This upcoming May, I will be getting married. My future in-laws, The Hicks family, are multi-generational residences of Columbus, Georgia. They are proud of their city and eager to share its history with anyone who will listen, and as a Historian I am. In our most recent visit to Columbus, the Hicks invited us to explore Columbus’ Heritage Park.
Heritage Park is located in Columbus’ Historic District between Front Street and Broadway. Set next to the Chattahoochee River and the Columbus Iron Works (also known as the Convention and Trade Center). The site’s location implies the importance the river and the iron foundry played in Columbus’ development from a trading town to an industrial powerhouse. The interpretation presented at Heritage Park is focused on the industrial entrepreneurs and Columbus workers from 1850 to 1910. The Hicks shared that the families of these entrepreneurs are still running these businesses or others in and around Columbus.
The sculptures and structures represent the entrepreneurs of Columbus in the textile, gristmill, brick and foundry industries, as well as agriculture and forest products, dams and river trade, and Coke-Cola. Fact I did not know prior, Dr. John Pemberton, the creator of the Coke-Cola recipe, was once a pharmacist in Columbus. Looking at Heritage Park with a critical eye, the statue of Pemberton seems out of place compared to the other blue-collar representations. The interpretation provided little indication that Coke-Cola had changed or affected Columbus’ economic face or citizens’ lives. Steve shared that there is a continual debate between Atlanta and Columbus about the birthplace of Coke-Cola (of course he argues for Columbus because Coke-Cola continually funds Columbus events, buildings, and public programs). However, I understand the “claim to fame” Coke puts Columbus on the map within National history.