Lukeman Era

Lukeman Era


Augustus Lukeman began work on Stone Mountain on April 1, 1925. A very rational man, Lukeman quickly realized that he could not complete the carving before the 12 year contract expired in 1928. Lukeman's predecessor, Gutzon Borglum, had began the project in 1923, but had failed to make substantial progress. When the temperamental Borglum left Stone Mountain (to eventually go on to carve Mount Rushmore), he destroyed his models and sketches, leaving Lukeman with nothing.

Lukeman capitalized on the situation, designing his own plans. He made a new design in the classic style showing Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback as the central figures. Lukeman also designed an elaborate Memorial below the carving. Lukeman's extravagant plans were described in A Monument to Surpass the Pyramids. Within this pamphlet was also an appeal for funds to citizens of both north and south. The plans, as indicated by the title of the pamphlet, were extraordinarily complex.

Although Lukeman realized that he could never complete the carving before the 1928 deadline, he worked as quickly as possible to show the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association, under the auspices of the UDC, that the project could be completed if he were given an extension. Lukeman established a complex scaffolding system so that a dozen men could work at once. The actual tool used in the cutting was a pneumatic drill. Unfortunately, the point had to be replaced every several minutes due to the hardness of the granite. Lukeman's diligence paid off. By March 20, 1928, he had completed the faces of Davis and Lee and also that of Lee's horse, Traveler. It was apparent that he could complete the project. Further, the Confederate Commemorative half-dollars were selling at a rate sufficient to finance the project in the coming years should an extension be granted.

The extension never came, ending the Lukeman Era at Stone Mountain. The UDC returned the land to the Venable family. Although interest in completing the Memorial never died, it would be another 35 years before work would resume on the face of Stone Mountain. In 1958, the State of Georgia purchased the property and assigned the Stone Mountain Park Authority the unenviable job of assuring the completion of the Memorial.

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