On the evening of Friday, January 4, neighbors began to notice a glow in the center of Chastain Park. The fire department was notified and before long firefighters were on site battling the blaze that ripped through the Chastain Park Conservancy’s main office, an old Quonset hut that had served as their headquarters since the non-profit was founded in 2003. The fire was eventually put out, but not before demolishing the structure and everything within.Fortunately, the resident goat Chuck, barn cat Johnson, and the chickens and honeybees were all unscathed, and due to the time of day the building was unoccupied.
As the flames were put out the full scale of the damage could be easily seen. The hut, originally built in 1949, was used as a headquarters for much of the build out of Chastain Park as we know it today. Eventually the hut was abandoned and forgotten in a thicket of trees until about 15 years ago when a volunteer discovered the structure. In the years since, the building has housed gear, offices, and provided a meeting place for volunteers and community members.
Chastain Park Conservancy’s co-founder, the late Ray Mock, was a beloved figure in the community. He lived for the park and was devoted to its upkeep and care, treating the barn as his second home. Within those walls, Mock spent countless hours organizing volunteers and scheduling events to benefit Chastain Park. His tireless historical research led to many discoveries, such as the instance when he identified unmarked graves in an underused part of the park which garnered quite a bit of discussion and attention from the media. In fact, the Conservancy was in the process of renaming the barn and the area as “The Ray Mock Memorial Green” in his honor, and renovations were underway to fix up the building to better suit the Conservancy’s needs.
And just like that, in one evening, it was all reduced to rubble. Chastain Park Conservancy Executive Director Rosa McHugh addressed the event on their website, stating that while devastating, the fire was not about to slow down the Conservancy’s efforts to “restore, enhance, maintain and preserve” the park, per the organization’s mission.
On Tuesday, January 8 McHugh launched a gofundme to help raise funds to rebuild the facility, and as of the following morning the campaign had raised nearly $10,000 of their $50,000 goal. Neighbors, community members, and lovers of Chastain Park have been quick to offer their financial aid to the non-profit in this time of need.
“Like Atlanta’s beloved symbol, the Phoenix, the Conservancy will rise again – better than ever – from the ashes,” wrote McHugh. “Our board, supporters, volunteers, the city and park patrons will see to that.”
Those interested in contributing can visit their gofundme campaign here.