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Macon’s Fading Five

The inaugural “Fading Five” list, announced on Aug. 26, includes the Schofield Iron Works Complex, Alexander IV Elementary School, the Cotton Avenue District, the Bonnybrae-Bedgood House, and the Ware House.

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Thousands of causes can turn a once beautiful and lively building into an abandoned and dilapidated structure. Though we may never know how to prevent the neglect of historic buildings, Historic Macon hopes to turn back time and save some of Macon’s most endangered places.

The inaugural “Fading Five” list, announced on Aug. 26, includes the Schofield Iron Works Complex, Alexander IV Elementary School, the Cotton Avenue District, the Bonnybrae-Bedgood House, and the Ware House.

Historic Macon plans to work with property owners, community organizations, businesses, and other supporters to find ways to restore and preserve the five places.

Ethiel Garlington, executive director of Historic Macon, said the organization had talked about creating a Fading Five list for years, but the recent loss of two downtown structures provided the extra push to create a list of endangered historic places.

“On the heels of the [demolition of] Tremont Temple Baptist Church and the Douglass House, we knew that we needed to be more proactive with these properties and raise more awareness from the beginning,” said Garlington.

Historic Macon’s preservation committee used six criteria to narrow down a pool of 25 nominations sent in by individuals and organizations from across Macon-Bibb County: historic significance, threat, community commitment, outcomes, messages, and diversity.

Garlington said each place needed to be able to garner community support and have possible solutions. Their “messages” had to highlight preservation issues in Macon, and they needed to represent diversity in history and location.

Schofield Ironworks
Schofield Ironworks

Schofield Iron Works Complex
509, 513, 521 Fifth Street 

Schofield Iron Works was founded in 1859. “At that time, Macon was the center of industry not just for the state, but for the region because of our proximity to the coast and the rail lines,” said Garlington.

Schofield took advantage of Macon’s booming industrial scene, manufacturing steam-powered cotton presses and railroad equipment, and shipping products all over the world. As the company grew bigger, so did the Schofield complex, and eventually the company moved to a location on Edgewood Avenue.

Several iron works and manufacturing companies operated in the complex on Fifth Street, and in 1942, C.W. Farmer Company, a retail and mill supply business, moved in. C.W. Farmer closed in 1979 and the complex sat vacant until the mid-80s when L&M Manufacturers moved in. The Schofield Complex has been vacant since 1995, when L&M moved out.

“That building is a perfect example of demolition by neglect,” Garlington said. “There is a hole in the roof the size of a car in one portion of the building. It’s just slowly falling in on itself because [the current owners] haven’t maintained it.”

A few developers and buyers have been interested in the complex, and organizations like NewTown Macon and the Urban Development Authority want the building to be restored and reused.

Garlington said Schofield is ideal for a mixed-use development with commercial and residential spaces. Because of its size, it could be used for almost anything, such as offices or a recreation center. Historic Macon will work with Magnolia State Bank, the current owner, to find a buyer who can reuse the complex.

The industrial area of downtown Macon “is not really on people’s radar yet, and those types of industrial buildings aren’t necessarily what we think of when we think of historic architecture,” said Garlington.

Dilapidated on Ridge
Dilapidated on Ridge

Alexander IV Elementary School
3769 Ridge Avenue

Alexander IV is one of two remaining schools named after Elam Alexander, who was a supporter of public education in Macon and who set up the Alexander Free School Board (now called the Elam Alexander Trust) in his will.

Alexander IV, along with the three other schools, was supported by the Trust. It opened in 1932 in the Ingleside neighborhood.

“It represents an era of public education when school buildings were neighborhood schools,” said Garlington. “So especially for the Ingleside neighborhood, that building and that school is highly significant.”

The school closed in 2011, and in 2013 the Bibb County Board of Education declared it surplus.

Unlike Schofield, Garlington said Alexander IV is not an example of “demolition by neglect.” The school board maintains the building and keeps it secure, but it doesn’t have a plan for the building’s future.

“Historic Macon wants to help serve as a facilitator to help find a new developer or buyer for the building that’s compatible not only to the building, but also to the neighborhood,” said Garlington. “Ideally, whatever it’s used for could employ people in the neighborhood and be a catalyst for that neighborhood.”

Some potential uses for Alexander IV are a school, of course, or housing. Garlington said the building could be used for condos, market rate rentals, or senior housing.

Repurposing Alexander IV is made all the more important by the fact that the Ingleside neighborhood will soon be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Downtown Corridor
The Downtown Corridor

Cotton Avenue District

This area isn’t actually on Cotton Avenue. It’s the section of Forsyth Street that houses H&H Restaurant and turns into DT Walton Senior Way. The area was one of a few African American commercial districts in Macon established during the Jim Crow era. It also housed the Capricorn Records office.

“Believe it or not, [Cotton Avenue District] is the most in-tact of those neighborhoods in Macon,” said Garlington. “The others have been even more obliterated.”

Losing Tremont Temple and the Douglass House heightened the threat to Cotton Avenue. Because it’s a high-traffic area near Navicent Health, the neighborhood is susceptible to developments that don’t preserve the historic architecture already in place. Historic Macon hopes to educate developers on their options concerning reusing existing buildings.

To educate the public on the neighborhood’s history, Historic Macon led a walking tour of the Cotton Avenue District and hopes to lead more in the future.

“We want to continue to get the word out about the stories that happened there and the history that is there,” said Garlington. Historic Macon also plans to work with the hospital and other companies who might want to develop parts of Cotton Avenue.

Garlington said this area is also the hub for Macon’s music tourism. Visitors from across the country take photos in front of the Capricorn office and eat at H&H.

“This neighborhood represents the rich and diverse African American legacy in Macon, not just through the music history of Otis Redding and Capricorn, but also in the churches, in the civil rights activism, [and] in the locally owned African American businesses that are still in that neighborhood,” he said.

Georgia Ave. Mansion
Georgia Ave. Mansion

Bonnybrae-Bedgood House
1073 Georgia Avenue

The Bonnybrae-Bedgood House is an antebellum home near Mercer’s Law School. Garlington said it might be the last antebellum house in Macon that hasn’t been fully restored.

It was built between 1838 and 1839 by James Goddard, who was from Massachusetts. Prominent Macon leaders owned the house throughout its life, including Isaac Scott, president of the Macon and Western Railroad and the Upson County Railroad, and Walter Arnold Huff, mayor of Macon.

In 1893, William McEwan Johnston bought the house for his wife, who gave it the name “Bonnybrae.”

“In the early 20th century, Neil Reid totally transformed that house,” said Garlington. “So, the house that we see today is not the way it looked originally.”

However, because Neil Reid was a prominent Macon and Georgia architect, his additions and changes add to Bonnybrae’s historic significance.

The size of the house limits its potential long term uses. Historic Macon plans to work with the current owners to find a developer with a solid business plan and a concern for preserving the historic home.

The organization would also like to put easements on the house to vet potential buyers.

“We want to make sure people can rehab that house within a certain timeline. We want to make sure they have the experience for a project of that size and the financial backing to pull something like that off,” said Garlington.

Queen of Beall's Hill
Queen of Beall’s Hill

Ware House
1107 Oglethorpe Street

Local Macon leader Thomas Jefferson Ware built the Queen Anne style house in Beall’s Hill around 1880. He lived there until 1917, when he moved to Atlanta.

Ware died two years later and one of his sons-in-law lived in the house for a short time. Beginning in 1920, the house was rented to several people and by 1940 it was a boarding house.

Eventually, the Ware house became a single-family home again, and in 1965 the current owners bought the house. Several more people lived there throughout the years, and now it sits vacant on the corner of Oglethorpe and Ross streets.

Garlington said it’s another example of demolition by neglect. “It appears to have some roof leaks, and we know that the longer it sits empty, the more risk it is of either rotting or burning,” he said.

Historic Macon has been working with Beall’s Hill for a few years. The organization has talked about buying the house and repurposing it, finding another developer to restore it, or working with the current owners to fix and stabilize the house.

“This house is a great example of what a lot of people think of as blight, but the way we see it is as an opportunity. It is a dilapidated house, but it’s something with a whole lot of potential,” said Garlington.

The Ware house also represents what a lot of Maconites see in their neighborhoods: rundown or abandoned houses. Historic Macon hopes that by finding a solution for this house, it can show people that there are solutions for similar structures throughout the county.

Get Involved

These five places will remain on the Fading Five list until they are either saved or demolished, and each year, five more places will join the list. In order to keep working toward solutions for the Fading Five, Historic Macon’s preservation committee will meet every month to review the list and work on strategies for restoring them. These meetings are open to the public and occur every second Thursday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Sidney Lanier House.

BY EMILY FARLOW

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