Rising, Ever Rising
IN 1887, Atlanta adopted a new city seal. The city council voted in that year to replace the old city seal, a locomotive engine, with the image of a phoenix rising out of the ashes of destruction, symbolizing the triumphant revival of a city virtually destroyed at the end of the Civil War. Beyond that, the phoenix also symbolized Atlanta’s expansion beyond an economy based merely on commerce and transportation to a more diverse economy that by the turn of the century would include industry, finance, administration, service, and tourism. With a population of only twenty-one thousand at the close of the Civil War, the city grew to nearly one hundred thousand by 1900 and would surpass two hundred thousand by 1920.1
ATLANTA is where it is and is shaped as it is because of railroads and Georgia’s commitment to supporting the building of railroads. When, in 1842, a stake was driven into the north Georgia soil seven miles from the banks of the Chattahoochee River to mark the terminus of the Western and Atlantic rail line from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the future center of Atlanta was also marked. Originally called Terminus, Atlanta started as a railroad town, a place where transportation lines from the South’s coastal cities converged with connections to the upcountry, midwestern, and northern markets. The Georgia Railroad from Augusta, Georgia, and the Macon and Western line from Macon, Georgia, soon came to meet the Western and Atlantic, linking Georgia’s seacoast and farmlands with markets in the North and Midwest in the 1850s. The junction created by these railroads drew people and businesses to the area as a town—and eventually a city—evolved around the tracks. Even as Atlanta’s focus and energy embraced the world beyond commerce in the decades surrounding the turn of the century, the city would remain closely tied to the economic foundations that underlay its success.
Samuel Mitchell, a planter from west-central Georgia, owned most of the land