The Story of the Iron Horse

Greene County, GA

The infamous 12-foot-tall Iron Horse is an abstract sculpture that was created by Abbott Pattison at UGA's Lamar Dodd School of Art and placed in front of Reed Hall in 1954. Back then, art, and metal sculpture in particular, was new to southern universities and the horse was not well received. Just hours after its placement, students gathered around the iron creature, placed straw in its mouth, manure at its back, and painted the words "front" on its neck and "back" on its tail. Balloons were tied underneath the rear legs, and attempts were made to set the horse on fire. When the fire department arrived, the students refused to back away until eventually the fire hoses were turned on the students.

The day after the incident, the university moved the sculpture to a secret hiding place; R.I. Brittain, a university official. said it was unfortunate that students ''on the college level'' had minds on the level of ''grammar school or nursery children'' and ''react violently to anything new, with which they have not had previous experience.'' In 1959, the Iron Horse was moved to its current location on a farm in Greene County, where it now sits in the middle of a corn field, facing south and away from UGA, visible from GA 15 only in the winter. Jack Curtis, owner of the farm, says they are now judging the corn crops on whether or not they can see the horse.

There have been several attempts to bring the Iron Horse back to campus but they all failed.

The Iron Horse is one of the first things I learned about when I arrived in Athens in 1988, along with The Tree That Owns Itself, The Double-Barreled Cannon, and all that Athens lore.

UPDATE 11/14/2012: The Iron Horse is getting some new landscaping soon. The Board of Regents yesterday approved the purchase of this farmland by the University of Georgia. Current UGA research plantings along College Station Road in Athens will transfer to the new land in Greene County soon.