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This Day in Georgia History

May 20, 1916

Dedication Ceremony at Base of Stone Mountain

To view an image of Stone Mountain in 1916, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Earlier in the year, Sam Venable - and heirs of his brother William - gave the United Daughters of the Confederacy a deed to the north face of Stone Mountain for carving a memorial to the Confederacy. The two Venable brothers had purchased Stone Mountain for $48,000 from the Southern Granite Company in 1887. Sam Venable and heirs of his brother agreed to allow the UDC to undertake a Confederate memorial on the north face, with the stipulation that the carving be completed within 12 years. On May 20, 1916, 5000 people attended dedication ceremonies at the base of the mountain. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum was hired to oversee the carving. Borglum had envisioned Gen. Robert E. Lee riding in front of a Confederate regiment above a memorial and reflection pond at the base of the mountain. It was not until the summer of 1923 that Borglum began actual work on the carving. Robert E. Lee was the first figure to be sculpted from the mountainside. On Jan. 19, 1924, 20,000 people attended ceremonies for the unveiling of the head of Lee. As work continued on Lee, carving begin on Stonewall Jackson. By 1925, the project was running out of money, and there were concerns about a number of issues. Borglum was fired over lack of progress, and Augustus Lukeman hired to complete the project. Lukeman came up with a new design in 1928. However, the stock market crash of 1929 caused the project to be suspended. As a result, the deed to the face of Stone Mountain reverted to the Venable family. It would not be until 1952 that the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and surrounding land for a park, and not until 1970 that the carving was dedicated.