a recital of the music and poetry of Sidney Lanier preceded by the commentary of Pau
l Hudson, historian and Oglethorpe alum and professor. The recital took place at Oglethorpe University’s Lupton Hall on February 3, 2012.
Richard Guy Wilson (pictured right), noted architectural historian and Commonwealth Professor in Architectural History at the University of Virginia, gave a lecture on February 4, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. at Magnolia Hall in Piedmont Park. He discussed the work of Carrère & Hastings (designers of the Lanier Monument), Edward Clark Potter (sculptor of the bust), and Lanier. The lecture connected these elements, giving a picture of the American Renaissance.
The public unveiling of the restored monument was held February 4, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. The monument is located on the eastern side of the Active Oval. The unveiling was officiated by Boyd Coons, Executive Director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, and included a flute performance of Lanier’s Blackbirds by Candace Keach, a reading of Lanier’s Song of the Chattahoochee by APC Trustee George Hart, and a performance of an excerpt from The Centennial Cantata arranged for four voices.