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Mastodons Made the First Highway Here
History is Preserved Through Decorative Concrete

by Leah Meyer, Independent Writer


Tattnall Square Park, located in Macon, Georgia, will have its history preserved for many years to come with two beautiful installments of decorations on existing concrete pads. The entire project took several weekends to complete, and the end result is spectacular. Eloquent Americana wordage etched into the concrete itself, coupled with an appealing design, pays tribute to the historic legacy of the area.

Deep in the heart of Bouthern Georgia, in a city with rich history and Southern charm, winds the first major trading route to connect Savannah, Georgia, with Nashville, Tennesse.

According to JR Olive, board member of Friends of Tattnall Square Park, a community group established in the 1990s, "This historical road began as a migratory path for mastodons after the Ice Age. Later, the Paleo and Muscogee Indians used it as a hunting trail."


"The first weekend we cleaned and acid stained the pads using Kemiko's Golden Wheat, Malay Tan and Vintage Umber," states Tamryn Doolan, co-owner of Surface Gel Tek. "Acid stains and concrete go together like peanut butter and jelly. The stains react with and burn into the concrete creating a natural marbling that is difficult, at best, to simulate any other way."

The story goes that after thousands of years, this widely used trail was eventually transformed into the Old Federal Highway under President Thomas Jefferson. Today, Tattnall Square Park is the second oldest urban park in all of Georgia.

Realizing that the trail's history might soon be forgotten, Friends of Tattnall Square Park united together on a project that included using acidic liquids to create a captivating design on top of existing concrete pads located in the park.

"This historical marker has been
 in the planning stages for 10 years," says Olive.


The blue tracing laid on the ground is the manufacturer's patented Flattoo system. Fundamentally, it is a stencil that is resistant to acid-based liquids and outlines where the acid should be placed. After the acid is laid, the Flattoo is removed simply with water and a mop or rags.

He, along with the community, felt that if the two 25-foot diameter concrete pads, that were installed in the park years ago, didn't show the history of this site, the value would be forever lost.

Of course, preserving the park's history would be no small feat. Not only did the group want a captivating design, they also desired high-quality products that would withstand the elements, while still protecting the environment.

Husband and wife team Bob and Lee Ann Harris, known worldwide in the decorative concrete industry, were first drawn to the project due to its historical significance.

"When our clients contacted us and showed us the design concept, both Lee Ann and I thought this was a perfect project to use Surface Gel Tek's Flattoos System," Mr. Harris related. The Flattoo system is a process of etching an image into concrete using SGT's patented gelled acid and high precision vinyl templates to inlay the graphics.

Bob Harris, senior decorative concrete consultant at Structural Services, Inc. and the founder of the Decorative Concrete Institute in Temple, Georgia, had previously worked with Tamryn and Daniel Doolan, owners of SGT, and thought they would be perfect for the job.

Bob states, "SGT's system eliminates OSHA silica dust concerns and have the added bonus of containing no volatile organic compounds, which made it perfect for this project. To start, we proposed SGT produce small samples to establish an expectation. Then Tamryn created the Flattoos. We knew from the beginning this would be an interesting and beautiful project."


This project required each Flattoo template to be cut into 24 pieces with the largest pieces maxing out at over 11 feet long. It's essentially like a giant puzzle. With the first Flattoo in place, it is etched into the concrete. This step is critical to giving the project longevity because the acid becomes part of the concrete rather than sitting on top of it. The etching process is fairly straightforward: brush it on and scrub it in until it stops sizzling, then remove it using rags or squeegees.

Once the Flattoos were designed and accepted, they were placed onto the concrete pads in the park. The Harris' chose to use SGT's HD24 Pre Grind for the etchings. HD24 is SGT's patented gelled acid that only resembles liquid acid in that they are both acids. HD24 gelled acid reacts with the surface it comes in contact with and is neutralized by water, therefore it poses no environmental issues.

"In 20 plus years we've never had a gallon returned because it didn't work," says Tamryn Doolan.

After HD24 is applied, the residue is removed by mopping with clean water. HD24 etched off the acid stains that were previously applied, while simultaneously etching the image into the concrete.

KenResin solvent-based acrylic with non-skid additive was applied after. The combination literally "popped" the acid stain marbling and brought to life this historic project. Tamryn and Bob have proven over the years just how successful teamwork is in the decorative concrete industry.

"We've worked on projects for over 15 years with the Harris'. I've never turned down a project for being too difficult" says Tamryn. "In fact, the more challenging, the more I love it."

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, April 2018, Hardscapes.

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February 17, 2019, 11:12 pm PST

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