Tattnall Square Park is one of the oldest parks in America. The park is 34 years older than Central Park, and nearly 70 years older than Piedmont Park. Tattnall Square Park had its origins as part of a wilderness known as the Southwestern Commons, set aside as a city greenbelt in 1823. When the Commons was created, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were still alive and 25 states had yet to enter the union.
Though the park is among the oldest in the nation, one of the paths in the park is ancient. For tens of thousands of years, a diagonal path through the park served first as a high water mark for prehistoric animals like the mastodon to cross safely, later operating as an ancient trading path for paleo-Indians and the people of the ancient Creek Confederacy. The path was part of a 540-mile trail—one of the oldest known trails in North America—which came to be known as the “Lower Creek Trading Path,” taking travelers from Augusta to New Orleans. The Creeks called it called “Chelako Nini Ahasi,” or “Old Horse Path.” In 1805, Thomas Jefferson widened the trading path to serve as an interstate road to the new territories of the Louisiana Purchase. Today, the path forms the central sidewalk from the President’s House of Mercer University to what is now the Tattnall Square Center for the Arts.
A Tattnall Square Timeline
Prehistory-1823: The existing park path that runs diagonally east to west through Tattnall Square was used by mastodons, paleo-Indians, and later Creeks as a walking and trading path. De Soto and William Bartram used this path in their explorations of the Southeast.
1823: The Georgia Assembly creates the “Southwestern Commons,” a broad swath of publically held grounds that stretched from Mercer University beyond the downtown’s business district. The Southwestern Commons served as a buffer from disease and a common hunting ground.
1853: After Macon began selling off portions of the Southwestern Commons, the Georgia Assembly designated 16 acres of the former commons as untouchable, naming the new square after Josiah Tattnall Jr., a Revolutionary War hero, Jeffersonian statesman, and Georgia Governor.
1854: Tattnall Square Park first appears on a Macon map.
1865: Union soldiers camp in Tattnall Square Park after General Wilson captures Macon. Later, a truce was presented to the Union General in the park.
1872: Mercer University President Archibald John Battle organizes the first society for the improvement of Tattnall Square Park.
1883: Macon attempts to sell off half of the square, but a public outcry helps keep the park intact.
1883: Mercer’s Alpha Tau Omega fraternity creates the city’s first lawn tennis courts just ten years after tennis was organized as a sport.
1910: The Georgia State Legislature discusses the removal of the state capital from Atlanta to Macon’s Tattnall Square Park.
1911: Macon’s first playground is built in Tattnall Square Park and opened on July 4th to hundreds who thronged to Tattnall to see it.
1913: The first meeting of the Tattnall Square Improvement Association, led by J.F. Sellers, the Acting President of Mercer University.
1914-1918: The Tattnall Square Improvement Association leads the first complete restoration of the park.
1934: The Tattnall Square Fountain stops working during the Great Depression.
1963: Tattnall Square Park is desegregated. Louis Wynn is stabbed by two segregationists while leading African American children into the park.
1988: The City Council passes a bill deeding five acres of the park for the use of a senior citizens center. Intown Macon leads a successful fight to save the park.
2011: Friends of Tattnall Square Park is established.