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Discovering the Birthplace of John Wellborn Root

John Wellborn Root was born at this site in Lumpkin, Georgia in 1850 to Sidney and Mary Root. His parents were local planters and soon moved to Atlanta. In the city is where John learned a love for large buildings.


Coming into his teen years, the Root’s faced the struggles of the Civil War. Living in Atlanta they witnessed the takeover of the city by Union forces. Worrying about the safety of his children, Root sent his son John and two other young men on a steamer to England. It was in England that John’s father ran a shipping business.

While living in Liverpool, John attended school and watched the construction of elegant buildings being erected. Soon after the war he moved back to the United States, staying in New York City where he attended a university.

It was after his graduation in 1869, the John Root began working with one of the greatest architects in America, James Renwick Jr as an unpaid intern. Later he worked for several other firms eventually helping with construction on Grand Central Depot, which was the original Grand Central Terminal that stands today.

In 1871, Root moved to Chicago where he formed an architectural firm with Daniel Burnham. While designing buildings he played as an organist at the First Presbyterian Church in Chicago. Throughout his work in invented the floating raft system which helped to allow construction of tall buildings without sinking into the ground. He also worked on buildings used in the 1893 Columbian Exposition and Fine Arts Building which now houses the Chicago Museum of Fine Art.

After Root married Mary Walker in 1879, he lost her just six weeks later to tuberculosis. In 1882, he married Dora Louise Monroe with whom he had his son John Wellborn Root Jr. His son grew up to also be an architect.

While working on the plans for the Columbian Exchange to take place in 1893, John Wellborn Root died from a case of pneumonia in 1891.

He left behind years of architectural work some buildings still standing in Chicago and another in Cleveland.

Violet Sky’s Visit

While driving through the city of Lumpkin, I noticed this small sign located alongside the road. I was not exactly sure who John Wellborn Root was but it was interesting to learn about his life.

Discovering that his origins started here in a rural Georgia town led me to research more on his amazing accomplishments that marked his life.

How to Visit

The site is marked by a small sign at the corner of Broad and Maple Street in Lumpkin.

There is no cost to visit the sign but it is located on the side of a private residence.

Thanks for reading and as always, keep on truckin’!

-Violet Sky

Birthplace of John Wellborn Root, Lumpkin, Georgia
Violet Sky at the Birthplace of John Wellborn Root, Lumpkin, Georgia

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