I’ve read and admired Ann Taylor Boutwell’s A Look Back column and history articles in Atlanta INtown for years. I never thought I’d be writing for the same newspaper as Ann or get to know her in person. Now I have the pleasure of both.
To celebrate Ann’s 17th year at INtown, I wanted to write an article about her. Thankfully, Ann was willing to let me follow her around town like an eager puppy asking questions, but mainly listening to what she had to say. Ann is a treasure trove of all things Atlanta.
Anywhere you go with her turns into an adventure. Ann is filled with facts, dates, names and histories. As a guide at the Margaret Mitchell House and for the city, she’s like a live, walking version of Google and has given thousands of tours to visitors from all over the world. I don’t know how she remembers it all. I have toured Mitchell’s home before, but with Ann it came alive with rich observations and insider facts.
I joined her for a tour of the Cyclorama in Grant Park and she told me to wear a sweater. She was right – it was freezing. As we entered the room with the painting, she took me up to the steps to the top row – it has the best view. The painting, which famously depicts the Battle of Atlanta during the Civil War, is longer than a football field and considered the largest painting in the world. Ann has been to the Cyclorama hundreds of times, but again she had insider knowledge you won’t get from anyone else.
We also toured Oakland Cemetery together, and I finally put my pen and paper down to just soak up all the history. All of Atlanta is represented here. In a city that has such a history of segregation and division, Oakland Cemetery is one place you can go where women and men of all religions and races, known and unknown, lay right near each other.
I’d heard it was impossible to be buried at Oakland because there were no available plots, but somehow Ann has managed to find and buy one – right beside the historic Bell Tower. I couldn’t believe it. I actually know someone who will be buried at Oakland one day. I hope that day is a long way off!
Ann, thank you for your hospitality, your spirit and your unending curiosity. Thank you for giving me your time and letting me into your wonderful world. I hope we have many more tour dates. I will always be grateful for all the dedication and time you have spent putting the history of my hometown on paper.