Category Archives: Macon GA

Johnston-Felton-Hay House, 1855, Macon

Designed by the architectural firm of T. Thomas & Son for Macon entrepreneur William Butler Johnston, this 18,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance Revival mansion was built between 1855-59 by James B. Ayres.

Johnston was involved in every aspect of the construction of his home. Initially, it was to be of wooden construction, but Johnson opted for masonry and brick instead.

“Ruth”, a marble sculpture commissioned in Rome and shipped to Macon, by the expatriate Neoclassical sculptor Randolph Rogers. She has her own room in the house.

The Johnstons were active art collectors and acquired important pieces during their Grand Tour of Europe. The house was well-suited for the display of their impressive collection.

At a time when most of the finest homes in the South were of Greek Revival design, the Johnston House was a standout.

Macon’s grandest residential landmark, it’s also considered one of the finest houses in Georgia, known as the “Palace of the South” upon construction.

It was the most modern house in mid-19th-century Macon.

It featured hot and cold running water, gas lighting, central heat, an in-house kitchen and other innovations far ahead of their time.

The Johnston’s daughter Mary Ellen married William H. Felton (later a judge) in 1888 and they soon moved into the house.

After the deaths of the Feltons, Parks Lee Hay bought the house in 1926.

When Mrs. Hay died in 1962, her heirs established the P. L. Hay Foundation and operated it as a private museum.

The Hay House was transferred to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977.

It is operated today as a house museum and event venue.

A tour of the home also includes a glimpse into the living quarters, which are only slightly less formal.

The Georgia Trust has spent decades researching the history and architecture of the house. I’m grateful to Mark McDonald and Ennis Willlis for unfettered access with my camera. All of the staff were very accommodating during my visit.

Note: This post replaces an earlier version, originally published in 2017.

National Historic Landmark


The Slate House, Circa 1860, Macon

Named for their slate roof, the Slate Row Houses were built to house the engineers who were constructing the grand home of William Johnston [now known primarily as the Hay House]. They are considered to be among the earliest apartment buildings in Macon. Architecturally, they’re described in the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (1973) as a simplified version of the Second Empire style apartment house that has been converted into a modern condominium building. James B. Ayers, the contractor hired by Johnston, employed numerous enslaved artisans, according to research by Mercer Law student Nathan Corbitt. One of those artisans was Primus Moore, who worked on the construction of the Hay House. He was also responsible for all of the plaster work at Macon City Hall and was even paid by the city after Emancipation to continue the work.

National Register of Historic Places

McCaw-Massee House, 1901, Macon

This Beaux-Arts landmark [also known as the Crisco House] was designed by Macon architect Alexander Blair III for Wallace Eugene McCaw, Sr., president of the Macon Manufacturing Company, an oil and soap concern. During his time at Macon Manufacturing Company, Mr. McCaw invented a hydrogenated vegetable-based shortening which he marketed locally as Plantene. The formula was purchased by Procter and Gamble in 1910 and the product name was changed to Crisco. Mr. McCaw sold the house at this time and went on to a career as a vice-president at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati. He died in 1933 while boating near his summer home at Diamond Point, New York, on Lake George, An autopsy determined that he had a heart attack and fell into the water.

The buyer of the house was W. Jordan Massee, a larger-than-life Macon character known as Big Jordan. Massee was a good friend of playwright Tennessee Williams and the character of Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was purportedly based on Massee. When Massee sold the house it was divided into apartments. After many years of decline, it was purchased and restored in 2013.

Macon Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Callaway-Porter House, 1905, Macon

This Classical Revival home is thought to have been designed by Curran R. Ellis for Merrel P. Callaway (26 November 1872-16 June 1957). Ellis may be best known in Macon as the architect of the Bibb County Courthouse. James & Olive Porter purchased the home in 1919 and commissioned an interior redesign from Neel Reid.

Macon Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Stone-Connor House, Circa 1875, Macon

Later residents of this landmark were the Boone and Flournoy families.

Macon Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Little Richard House, 1920s, Macon

This hip-roof shotgun house in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood was once home to Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman), the “Architect of Rock n’ Roll”. It is typical of the domestic architecture found in working class African-American neighborhoods in Macon in the early 20th century. The house originally stood several blocks away but was moved to this location to save it from an expansion project on Interstate 75. It is much nicer looking today than it was in Little Richard’s time in Macon; he noted he grew up in a “rundown house on a dirt street”. It is a museum today, known officially as The Little Richard House Resource Center.

Hudson Grocery, Macon

The architecture of this shotgun-style structure suggests it may have served as a neighborhood grocery/general store. According to David Clinard, via Elizabeth Chancellor, it was. Mr. Clinard writes: Charles Douglas Hudson was a previous owner of that corner which included that little structure and the house to the left. The 1935 city directory included Charles Douglas Hudson as a retail grocer on Clinton Road near Upper River Road. So it does appear to have been used as a community grocery store at least during that period.

[I am identifying it as Hudson Grocery by association; it is possible it had another name].

Tucker’s Barbecue, 1947, Macon

One of Macon’s oldest restaurants, Tucker’s Barbecue was established at this location on Broadway in 1947.

Originally a drive-in, it saw its busiest days when Broadway was the prime industrial area of Macon, supporting several factories. Though this stretch of Broadway is now one of the most desolate areas in town, Tucker’s hangs on and still serves its original recipe of chopped pork marinated in a vinegary sauce. It has its loyal fans and detractors alike, but its very survival says they owners are doing something right.

The old sign is an amazing survivor itself, and is a popular stop for photographers visiting Macon.


Cowles-Bond-Woodruff House, 1836-1840, Macon

Elam Alexander began construction on this house on Coleman Hill in 1836, for Jerry Cowles, the financier who brought the railroad from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Macon and who served as president of the Ocmulgee Bank. The house took on its present monumental appearance with the addition of the colonnade in 1840. Financial woes led Cowles to New York during the 1840s and the house was purchased by Joseph Bond, one of Georgia’s most prominent cotton growers. Bond’s time in the house was short, however, as he was killed by a neighboring plantation owner in a dispute over slave.

In 1865, the estate served as the headquarters of Union Brigadier General James H. Wilson during his occupation of the city. In 1879, James T. Coleman purchased the property and the surrounding area became known as Coleman Hill.

The Oriental/Moorish gazebo, built during the Victorian era, is one of Macon’s most popular photo subjects.

Beginning in 1960, the house served as the segregationist Stratford Academy for a time [now an inclusive institution located elsewhere] and was later gifted to Mercer University by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. It remains one of Macon’s most enduring landmarks.

Macon Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Mercer University School of Law, 1956, Macon

Located atop Coleman Hill and overlooking downtown Macon, the Mercer University School of Law is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Built in 1956 and originally named in honor of Senator Walter F. George, it was modeled after Independence Hall. The school was founded in 1873 and is one of the oldest law schools in the United States, as well as the first in Georgia accredited by the American Bar Association.