I love living in beautiful Coastal Georgia. I am lucky enough to have my office in Richmond Hill and my home not far away in a wonderful corner of Bryan County. I also spend about half my working hours in beautiful downtown Savannah having meetings with clients and contacts or working at client events.
However, sometimes I just crave a big city for its anonymity, hustle and bustle, extensive dining and leisure options and frankly some really great shopping opportunities! My favorite big city will always be London, England, where I was raised, lived and worked for many years. I have also had some great times in New York, Chicago and out on the West Coast. However, I very much enjoy heading to Atlanta a few times a year, to get my ‘big city fix’ especially as a dear friend from university days lives there and catching up with her is always a highlight.
I remember the first time, back in 2009, that I drove to Atlanta. Having been driving on the other side of the road for the whole of my life up until then, I found the 14-lane interstate highway running through the middle of town, the traffic and the aggressive driving pretty terrifying. But I was also very impressed with the sheer size and gleaming modern skyline of this big American city. It is quite breath-taking, especially for someone raised in jolly old England, and today the skyscrapers and futuristic buildings continue adding to this great skyline. After a few days of big city life in Atlanta, I confess that I am more than ready to return home to Coastal Georgia with its peace and beauty and relative tranquillity to soothe my soul.
One of the sad things about Atlanta is just how few original historical buildings are still standing because, unlike Savannah, Sherman burnt most of it down during the Civil War. Atlanta was founded about a hundred years after Savannah, in 1837, and nicknamed Terminus because it was located at the end of the Western & Atlantic railroad line. It was officially called Marthasville, after the then Governor’s daughter, but in 1845 changed to Atlanta, the feminine of Atlantic from the railroad’s name.
Atlanta’s location at the southern extremity of the Appalachian Mountains made it important for travel from the southern Atlantic to the west, which is why it became the southern terminus of the railroad. This meant that the city was a vital supply depot for the confederacy during the Civil War. When it fell in September 1864, Sherman spared no mercy as he departed on his “March to the Sea’ heading to Coastal Georgia.
After the end of the Civil War, Atlanta became a center of government activities and where the Georgia constitution of 1868 was drawn up. In 1877 it became the state capital and extensive building took place as it rose from the ashes of Sherman’s burning. Atlanta advocated reconciliation with the north to restore business ties and became a center of the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and raised in Atlanta.
Turning to more recent history, Atlanta famously hosted the 1996 Olympics and has become the banking center of the South, along with the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 company headquarters in the USA. Since the Olympics, Atlanta has grown at an unprecedented rate with a metro population of over four million people. It is still a transport hub with the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – the world’s busiest in daily passenger flights – located there. In fact, I got to know the airport long before I got to know the city of Atlanta as it was my port of entry to the USA whenever I came back from visiting the UK. I well remember the first time I came through that airport with my new American passport after I achieved dual citizenship in 2012, and the friendly immigration officer welcomed me home! That was a special moment.
I say goodbye this week with a quote from the fictional Carrie Bradshaw from the TV show and movies, Sex & The City. While Carrie loved New York, I feel the same way when I approach Atlanta from I-75 and see the skyline: “Hello city, your lights are fireflies in my heart.”
God Bless America!
– ENDS –