As Restoration Committee chair for Hay House, local interior designer Bonnie Dowling has researched every wall finish and piece of furniture prior to launching a restoration project for the Palace of the South.
She is undaunted by obscure wallpaper fragments, tattered fabrics or wood that has been altered through the generations of past owners before Hay House was donated to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and opened to the public.
After noticing that the small finials that had adorned the newel posts of the grand stairwell were missing -- something not as obvious as ripped wallpaper -- Dowling enlisted the help of her husband, Hamp, a member of the Middle Georgia Woodturners.
Since they are known for their handmade and lathed, intricate works in wood, he thought they could reproduce the finials using the one saved from, most likely, party-goers that took them as souvenirs during the past 30 or so years. Terry Vance, a member of the woodturners’ group, took this challenge seriously, making a few facsimiles to see what tools he would need to accurately re-create the small ornaments.
Vance used brown mahogany, which could be stained to match the original walnut of the stair rails. After about six months of trial and error in faithfully reproducing the acanthus leaf design, Vance, Nicolaas Deal, president of the Middle Georgia Woodturners, and Dowling presented the finished products to Hay House in a small ceremony during the first week of February. Jonathan Poston, Hay House director, Susannah Maddux, Hay House board member, and Bonnie Dowling were on hand to witness another finishing touch to the elegant halls.
This time, however, the finials will be firmly secured to the newel posts to prevent any future mischief.
IT’S BASIL’S FAWLT
In 1975, Margaret Thatcher became the first woman elected prime minister of Great Britain and would carve out her place in history as the “Iron Lady,” a fiscally conservative politician who brought about a period of prosperity British subjects had rarely experienced in the years since the end of World War II.
That same year, the British Broadcasting Corporation introduced the world television audience to “Fawlty Towers,” the hilarious account of Basil and Sybil Fawlty managing an inn in the English countryside. The series germinated after actor John Cleese, who would play Basil Fawlty for the BBC production, traveled to Torquay in the southwest corner of England and stayed at the Gleneagles Inn, where he remarked on the “delightfully rude innkeeper,” and stayed only one night.
According to Cleese, the host of the inn really didn’t want to be bothered by the guests who had the nerve to stay there. Cleese and his wife, Connie Booth, wrote the script and produced the series with Cleese casting himself as Basil Fawlty married to the domineering Sybil.
On Valentine’s weekend the Perry Players opened “Fawlty Towers” with the good fortune of having siblings Kris and Mark Webling, who are British, cast as the married innkeepers. The play opens with Mr. MacKenzie, news anchor played by Todd Wilson, announcing Thatcher’s win over the Whigs to become prime minister. Another British native, Georgia Olson, is cast as Polly, the only staff member of the inn who appears to have good sense as she tries to appease the guests who are offended by Basil’s cryptic comments.
With very few lines except an occasional Que?, Manuel the Spanish waiter, played by Matthew Kerr, steals the show with his bumbling responses to a language he cannot comprehend. Basil’s use of flash cards with pictures to instruct the hapless Manuel brought down the house. Director Stuart Appleton and producer Kellie Jenkins Wallace successfully staged a British comedy that is as popular today as it was in 1976.
NOTABLES OF THE NORTH GATE
For the first time, on Valentine’s weekend, the Riverside Cemetery Conservancy opened the north section of the cemetery for guided tours and narratives about some of Macon’s forbears that contributed to the illustrious history of our city.
Among the notable gravesites were those of Judge William Augustus Bootle, who kept the peace during the unrest of desegregation and upheld the legislation mandating the integration of local schools; William A. Fickling Sr., the successful real estate broker better known as the father of the Cherry Blossom Festival; Drs. Andreas and Margaret Anne Gruentzig, cardiologists who developed the first successful angioplasty procedure; and Twiggs M. Lyndon Jr., road manager for the Allman Brothers and other Southern rock bands for Capricorn Records.
The chill in the air did not deter the history buffs who enjoyed the park-like cemetery, which can be as romantic as a lover’s lane.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.