A new historical sign in Charlie Loudermilk Park gives visitors a window into Buckhead’s past.

Installed by the Buckhead Heritage Society in late May, the sign displays a 1943 photograph of the nearby Buckhead Theatre aligned to overlap the view of today’s building. The view lets visitors see a merging of past and present on the street. The sign is outlined in the style of the period’s photograph albums.

The Buckhead Heritage Society installed this sign, shown here on June 2, in Charlie Loudermilk Park, to show how the historic Buckhead Theatre (behind sign) looked in 1943. (Evelyn Andrews)

The theater on Roswell Road is owned by Loudermilk, who renovated it several years ago. Loudermilk founded the rental company Aaron’s, Inc.

The Buckhead Theatre sign is the first proposal to be implemented from the Master Interpretative Plan, which was spearheaded by the society in 2014. The plan, created with input from organizations such as Livable Buckhead, the Atlanta History Center, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission and the city Department of Parks and Recreation, included recommendations for several types of public art, according to the society’s website.

Future signs have not been determined yet, and Carmie McDonald, the executive director of the society, said it will be up to others to implement more signs and art.

“Our job was really to put together the plan,” she said.

The Buckhead Theatre sign was sponsored by the Buckhead Heritage Society in partnership with the Buckhead Community Improvement District, but funded by private donors, McDonald said.

Other types of signage outlined in the plan that could be implemented include historic billboards and “ghostlike” human-scale figures that represent people who lived in Atlanta decades ago. The billboards would be identical to ones depicted in historical photos, and could be part of a “treasure hunt” for Buckhead residents to find the billboards, the society’s website says.

Since the theater is located in the original commercial core of the community the Buckhead Heritage Society has tasked itself with preserving, McDonald said it was the logical place to begin the project.

The sign is accompanied by several paragraphs about the history of the theater and other neighboring buildings, and McDonald thinks they together serve as “a great vehicle for sharing history.”

That section of Peachtree Road used to serve as the commercial hub of Buckhead, hosting retail buildings, a hardware store, a barbershop, dry cleaner and grocery store, the sign says. It was also the central gathering place into the 1950s, the sign says, as a popular drugstore, pool hall and dance studio were located there.

Buckhead has changed drastically, McDonald said, and she hopes this sign will be one way for people to get a glimpse of the changes.
“I hope people understand the Buckhead they see today is dramatically different from the community that began in the 19th century,” she said.

McDonald also hopes the sign will show that it is important to integrate history in design and development, she said.

“The forces that have shaped the community over time will continue to shape it,” McDonald said.

The Buckhead Heritage Society plans to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the sign on June 21. The event will begin at 10 a.m. with a reception at the Buckhead Theatre, followed by a ceremony in Loudermilk Park. The event is free and open to the public, but guests are asked to contact McDonald at cmcdonald@buckheadheritage.com to reserve a spot.

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