Actual Factual Georgia: Gray wall hides Oglethorpe stadium

Q: Oglethorpe University has very unique architecture throughout its campus, but what’s the purpose of what looks like a castle wall right off Peachtree Road? That’s a very decorative wall.

A: There’s more to that formidable gray façade than drivers can see as they whiz past, so I won’t stonewall you any longer.

Oglethorpe University used to have a football team, and Harry Hermance, an executive with the old Woolworth company, wanted to build a grand stadium, incorporating the university’s Gothic revival look with seating for at least 40,000, and perhaps as many as 50,000, fans.

So he ponied up $50,000 and the first section was completed in the 1920s.

That’s the castle-like wall that’s visible from Peachtree Road, complete with battlements, turrets and flagpoles, what seems like a perfect venue for a joust.

The timing proved to be terrible.

That section of the stadium was dedicated on Oct. 26, 1929, before a football game against the University of Dayton.

Three days later, the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday, leading the way into the Great Depression.

Like many Americans, Hermance lost a great deal of money, so that permanently put on hold plans to finish the stadium, which would have been completed in eight sections and enclosed to form a bowl around the field.

As it turned out, Oglethorpe suspended its athletic program during World War II and never fielded another football team.

Hermance Stadium is inscribed above the main gates, and if you step through them, you’ll end up in the 5,000-seat portion that was completed.

The gray bleachers extend almost to the top of the wall and down to what is now Anderson Field, home of Oglethorpe’s baseball team.

Funtown memories wanted

If you have any information or memories about Funtown, an amusement park that was on Stewart Avenue in the early 1960s, let me know for possible use in a future Actual Factual Georgia.

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Andy Johnston with Fast Copy News Service wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).

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