Historic Atlanta: Atlanta Dairies

Historic Atlanta: Atlanta Dairies

Atlanta has quite a bit of history but the city seems to be intent on destroying it piece by piece.  Or should that be building by building.  Many buildings become rundown and then irrecoverable leading to demolition in due course.  There does not seem to be any local body other than the Atlanta Preservation Society between these buildings and complete destruction and sadly they are lacking in financial substance.

I have made it my mission to see as much of Atlanta’s history as I can before it disappears completely and photograph it for posterity.    This is the first in my series of blogs about this and will be an ongoing quest.

The old loading bays at Atlanta Dairies

Today I was on my way to Oakland Cemetery in Downtown Atlanta when I stumbled upon the Atlanta Dairies on Memorial Drive.  I had heard about this place but never seen it and actually thought that I had missed the boat as I had heard that it was scheduled for demolition or redevelopment.  In fact the trucks and diggers are sitting there on the plot of land waiting to start their work and the whole building has a large fence around it with clear “No trespassing” signs.  Obviously, however much I wanted to explore the inside of the property I had no intention of trespassing!

The first cows arrived in Georgia with James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony, in the 1700s.  Dairy farming was predominantly a local enterprise with farmers have 5 to 10 cows and people buying their milk locally.  It took some time for the sale of milk to become a major industry and with the introduction of new laws in 1943 requiring all milk to be pasteurised, many local Atlanta dairy farmers decided to band together to form Atlanta Dairies.

Atlanta Dairies is an Art Deco building that started operating in 1945.  Atlanta Dairies provided milk to schools in the area and also did doorstep delivery to many local people.  Many people remember the twinkle of the glass milk jugs being delivered to porches on a daily basis by a milkman.  The location of the Dairies was perfect as Memorial Drive was a bustling thoroughfare into the centre of town and so many saw the iconic building and its familiar milk carton sign on a regular basis.  Sadly with the sale of the local farms to residential developers as the city expanded, the need for the central processing plant declined and the building fell into disuse.  The new developers have already broken ground and it looks as though they will be sympathetically restoring the property and turning it into a mixed use residential and entertainment complex.  I hope that they follow through as this is a piece of history that would be sad to lose.  Read my other blogs in this series if you are interested in history, architecture or travel.

Atlanta Skyline at Night

Atlanta Skyline at Night

For a long time I have been mesmerised by the Atlanta skyline, but it took the acquisition of a new Canon DSLR, lenses and a strong and capable tripod for me to attempt to capture it.

February is probably not the ideal time to be out and about as the sun is setting.  Think cold.  Very cold.  So cold that it made me re-consider my plans to visit the Northern Lights.  After all, if I struggle to cope with the cold in Atlanta in January what will it be like in the arctic circle?

I had read about a couple of good locations to go when the sun is setting.  One is Jackson Street Bridge (which I will talk about some other time) and the other is the parking lot at Georgia Tech.  I decided to try the latter first.

The parking lot is easy to find and there is an elevator that takes you to the top floor, although I decided to drive to the top so that I could have the comfort and warmth of my car between the changing light conditions.  A wise decision in hindsight.  I had been holding out for a clear and sunny day but was hoping for a few clouds to roll in at the last minute, however I probably had the clearest sky of 2017 so far so decided to just go with it.

Along with my Canon SL1 DSLR I used two lenses for this experience: A Tamron 16-300mm and a Canon 10 – 18mm.  Both have been really good on the crop sensor and although the Canon has resulted in slightly better quality, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Tamron’s instant zoom ability.  As for the Canon SL1…what can I say?  I don’t want to carry a huge lump around with me most of the time and I have found the SL1 to be small, light and very capable.  In fact, the limitations I have experienced (so far) are as a result of my abilities and not of the camera at all.  I know many people who carry a Canon 5D or a Canon 1D (both substantially heavier and at the top of the range of the Canon offering) but find that they are actually taking their Canon SL1 on most trips.  Since I travel quite a bit I decided to take their advice and go for the smaller, lighter piece of equipment.  After all, the only camera worth having is the one you have with you!

I thought that I might have to fight for space but it was actually the opposite situation – I was the only person there.  In fact, this made me a little wary and when I saw people in the distance I had my keys in my hand ready to leap into action if there should be any trouble!  Not sure what sort of trouble I was expecting but you can’t be too careful when you are female and out at night on your own.  

Just after the sun went down, I was able to get some great shots of the evening sky.  My fingers were so cold that I spent much of the time between shots jumping up and down to stay warm but the effect on the evening sky was beautiful and as the traffic increased the light trails became quite magnificent.  This is definitely one of the best places to see Downtown Atlanta and the night view is wonderful to behold.  They are developing the land next to the parking structure which could significantly alter the view so I would advise you to head over there before it is too late!




A day at the mill

A day at the mill

About an hour’s drive from Atlanta lies the historic town of Rome, Georgia.  An hour’s drive and about 50 years away.  Much of this town was constructed in the late 1800s and first half of the 20th century but I will save a history of Rome for some other day.  Today I had a mission: the Old Mill at Berry College.

Berry College is situated about 5 mins out of town and is a haven of tranquility, even on a day when all prospective students were being interviewed for the upcoming school year.  To study in such a tranquil place must be good for your grades, if not for your social life.  Surrounded by acres and acres of fields, deer, horses and squirrels….it feels more like a holiday camp, removed from the realities of everyday life (and the townspeople).

A delightfully helpful student admitted me through the main barrier, with a simple look at my driver’s licence.  It did make me wonder who would be turned away and what they were looking for exactly, since my licence is British and very unfamiliar to most Americans.  She provided me with a map and driving directions to the Old Mill which lay at the far end of the property.  About 10 mins drive found me arriving at this charming spot.

This mill hub is made of iron and was constructed in the 1930s.  It was operational for many years and was used to grind cornmeal for the students and also for sale as far away as California.  Currently, it is only used on special occasions, including on Mountain Day, a festival held in October.

The wheel itself is a marvel to behold, as at 42 feet in diameter it is the second largest water wheel in the world.  It dwarves the mill building (which is closed most of the time) and is beautifully reflected in the still water.  On this cold winter’s day the colours were fabulous but I suspect it will look even more amazing in the fall and have made a note to return later in the year.

The place is very peaceful and although a few people drove down to the mill, almost nobody made the effort to actually get out of their car thereby missing out on the real charm of the place – peace and quiet.

After leaving the mill, I purposefully threw the map in the back of the car and got lost in the grounds.  An old school and church dating from the 1930s was found on the grounds, with the school room set up as it would have been during that time.  A tiny cemetery was next to the church with the smallest markers, their words eroded by time and weather.

Fields of deer and horses could be seen – and again, hardly a person in sight – which is just as well as the deer were very skittish.  The main area of the college was much busier and I think that this is where most people were hanging out. Being surrounded by such beauty might be wasted on students! 🙂