When I came to Athens for the first time, I was a junior in high school trying to figure out where I would go to college. I was excited to tour the University of Georgia campus, get a feel for the town, you know… normal things you do when you visit a college town. My mother on the other hand, had two things that she had read about and was so excited to see - a tree and a cannon.
These may seem like pretty boring things to drive all the way from Florida to Athens, Georgia to see as far as sights go but I took Mom's word for it. Afterall, she kept talking about them during our eight-hour car ride.
The tree she was referring to was no ordinary tree. At the corner of Finley Street and Dearing Street, about a block off of Broad Street (the main drag of Athens for anyone who is familiar with the area), stands an oak tree with a sign that deeds it to itself. Technically, the tree that stands there today grew from an acorn of the original tree, which fell in 1942. However, the history is still there. Legend has it that in the early 1800s, out of love for a great oak on his property, Professor William H.Jackson deeded to the tree ownership of itself and the land within eight feet of it on all sides to itself. The tree's property rights have never been questioned, and it is now fairly well known as "The Tree That Owns Itself".
The cannon, likewise, is no ordinary cannon. This famous Double-Barreled Cannon is located in front of City Hall downtown and was originally cast at the Athens Steam Company in 1862. It is a double six-pounder, cast in one piece, with a three degree divergence from the parallel between the barrels. Each barrel has its own touch hole so it can be fired independently of the other and a common touch hole in the center is designed to fire both barrels simultaneously. The idea was to connect two cannon balls with a chain and mow the enemy down like a scythe cuts wheat. Apparently, however, the cannon did not quite perform as well as expected. On the several occasions it was tested, a cow was killed, a chimney was demolished, and rumor has it several onlookers were killed as well. So while the cannon wasn't too successful, it is still displayed proudly downtown - pointing north, just in case.
Since these two attractions are all over the tour books, and they're both pretty unique, I would suggest checking them out next time you're in town. If nothing else, you'll make my mama proud!