Terminus: Zero Mile Post
The Zero Milepost stands as a reminder of the early railroad days and the birth of the city of Atlanta. This stone milepost marks the southeastern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. It was this railroad that provided the impetus for the beginning and subsequent growth of the city of Atlanta and marks the center of the city from which the Atlanta city limits were measured.
The rectangular, stone marker measures approximately one foot wide on each side and 90 inches tall.* The crown is pyramidal and the inscription "W & A RR 138" is roughly carved into one side and "W & A RR OO" on another. The Western and Atlantic Railroad was established by the State legislature after another rail line connecting Charleston to Cincinnati bypassed the State, and went through Tennessee instead. A convention was held and it was decided that the State of Georgia would build its own railroad through the center of the State and allow private branch lines to join with it. When the legislature met in November of 1836, a bill to construct a railroad at State expense was introduced and passed 76 to 65. No specific locations for terminal points were named but generally they were to be on the Tennessee line near the Tennessee River at or near Rossville and then in a direct route to the southeastern bank of the Chattahoochee River.
* Did you know that, in 2018, the Zero Mile Post was moved to the Atlanta History Center (in Buckhead) from the location described below? It had been there since 1850, so no one (alive) really knew how big it was. The U.S. National Park Service described the ZMP as being 42 inches long. Turn out, it was 90 inches long! In the image above, you can see the "dirt line" which indicates how much of the ZMP had been underground all those years. If you have not already done so, you should head down to the Atlanta History Center and see the ZMP for yourself. It is, arguably, the most important historical artifact in Atlanta.
Colonel Stephen Harriman Long was hired to survey and build the road on May 12, 1837. After several earlier moves it was decided that the line should extend south of the river to provide a better location for lines to Athens, Madison, Milledgeville and Forsyth. The location was changed in 1837 to land Lot 78, District 14, DeKalb County (between the present Forsyth and Magnolia streets). After construction began in 1838, discussion continued on the location of the southeastern terminus. Then, in 1842, a new and final point was established, only 1200 feet from the previous point, in the northeast corner of Land Lot 77, 14th District, DeKalb (later Fulton) County. This point was located at Loyd Street, now Central Avenue, between Alabama and Decatur streets from surveys by C.F.M. Garett and F.C. Arms. A five-acre tract including the point was donated to the State by Samuel Mitchell in 1842 which allowed for the construction of the depot buildings. In 1850 the zero milepost was placed at this location. From this small, struggling railroad town has grown one of the largest metropolitan cities in the country. ~ Source: U.S. National Park Service
Explorer's Challenge: There is a street in Atlanta named, "Stephen Long Drive." See if you can figure out where that street is. Hint: It's a very short street and it's in a "Beltline neighborhood."