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Salvaging History From Excelsior Mill

Part of the beauty of building the Atlanta BeltLine is exploring the history of the city’s bypass of old railroad corridors that make up the 22-mile loop. Along with the development of transit, trail, and park infrastructure, historic preservation is one of the main components of building the Atlanta BeltLine. Artifacts, old rails, and even whole buildings have the potential to be re-purposed or used in the art and design along the corridor. 

One notable historic structure that has been preserved by the developer is the old Excelsior Mill building, which will be re-purposed as a food hall as part of a mixed-used development by Southeast Capital. The Eastside Trail-adjacent building has been a fixture in the Old Fourth Ward since the early 1900’s, when it existed as a mill supporting the shipping operations of the railroad. With the decline of the rail industry came a decline in the need for excelsior, and the mill became a restaurant and then the Masquerade music venue in the 1990’s.

The historic Excelsior Mill. Photo: the Sintoses.

The historic Excelsior Mill. Photo: the Sintoses.

The structure will be preserved as part of the new development. Photo: the Sintoses

The structure will be preserved as part of the new development. Photo: the Sintoses

Among the stone and steel of the structure, some artifacts have survived from the mill’s early days. One of these artifacts is the steam engine that powered the mill. Over the years, the Atlanta BeltLine has brought in many artists and sculptors to preserve and create new art from old railroad artifacts, such as the Iron Column, the phoenix on the Westside Trail, and the railroad workers on the Eastside Trail. The steam engine joins those pieces as a part of the continuing Art on the Atlanta BeltLine’s collection near its original home in Historic Fourth Ward Park.

The steam engine in its original location within the old mill.The steam engine in its original location within the old mill.

The steam engine in its original location within the old mill.

Disassembly and removal of the steam engine.

Disassembly and removal of the steam engine.

The steam engine before reassembly and installation.

The steam engine before reassembly and installation.

Installation of the steam engine.

Installation of the steam engine.

The steam engine in its new location with the historic mill in the background. Photo: the Sintoses.

The steam engine in its new location with the historic mill in the background. Photo: the Sintoses.

The engine was carefully disassembled, moved to its current location, and reassembled atop a granite plinth to be displayed in the park. Atop the engine sits a functional piece called the Governer, an early 1900’s invention that regulated the speed of the machine. The installation is both a nod to the industrial past of the Old Fourth Ward and a artful addition to the natural beauty of the park. See it for yourself in Historic Fourth Ward Park, and check out the other pieces in the continuing art collection. Watch for more art to be added to the BeltLine this fall when the temporary Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition opens September 9.

Thanks to the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy and Jay Clark for making this project possible.

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