Clyde Partin Jr. tells the story of how a piece of Atlanta and Emory history was discovered beside a dumpster on the Emory campus fifteen years ago. Clyde is a graduate of Emory College and Emory School of Medicine and the son of the legendary long-time Emory athletics director and coach, the late “Doc” Partin. As Clyde tells it, his parents were walking to Emory’s baseball field at Chappell Park one fall day in 2001, when they came upon “a monolithic piece of granite, like a huge tombstone, lying next to the dumpster.” (He and John Stone relate the story in Atlanta Medicine, Volume 77, Issue 2 (2003), pp. 12-16.)
The elder Partins contacted Clyde Jr., whose investigation determined quickly that this was the cornerstone of the old building of the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons, a precursor to the Emory School of Medicine. The ACPS itself had been formed in 1898 from the merger of two other medical schools, both of which traced their lineage to Atlanta’s first medical school, the Atlanta Medical College. (Emory’s fourth president, Alexander Means, taught briefly at the Atlanta Medical College in the 1850s.) After several splits and mergers, in 1906 the ACPS moved into new quarters at the corner of Armstrong and Butler streets—now Armstrong Street and Jesse Hill Jr. Drive—across from Grady Memorial Hospital.
By the 1960s the building needed to be replaced, so down came the five-decade-old structure—its piecemeal deconstruction recorded in photographs.
Soon the cornerstone itself was detached from the wall surrounding it, and a cavity at the top of the stone was uncovered. In that cavity was a metal box
With Emory dignitaries on hand, including the board chair, the university president, and the dean of the medical school, the “time capsule” was retrieved and opened.
The contents of the box appear to have been just whatever was at hand on the day the cornerstone was laid—no profound messages from one generation to a later one, no poetry or spiritual wisdom, no valuable treasures or cultural secrets to be passed along to an inquisitive bunch of archaeologists. Just a daily paper with news of the moment, a physician’s empty stationery envelope, and sundry odds and ends.
What happened to the cornerstone after its removal from the site in 1961 is anyone’s guess, and as Clyde notes, how it came to rest by the side of that dumpster is still more of a mystery. It now graces the plaza of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building.
Emory medical faculty members still play their teaching and medical arts on the site of the old Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons, in the building that replaced the 1906 structure.