Athens-Clarke County City Hall
Located in downtown Athens, the Athens-Clarke County City Hall building is easily identified by its iconic weather vane and clock tower, both of which underwent heavy renovation in 2006. Outside the building is a statue of the ‘Spirit of Athens’ named “Torchlighter,” who stands as a memento of both UGA’s involvement in the 1996 Olympics and as a representation of the city as a whole. Additionally, a dedication to Spanish-American War veterans lies outside City Hall, in remembrance of the Spanish American war veterans at the nineteenth convention to honor the ‘Camps and Auxiliaries of the Department of Georgia.’
Backstory and Context
Construction of City Hall began in 1903 when Captain J.W. Barnett “proposed to build it” with “$50,000 realized from the sale of city hall bonds” which the citizens authorized in a vote.3 In 1904, the city of Athens completed its construction on a new City Hall building which was, and still is, “situated on the highest elevation in Downtown Athens.”4 The new building held rooms for most of the elected public officials for the city of Athens, a council chamber, and public restrooms. Originally, the bell was also linked to the city fire alarm, and the eagle atop the bell tower was intended to be a weather vane. The clock, still functioning today, is now electrified though this was not the case before 1943 when the clock “operated with a counterweight system like an old grandfather type clock.”5
This structure, though renovated to a modern scale, is is still utilized by the modern Athens-Clarke government, which represents the incorporation “of Athens into Clarke County under one governing authority.”6 After the two seats of government were unified by a new charter “adopted by referendum on August 7, 1990” City Hall has been the seat of government for the entire Athens-Clarke County area.7 This was especially true when Gwen O’Looney chose City Hall,"because people [were] used to seeing [City Hall] as a place to come to for services," as her new seat of government when she became the inaugural new Chief Elected Officer of the newly unified Athens-Clarke County district.8
Since then, City Hall has continued to stand as a political symbol of the unity of Athens and Clarke County, and its central position in downtown Athens allows it to continue to serve as a political rallying point for the community.
2 "Civil War & Beyond | Athens-Clarke County, GA - Official Website." Athens. Accessed March 26, 2019. https://athensclarkecounty.com/110/Civil-War-Beyond.
3 Thomas, Jack. "Some More City Hall History." Athens Observer, March 2, 1989.
5 Ingle, Bob. "Bird Does Turn Around Every Day." Athens Banner Herald, May 27, 1968.
6 Smith, Hap. "Georgia Historic Newspapers." The Red and Black (Athens, Ga.) 1893-current, January 15, 1991, Image 1 « Georgia Historic Newspapers. May 23, 1972. Accessed March 26, 2019.
8 Hester, Conoly. "Old Mayor's Office Gets Old Furniture But New Technology." Athens Observer, February 28, 1991.