Chastain Park in Atlanta, Georgia is the most recognized Chastain place name in America. It consists of several parts, the most famous of which is the Chastain Park Amphitheater. A high end residential area has developed around the park, making it one of the most desirable living areas in central Georgia.
By far, the most well known Chastain place name is the 268 acre Chastain Park--the largest park in Atlanta, Georgia. The Park consists of several components, perhaps the most prominent of which is Chastain Amphitheater, where many classical and contemporary musical events are held.
The namesake of Chastain Park is Fulton County Commissioner Troy Green Chastain. Troy Chastain was a major force behind the development of parks in Atlanta and especially of North Fulton Park, which in 1946 was renamed Chastain Park in his honor.
Chastain Park Conservancy was formed in 2003 to “To Restore, Enhance, Maintain And Preserve Chastain Park.” Below are excerpts from a history of Chastain Park found at the Park History web page.
Chastain Park is the largest park and one of the most popular parks in the city of Atlanta, used for a variety of recreational and cultural activities. It is the centerpiece of the vision of former County Commissioner Troy Chastain for the development of North Fulton County in the early 1940’s. It was through the efforts of Chastain, his fellow commissioners and local business leaders that the Park was created and it remains very similar to the purpose envisioned more than 50 years ago.
Originally named North Fulton Park, Chastain Park was dedicated to the memory of Troy Green Chastain on September 25, 1946. Chastain was a member of the Fulton County Commission from 1938 to 1942 when the majority of the Park was developed. Chastain Park came under the ownership of the city of Atlanta as part of the 1952 Plan of Improvement, annexing much of North Fulton County into the city limits. From 1946 to 1952, the Park did not change significantly, however, from 1984 to the present, several major changes have occurred prompted by the 1984 Master Plan.
Creek Indians once lived in the floodplain of Nancy Creek and farmed the area, which is now known as the North Fulton Golf Course. Just south of Wieuca Road where the ball fields are located was the site of the Creek Indian Village. Over the years the floodplain in this area has been filled in more than ten feet. The State Archeologist believes remains of an ancient Indian village exists below the fill.
All of the property was originally part of Henry County, which became DeKalb County in 1840. Fulton County acquired the property at the turn of the century. The original parcel was approximately 1000 acres. Fulton County planned to use the property to build a new almshouse for the county poor. In 1909 the County constructed the two almshouses on Wieuca Road. In 1936, the Fulton County Commission changed the name of the facilities to Haven Home. The almshouses remained in use until 1952. The brick structure currently houses Galloway School and the frame building the Chastain Arts and Crafts Center.
Chastain Park currently totals 268 acres. The remainder of the original approximate 1000 acres was sold for development in the 1940’s. To encourage residential development in North Fulton, the County Commission decided to provide a major recreation facility on the farmland. Many of the current facilities including the pool, bathhouse, stables, picnic areas and lakes were built under their direction in the 1940’s by the WPA and labor from the prison farm.
Troy Chastain was a major force in developing the Park facilities including the 18-hole North Fulton Golf Course on the farmland south of the Almshouses. In 1948, the course was the site of the National Public Links Golf Tournament; an important occasion since it was the first time the event was held in the South.
Troy and others were determined that the North Fulton Park would be a showplace for recreation facilities. The tennis center was built and at the time said to rival the courts at Jekyll Island in quality and class with a total of 9 courts. The swimming pool is an Olympic-size facility where many swimming meets have been held through the years. In the early years, teams came from as far away as Havana, Cuba to compete.
Troy was interested in building an amphitheater in the Park. The Chastain amphitheater is built in a natural bowl area and its design is similar to the facility in Richmond. The amphitheater opened on June 20, 1944.
The riding stables were built in 1945 to house horses for the polo fields along West Wieuca Road. These stables were built as a result of an ongoing rivalry between differing factions that stabled their horses across Powers Ferry Road. Bridle paths meandered through the Park and surrounding rolling hills.
The center ring was developed as one of the largest and best facilities for horse shows in the state. On these occasions attendees would camp in the Park. An annual event was the Thanksgiving Breakfast and Ride hosted by the Fulton County Commission from the late 1940’s until 1955.
In the late 1990’s, Chastain Horse Park, Ltd. (CHP) was formed to lease, renovate and operate the property. CHP has recently competed a $4 million development of the facility.
Galloway School now occupies the white almshouse. The neo-classical revival building is built in a characteristic horseshoe shape with a center courtyard. Galloway School, a private school offering classes from pre-first kindergarten through the twelfth grade, leased the building and grounds from the County in 1965.
The Fulton County black almshouse was built in 1909. This white frame building is also in the classical revival tradition and features a covered portico around its L-shape layout. The black almshouse continued to operate until 1968, when it was sold to the City of Atlanta. Shortly thereafter, the Chastain Arts Center began operating under the Department of Parks and Recreation. A new pottery wing and additional structural renovations to the roof and porches were made in 1978. Another renovation effort in the late 1980’s created a professional gallery space in the old prisoner/caretaker quarters.
The gym was completed in 1972 and is the only major recent addition to the Park. Facilities include a weight room, gymnasium/basketball court, locker rooms and one handball/racquetball court and office. The building was partially funded by contributions from the Northside Youth Organization (NYO). In 1966, NYO moved to Chastain Park, and by this time, the football program was serving over 700 players and cheerleaders. In the late 1960’s, baseball was added. In 1984 the NYO playfields consisted of two baseball fields, two softball fields, one soccer field and one football field. Press boxes, concession building, restrooms and parking were also a part of the facility.
The bathhouse was constructed in 1942. The 50-yard Olympic pool was built as a competition facility. In 2002, the North American Swim Association (NASA) agreed to lease and operate the pool and its facilities for the community.
The original tennis center building was destroyed by fire and replaced in 1979. The new facility includes equipment sales, locker rooms, restrooms, offices and a small concession area.
The Park essentially was developed as Troy Chastain imagined. The only major additions to the Park since his death are the ball fields in 1952, the gymnasium in 1972 and the PATH system built in 1995 and expanded in 1998.
Chastain Amphitheater hosts 60-70 classical and major contemporary music concerts per season. See a current schedule of events.
JBSlemmer.com describes Chastain Amphitheater:
Chastain Park Amphitheatre is a small outdoor venue situated comfortably in a natural setting located off Roswell Road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. It is really a beautiful venue for a concert - very intimate, but also safe - located in a good part of north Atlanta, the people sitting in the seats next to you are always nice folks. It is one of the most popular amphitheatres in the country. Seeing a concert here tells you it's summer in Atlanta. Many of music’s biggest names from every musical genre have appeared on the Chastain stage. Chastain is known for its relaxed atmosphere, matching the music and performances. Most people bring a light supper, wine and cheese, coolers, candles and snacks and snuggle up with their honey to listen to music under the stars! You ARE allowed to bring in coolers, food and drinks, subject to inspection.
Food is sold at stands on site, and catered meals are available at 770-452-9202 and 678-584-9581. The JB Slemmer site has directions to Chastain Amphitheater including maps. It also has tips and, of course, ticket information. Picnics in the Park, 1979 lists Chastain Park as one of the premier picnic venues in the country. "If you are not fortunate enough to have your own table, don't despair! You can set up a folding tray in front of your seat or spread a blanket on the grass outside with the overflow crowd."
Participants give Chastain Amphitheater top ratings. “Romantic” and “relaxing” are words that frequently recur. If it rains, it is just part of the ambiance, so bring an umbrella! And be prepared for those around you to sing along with the featured talent.
Each year, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presents Classic Chastain, a summer series of classical music presentations. See the current schedule. When concerts other than orchestral are booked, the orchestra pit is set up with tables for additional seating.
Many of the most popular musical performers can be seen at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre, but one has an album named for the park, James Brown: Live at Chastain Park was recorded live in 1985, and has been released a number of times under different titles and with different mixes of songs. It is also available in video. Songs include Introduction, Give It Up Or Turn It Loose, It's Too Funky In Here, Doing It To Death, Try Me, Get On The Good Foot, Prisoner of Love, Get Up Offa That Thing, Georgia On My Mind, Hot Pants, I Got The Feeling, It's A Man's Man's Man's World, Cold Sweat, I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me), Papa's Got A Brand New Bag, I Got You (I Feel Good), Please Please Please, Jam 1980, and The End.
The first annual “Miracles Happen” black tie and blue jeans fund raiser was held in April, 1999. The guest of honor was Christopher Reeve who delivered an inspirational talk on his life, horses, and the importance of therapeutic riding. The guest of honor at the 2002 event was Bo Derek.