Historic Macon home renovation nearly complete

Open house set Friday for Washington Commons

lfabian@macon.comJanuary 3, 2013 

  • Open house

    Where: 501 College St.
    When: Friday 2-7 p.m.
    More information:(478) 787-7043

Nearly 115 years ago, a deputy clerk of the U.S. Circuit Court moved his family into their new Macon home at the corner of College Street and Washington Avenue.

Cecil Morgan’s old house will soon become several offices as part of Washington Commons, Wendy Cassidy’s latest venture into renovating an old house for new use. An open house is planned for Friday from 2 to 7 p.m.

Newly constructed walls close off the front parlor and create a barrier on the second floor to the entrance to a residential apartment in the old attic on the third floor.

During the restoration that began in October, historian Julie Groce researched the building that anchors the corner diagonally across from Washington Park.

Architect Peter Dennis designed the brick-veneered building as a single-family dwelling that was completed in 1898, but the Morgans even took in a boarder before the spacious building was sold to Wesleyan College in 1922.

Groce’s research shows it becoming a dormitory for the women’s college in 1925.

The building survived a 1926 fire accidentally started by hot ashes being emptied against a wooden wall in the basement boiler room, but the central staircase was likely redesigned after the blaze.

The repair could explain the origin of an unusual, rounded wall that includes an eye-level window at the first landing.

“Maybe it was a modesty screen so you wouldn’t see Wesleyan students walking around in their pajamas upstairs,” Cassidy said Thursday while preparing the building for the open house.

The building also housed the Chiropractic Health Home, which one historical account states kept “mentally deranged” patients on the top floor in the early ’40s.

Over the years, it was divided into apartments before the Macon Heritage Foundation bought it in 1981.

A couple who purchased the house two years later planned to restore and preserve it, but they ran into financial difficulties and lost the property a few years later.

Enter Ira Sokoloff, a merchandising agent whose career took off after designing an Allman Brothers’ concert T-shirt.

With clients such as Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and ZZ Top in the 1980s, Sokoloff’s The Great Southern Co. outgrew the space and moved to California, Groce’s research shows.

An architect bought the place for his firm until selling it to an accountant in 1997.

By the time Cassidy picked it up after another foreclosure late last year, it had fallen into major disrepair.

The back stairs collapsed during renovation, but no one was seriously hurt, she said.

Work remains to finish offices on the second floor and renovate the attic apartment for Cassidy’s son.

By next month, exterior painting should begin through a façade grant from Historic Macon Foundation.

Cassidy’s still looking for replacement exterior railings that might have to be custom-made.

“The spindles are kind of unique to this house and might have been added later,” she said.

There was no evidence in Groce’s research to confirm a rumor the house served as a temporary location for a funeral home, Cassidy said.

New history will begin once Cassidy rents spaces ranging from 150 to 5,000 square feet for between $450 to $750 a year.

Adjoining offices are available, too, she said.

“I just love old houses, so I’d love to come to work here every day,” she said. “Think of the camaraderie.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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