Campus Life


Ramblins - Titanic land acquisitions shape the campus

By Pat Edwards
Ramblin' Reck Club

Georgia Tech occupies roughly 400 acres of prime real estate in the very heart of Atlanta. The story of the growth and acquisition of Tech's environs are an interesting part of the history of the Institute.
In March of 1886, a commission of the Georgia Legislature was formed under the chairmanship of Nathaniel Harris to establish the Institute. One of the first issues addressed by the new commission was the location of the new school.
Five bids to host the Institute were accepted: Athens, Atlanta, Macon, Milledgeville, and Penfield.
The members of the commission each supported the bids of their home districts. Harris, who was a Macon lawyer, supported the Macon bid throughout the voting. Samuel Inman was the advocate for Atlanta
It took 24 ballots for Atlanta to be chosen as the site of the first technical college in Georgia.
Atlanta's bid for Tech was $70,000 up-front money and $2,500 in a yearly support guarantee. Atlanta had originally intended to offer Tech the area surrounding modern day Grant Park, but changed the offer to Tech's present site when Richard Peters of Atlanta donated the property, an area of Atlanta known as Peters Park.
The original size of the campus was four acres, which was expanded to nine acres in 1887. The contract for the first building on campus, Tech Tower, was awarded to Angus McGilvray for $43,250 on May 5, 1887.
"The Hill" and the surrounding land were part of this original acquisition from Peters. Tech obtained much more land from the E.C. Peters Land Company, including Grant Field. The Rose Bowl Field was also part of a Peters' acquisition.
The Peters Land Company had hoped that the community around Tech that would be the finest residential community in Atlanta. These dreams were never realized, so Peters later allowed Georgia Tech to purchase some of these properties.
After nearly 15 years of rapid growth, Tech expanded in 1901. Aaron French, who had provided part of the financial resources to start the Textile Engineering Department, invested $25,000 in the expansion. The land was dubbed French Field in his honor.
Tech enjoyed a vigorous surge in growth during the administration of President Matheson. During his time as President, Tech expanded along the east, west and north of campus. Most of the land was purchased from the E.C. Peters Land Company, often at a substantial discount.
The greatest expansion in Tech history occurred in the late 1950s and 60s under President Ed Harrison, who will be remembered for an aggressive campus development plan. The plan called for Tech to expand its geographic area aggressively from North to 10th Street and from the interstate to Marietta Street. This vision would not be fully realized until the 1980s.
Currently, Tech is poised to make its next round of expansion. The Master Plan, on view in the first floor of the library, is the latest expression of Tech's vision of the future.

Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board

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