Celebrated Central City Park structures get face-lift

pramati@macon.comMarch 21, 2014 

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Doyle Taylor prepares to cut plywood that will soon cover doorways at the Round Building in Central City Park. Construction crews are renovating the building and the park’s bandstand.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

Two of the most well-known structures in Central City Park are getting a face-lift.

Though work has been halted temporarily because of the Cherry Blossom Festival, workers are making progress on the Round Building and the bandstand in the park.

Both projects are part of the 2011 special purpose sales tax initiative. Repairs to the Round Building will cost about $440,000, while the bandstand upgrades will cost about $148,000.

Warren Selby, president of Warren Associates Inc., said crews have been working on the project about a month. Both structures, he said, needed extensive renovation.

“The bandstand needs to be completely rehabbed,” he said.

“There was rotting wood. It was not usable for the last couple of years. With the Round Building, we’ll be doing the exterior only.”

Work there will include putting in 24 doors around the building in areas that had previously been bricked up, as well as replacing 24 windows -- 12 on the ground level and 12 on top. Workers also will put in new columns in the front of the building.

Work is scheduled to finish by early August, depending on the weather. His crews won’t be resuming any work until after the Cherry Blossom Festival ends.

After the festival, construction crews also will demolish several buildings along the park’s main road, including the former Department of Motor Vehicles building, the Long Building and the old concession building, said Dale “Doc” Dougherty, director of the Macon-Bibb County Parks & Recreation Department.

Both the Round Building and the bandstand have deep roots in Central City Park’s history.

According to Macon-Bibb County archives, the park was built by Macon Mayor W.A. Huff to host the Georgia State Fair. The fair made a permanent move to the park in 1871 after operating in several locations. Extensive new facilities were erected that year, including an entrance gate, seven exposition buildings, a horse racing track -- and the bandstand.

The bandstand served as a gathering place in the park over the years, notable for political speeches and music performances. Records listed the design as “similar to” Nutt’s Folly in Natchez, Miss.

On Oct. 26, 1871, former Confederate President Jefferson Davis stood in the bandstand to address former Confederate troops.

Former President William Howard Taft gave a speech from the bandstand on Nov. 4, 1909.

According to the Big House Museum, The Allman Brothers Band gave some of their early, free performances in front of the bandstand when band members arrived in 1970.

The Round Building was destroyed by fire, along with the Agricultural and Manufacturing buildings, in 1904. The city, under the direction of then-Mayor Bridges Smith, rebuilt the structures for that year’s State Fair, but the building that housed the fair was destroyed by a heavy rainstorm, just weeks after it was rebuilt.

The Round Building, which was called Smith Art Hall in honor of the mayor, managed to survive the storm unscathed.

“The round building, Smith Art Hall, was not damaged in the least and the storm appeared to have gone all around it,” The Macon News reported in September 1904. The building was remodeled in 1969.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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