When two of Atlanta’s former mayors died just days apart in 2003, it set off an effort to find proper ways to honor both men.
It was decided that Mayor Maynard Jackson's name would be added to the airport’s moniker, now Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
And a downtown boulevard, it was determined, would be named for Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.
At the time, there also was talk of building a statue to honor Allen.
Whatever happened to that idea?
It took The Atlanta Journal-Constitution nearly a dozen phone calls to find out.
In the process, the newspaper identified an existing obelisk dedicated to the Allen family near the entrance to the Metro Atlanta Chamber downtown, a Georgia Tech college named for the mayor and Allen Plaza, a development on the northern edge of downtown that licenses the use of the mayor’s name. Proceeds go to charities.
But alas, the statue remained elusive.
That was until Hal Barry of Barry Real Estate Cos. rang.
Barry, it turns out, is planning to install a statue of the former mayor in the Allen Plaza development. He already has commissioned a likeness of Allen from an accomplished artist.
Still, Barry said installation of the statue could be years away.
On the ninth floor of 30 Allen Plaza, Barry has a model for the multi-block development. It shows the fourth building of Allen Plaza rising 46 stories, visible to drivers on the downtown connector as it peaks through the Ernst & Young building and the W Atlanta Downtown. The new tower would be the tallest in the Allen Plaza project.
But Barry needs a major office tenant to justify building a new skyscraper. He said he's been “encouraged” by talks with potential lead tenants, but still believes a groundbreaking is several years away.
If he does build it, then he plans to install the mayor's statue so that it faces the street named for him.
“We’re planning it as part of a long-range sculpture program,” Barry said. “It’s only fitting to put it in front of the major building on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.”
A two-term mayor, Allen served from 1962 to 1970. He is credited with keeping Atlanta from burning while other cities went up in flames during the civil rights struggles of the era.
He was the lone Southern mayor to testify to Congress on behalf of the 1964 civil rights legislation.
Allen had been groomed for leadership. He was one of three Allen family members to serve as president of the Atlanta Chamber. The others were his father, Ivan Allen Sr., and his son, Ivan Allen III. An obelisk honors the family just outside the Atlanta Chamber’s front door.
Many also credit Allen Jr. with transforming Atlanta into a modern city, complete with professional sports teams, major highways and a thriving airport.
In a book he wrote with Paul Hemphill, a former Atlanta Journal columnist, Allen refers to Atlanta as the “New York of the South.”
Barry explained Allen helped Atlanta outpace her Southern sisters, including Charlotte and Birmingham.
“We’re by far the capital of the Southeast,” Barry said. “He did a lot of things with his can-do attitude.”
Barry said he met the late mayor in the 1960s and admired his leadership from afar. Barry buys up copies of Allen’s book, "Mayor: Notes on the Sixties," off the Internet. The rare book was published in 1971.
Allen, a Georgia Tech alum, has a legacy there as well.
“We are a monument in a way,” said Rebecca Keane, who works for the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the school that is better known for technical degrees. “We carry forward his legacy, the kinds of things that he did in economic infrastructure, social courage and social justice. It’s amazing how many fields he played in effectively. He was among those pivotal figures that defined the New South.”
Still, there’s one tribute to Allen that may remain mothballed. Atlanta architect Cecil Alexander designed an elaborate sculpture tribute to Allen that was meant to be installed near Turner Field. So far, funding for that effort never gained steam.
Barry said he plans to use the statue that he commissioned from a different artist.
Inman Allen, Allen Jr.’s son, said of Barry’s future tribute to his father: “I’m sure the family would be very receptive to it. We’re proud of his legacy.”
When asked if his father has been appropriately remembered, Allen said, “I don’t know what appropriate is. History sometimes takes a long time to unfold.”