Atlanta looks to preserve more of town's past

Atlanta looks to preserve more of town's past

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ATLANTA - Community leaders in Atlanta are looking toward the future of preserving the town's past.

While fund-raising work continues for the future home of an Atlanta museum, activists met this week to talk about what else can be done to preserve local history and promote Route 66-related tourism. Atlanta Mayor Bill Martin suggested forming a historic preservation commission, for example, to unite the various local historic landmarks under one umbrella.

"We want to figure out how we can do more for Route 66," said local businessman Bill Thomas of Teleological Learning Company, a trustee of the Friends of the Atlanta Library and Museum. "This is not just for Atlanta, but for everyone along the road; it all works together. If we continue to make our attractions more attractive, people are then going to end up hitting other towns en route to Atlanta."

The discussion Wednesday afternoon involved Thomas, Martin, Patty Ambrose of the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project, and John and Lenore Weiss of the Illinois Route 66 Association.

The community is raising money to restore the Downey building, a National Register of Historic Places property along old Route 66 in downtown Atlanta. The building will let the museum move out of the library basement, freeing up space at the library.

Organizers hope to make the move by 2008 in honor of the building's 100th birthday.

Thomas said the first phase of the plan, which involves stabilizing the building and getting it in shape, will cost about $175,000. Organizers have raised about $42,000 so far, he said.

"The (museum) project is definitely well on its way," said Thomas. "The community is behind this campaign. There is just such great potential with this old building, and having a museum will bring forth so many tourists traveling along Route 66 who look for these attractions."

Martin also discussed a possible new historic preservation commission that would involve the various attractions, such as the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator, library, museum and the now-closed coal mineshaft. The commission could pursue funding for further improvements.

"This would be our way to wrap our arms around everything going on here in Atlanta and would give us a way to package it all up for the public," said Martin.

Thomas also discussed moving an old corn crib to the Hawes elevator site and converting it into a multimedia education center for the elevator. The project for this would cost around $25,000, and that money already has been raised from descendants of J.H. Hawes, Thomas said.

Future projects also discussed included improving the Route 66 park in downtown Atlanta and starting an Atlanta Dog Days festival on Memorial Day weekend.

Atlanta's efforts impressed the representatives from the Route 66 organizations.

"All this would draw in so many tourists. This is just the kinds of things they love," said Ambrose. "We could really take Atlanta as an example of all we can do for Route 66. From everything I'm hearing and all the funding that has already been raised for many of these endeavors, its just incredible."

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