Zero Milepost on display
NPS photograph by Jody Cook
The Zero Milepost stands as a reminder of the early railroad days
and the birth of the city of Atlanta. This stone milepost marks
the southeastern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad.
It was this railroad that provided the impetus for the beginning
and subsequent growth of the city of Atlanta and marks the center
of the city from which the Atlanta city limits were measured. The
rectangular, stone marker measures approximately one foot wide on
each side and 42 inches tall. The crown is pyramidal and the inscription
"W & A RR 138" is roughly carved into one side and "W & A RR OO"
on another. The Western and Atlantic Railroad was established by
the State legislature after another rail line connecting Charleston
to Cincinnati bypassed the State, and went through Tennessee instead.
A convention was held and it was decided that the State of Georgia
would build its own railroad through the center of the State and
allow private branch lines to join with it. When the legislature
met in November of 1836, a bill to construct a railroad at State
expense was introduced and passed 76 to 65. No specific locations
for terminal points were named but generally they were to be on
the Tennessee line near the Tennessee River at or near Rossville
and then in a direct route to the southeastern bank of the Chattahoochee
Milepost has W & A RR 138 inscribed
on one side
NPS photograph by Jody Cook
Colonel Stephen Harriman Long was hired to survey and build the
road on May 12, 1837. After several earlier moves it was decided
that the line should extend south of the river to provide a better
location for lines to Athens, Madison, Milledgeville and Forsyth.
The location was changed in 1837 to land Lot 78, District 14, DeKalb
County (between the present Forsyth and Magnolia streets). After
construction began in 1838, discussion continued on the location
of the southeastern terminus. Then, in 1842, a new and final point
was established, only 1200 feet from the previous point, in the
northeast corner of Land Lot 77, 14th District, DeKalb (later Fulton)
County. This point was located at Loyd Street, now Central Avenue,
between Alabama and Decatur streets from surveys by C.F.M. Garett
and F.C. Arms. A five-acre tract including the point was donated
to the State by Samuel Mitchell in 1842 which allowed for the construction
of the depot buildings. In 1850 the zero milepost was placed at
this location. From this small, struggling railroad town has grown
one of the largest metropolitan cities in the country.
The Western and Atlantic Railroad Zero Milepost, within the
Underground Atlanta Historic District, is
located under the Central Ave. viaduct, between Alabama and Wall
sts. It is inside a building that currently houses the Georgia State
University Security Office. To reach this site, enter the parking
garage at the corner of Central Ave. and Alabama St., take the elevator
to the basement, and ask for directions to the Security Office.