Above: The Zero Mile Post in its current location. Photo courtesy of Jeff Morrison.

The historic marker’s location becomes the subject of debate

The Zero Mile Post marks Atlanta’s beginnings. It originally stood at the place where the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s terminus became Terminus, a settlement that eventually grew into the city we know as Atlanta. For decades, the Zero Mile Post was literally the center of town, as Atlanta’s city limits were measured at a fixed distance from the post.

“It’s a really important part of our history,” said Jeff Morrison, an architect who occasionally leads tours of the places where Atlanta began as a railroad town. His tours used to include the post.

But Atlanta being Atlanta, the Zero Mile Post has now all but disappeared from public view. The 42-inch-tall granite post is locked away inside a building that is owned by the state of Georgia and no longer in use.

Now the mile post faces a new threat: reconstruction work on the Central Avenue Bridge is scheduled to begin soon and may mean the post must be moved.

Atlanta Zero Mile postThe Georgia Building Authority, which maintains the property that houses the mile post says it will announce in August whether the post can stay where it is or must be relocated to another site. “We haven’t made a decision yet,” GBA communications director Morgan Smith-Williams said in early June.

“There are arguments on both sides,” Smith-Williams said. “There are arguments that the significance of the post is where it is, because of what it marks and not the post itself. But on the other side, it’s not where people can visit it, so there’s an argument to move it to a place where it would be more visible.”

The Atlanta History Center offered to include the granite marker in the center’s collection of Atlanta’s historic artifacts, which now includes a replica of the post. But others with an interest in Atlanta history argue the post should stay where it is, which is near Underground Atlanta and close to the site it originally was erected.

“What we need to do is leave it where it is, but make it more accessible,” Morrison said. “It really hasn’t moved much at all since the 1850s. I think it would be a shame for us to move it now.”

The dispute over whether to move the marker caught some officials by surprise. But they’ve found a bright side to the debate, too. “We realized how many people are passionate about Atlanta’s history,” Smith-Morgan said. “It’s refreshing.”

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