It’s not the Hatfields and the McCoys, but both St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Midtown and the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead lay claim to the peach trees of Peachtree.
Before we get to that, I came across a remarkable story in the “Atlanta Centennial Year Book” from 1937 published by Gregg Murphy. The 170-page book chronicles the early days of Atlanta, from the pioneers to the railroads to those early civic boosters who were helping Atlanta realize its potential. In it there is a first-hand account on the origin of Peachtree Street. In a chapter, titled “The Story of ‘The Standing Peachtree’” by Eugene M. Mitchell is the tale of how Standing Fort Peach Tree, at the confluence of the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek, got its name. The theory the great historian Franklin Garrett put forward in “Atlanta and Environs” regarding the pitch tree, rather than a peach tree, is there.
But there is also a first-hand account told by George Washington Collier that there once was indeed a peach tree. Collier was born in 1813 and lived on property belonging to his father along Peachtree Creek. In an interview with the Atlanta Constitution in 1897, Collier said, “There was a great huge mound of earth heaped up [at the confluence of the two waterways] ... and right on top of it grew a big peach tree. It bore fruit and was a useful and beautiful tree.”
He went on to say that because it was so unusual, the area adopted the name Peach Tree. The writer of the year book article hedges a bit, saying that some enterprising soul may have planted the peach tree after the area took its name from the original “pitch” tree, which was mispronounced at some point and became the familiar peach tree. A “pitch” tree was covered in a sap-like substance, called pitch.
A few weeks ago I wrote that I did not know of any peach trees along Peachtree Street, prompting a call from a parishioner of St. Luke’s, which is located at 435 Peachtree St. He said there is indeed a peach tree, an old one at that, just beside the connector in a well-kept park alongside the 106-year-old church. A lunchtime excursion confirmed it, and there were actually young peaches in the tree, which is growing out of a chain-link fence at the base of on of those massive signs overhanging the Interstate 85/75 connector.
Not to be outdone, the dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip noted there are several peach trees along Peachtree Road near the Rumson Road entrance. Sam Candler said he understood the trees were planted specifically so the church could lay claim to having a few peach trees on Peachtree. He also said there is a peach tree down in Peachtree Creek near the Peachtree Road bridge.
In my youth I often played under that bridge, which was also the location of a small village of cardboard boxes that people lived in. However, in my old age I was not adventurous enough to climb down and inspect it up close, but you can see it from Fairhaven Circle in Peachtree Hills.
Thornton Kennedy is a fifth-generation Buckhead resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.