Leaning finials a point of interest at Tattnall Square Park

jkovac@macon.comJuly 9, 2014 

Along Adams Street at the edge of Tattnall Square Park, a pair of 3-foot concrete curiosities sit perched atop the twin brick columns that now stand sentry at the 16-acre park’s remodeled west entrance.

Flames?

Pineapples?

Plumes, perhaps?

No, the creations are finials in the shape of magnolia seed pods, those grenade-looking things.

They are an homage to the park’s statuesque magnolias, a couple of which shade the new gateway in the morning sun. The ornate, 300-pound white finials are so smoothly textured that they almost appear made of icing.

It took Amy McCollough Hellis, the artist who crafted them, six months to finish them.

Recently set in place overlooking Lawton Avenue, the finials have a slight lean, which almost serves to wave visitors into the park.

“I didn’t want them to be straight up and down because I didn’t want them to be mistaken for a pineapple, which is a typical finial,” McCollough Hellis said.

Andrew Silver, chairman of Friends of Tattnall Square Park, which oversaw the entryway’s face-lift, said, “We’re always trying to find something that goes above and beyond what other parks are doing.”

At an informal unveiling Wednesday, Silver recalled asking the artist about the finials’ creative lean.

“Are you gonna straighten those out, Amy?” he recalled saying. “And she said, ‘No, trust me on this.’ And I am so glad I did. That tilt makes this entrance.”

Decades ago, the entrance was marked by columns topped with cast-iron urns.

The new entrance, which cost about $21,000 and was funded by the Knight Foundation, is one of the park group’s many undertakings.

Other entryways, including one at the corner or College and Oglethorpe streets, will also be revamped.

J.R. Olive of the College Hill Alliance, who was on hand at Wednesday’s gathering, described the park as the focal point of the Mercer University area.

Tattnall Square’s preservation and upkeep, he said, are vital.

“When you’re driving by,” he said, “people are so used to seeing, um ...”

“A dump,” piped up nearby resident and park-friends board member Jane Carder.

“Yeah,” Olive went on, speaking of the new brick columns and finials, “they’re so used to seeing what they would consider typical Macon, quote, unquote. ... And I think this shows people what can be done. It’s striking. ... Makes it hard to ignore.”

Later, Silver and McCollough Hellis, the artist, went across Adams Street for a wide view of the redone entrance. Silver, looking back at the park, mentioned how half a dozen crape myrtles, which flank the new columns, serve to frame the overhauled landscape. (And, in all likelihood, attract aphids.)

“Now,” Silver kidded the artist, “they will be spitting aphid poop all over your magnolia pod.”

“That’ll age them nicely, I think,” she said.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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