At nearly 160 years old, the cast iron Arch bordering North Campus and Downtown Athens, represents both the past and the future of the University of Georgia.
The Arch is modeled after the Georgia state seal featuring the three pillars of wisdom, justice and moderation. To that end, the Arch is a reminder of the university’s ties to Georgia as the birthplace of public higher education in America and its commitment as a land-grant and sea-grant university to serve the people of Georgia.
For such an iconic symbol, the Arch’s origins are remarkably unassuming. Ironworkers at the Athens Foundry, which produced ironworks across the city and the campus, probably forged the Arch in 1857 when an iron gate was erected to separate Broad Street and the north end of the university. At the time, cattle roaming the dirt road that is now Broad Street were grazing on the North Campus lawn. Functionally speaking, this 16-foot, roughly 5,700-pound monument first acted as a gateway for the fence, with two doors connecting the columns. In fact, it was referred to as “the gate” rather than “the Arch” until the early 20th century.
The pillars at the Arch’s base were apparently made from the iron light poles erected elsewhere in the city, and the arch over them was made from boiler retention rings. The wreath detailing that adorns the Arch has a striking resemblance to embellishments on the Lucy Cobb House porch in Athens. In short, the Arch was fashioned from existing pieces, rather than being made from scratch.
Over time, the Arch has become synonymous with the university itself. Though it is nearly 70 years younger than the university’s charter, the Arch’s endurance through time mirrors the university’s enduring motto “to teach, to serve and to inquire into the nature of things.”
Special thanks to Steven Brown and Janine Duncan for providing historical perspective on the Arch.