Sept. 26 will mark the 75th anniversary of North Fulton Park in Buckhead being renamed as Troy Chastain Memorial Park, and one organization there is planning events to mark the milestone.
Since that day in 1946, the 268-acre greenspace, which opened six years earlier and is the city of Atlanta’s largest park, has become quite popular, drawing 2 million visitors annually.
“(It) has been called Atlanta’s living room, a place where people come to enjoy each other’s company through active recreation,” said Rosa McHugh, executive director of the Chastain Park Conservancy, which is hosting events later this year to celebrate the anniversary.
But who was Troy Chastain?
According to the Neighbor’s online research and previous articles about the man, he was a Fulton County commissioner and the main driving force to create the park, which started as a county greenspace. A businessman, Chastain owned 147 acres around what is today in the area around Lake Forrest Drive and Long Island Road and pushed for the park as a way to increase his property’s value.
According to the county’s website, Chastain served as a commissioner from 1938-42 and was president of the Atlanta Chemical Co. He died in 1945. The conservancy, which maintains and preserves the park, is building on Chastain’s legacy today.
“As I understand it, Troy Chastain’s inspiration was for North Fulton Park to become one of the premier recreational destinations in the Southeast,” McHugh said. “Today, we are honored to carry on this vision and maintain this property as a welcoming active greenspace for all metro Atlanta residents and visitors to enjoy.”
In 1853, the state formed Fulton County out of the western half of DeKalb County. Fulton acquired the area that is today Chastain Park and its surroundings – about 1,000 acres – at the turn of the century.
In 1911, the county constructed two almshouses that are today park properties – the main building of The Galloway School and the Chastain Arts Center. Segregated Fulton used the Galloway building for whites and the arts center for Blacks. They were in use until the 1960s.
In 1938, Fulton started converting the farmland on Wieuca Road into a park as part of a project through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal program created by President Franklin Roosevelt that put Americans back to work during the Great Depression. County prisoners also helped with the labor to build the park. In 1952, when the land was annexed into Atlanta, it became a city park.
Today it includes the aforementioned school and arts center, plus a golf course, swimming center, tennis courts, horse park and event space, baseball, softball and football fields, a recreation center with a basketball court, a multiuse trail surrounding the park and Cadence Bank Amphitheater, which hosts dozens of concerts annually.
The conservancy will host the 75-Lap Challenge as the first event in what it plans to be a year-long celebration of the park’s renaming.
The challenge will give participants the chance to complete 75 laps around the park’s Path Foundation multiuse trail from July 1, the day registration opens, until Sept. 26. On that date, individuals who have completed the challenge will be invited to a pancake breakfast celebration at The Chastain restaurant next to the park.
“We look forward to hearing about how people will complete the challenge,” McHugh said. “Some may create new walking groups, others may choose to go it alone but walk several laps a day, or perhaps traditional walkers will challenge themselves to become runners. The goal is to engage Path users in the celebration and in turn offer a fun competitive challenge to the community.”
The conservancy will host two more events later this year. The Chastain Classic Auto Show, set for Aug. 7, is a family friendly event that will include People’s Choice and Best in Show awards.
“Over the last few months we’ve learned there is a large community of auto collectors and enthusiasts in and around the park,” McHugh said. “We would like this event be an opportunity for them to share their passion with others.”
Wine Chastain, normally held in April, was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will return Aug. 14. It will include wine and food tastings, live music and a wine-themed silent auction.
“Wine Chastain … will serve as an icebreaker for getting back to social events,” McHugh said.
Finally, as part of the anniversary celebration, the conservancy is asking residents to help beautify the park by designating several areas as Adopt a Spot locations.
“We are looking to plant native flowering foliage that will bring seasonal color to the grounds,” McHugh said.
For more information on the conservancy’s events or to register or purchase tickets, visit chastainparkconservancy.org.