Macon’s rich Civil War heritage could reap major financial rewards if folks dig into their pockets now.
About three dozen people gathered Wednesday morning on the lawn of the Woodruff House near downtown to learn about plans for a network of 14 historic markers to spotlight points of interest. The goal is to have them in place before the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, which begins in April 2011.
Civil War Heritage Trails, a nonprofit corporation, designed six trails that cross Georgia. Four of them touch Macon.
“I like to say Macon is the hub of the wheel,” said Steve Longcrier, executive director of Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails.
That hub could turn up an $11.7 million economic impact from tourists and create an estimated 130 new jobs in the tourism industry based on the success of trails in Virginia, Longcrier said.
The Community Foundation of Central Georgia has created a Macon Civil War Sesquicentennial Fund to accept donations to pay for 11 new markers to join two already in the planning stage and a third funded by the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau and erected at Macon City Hall.
A total of at least $60,000 is needed to pay for the $5,000 markers and brochures designed to pinpoint the trails and markers.
The Peyton Anderson Foundation has already donated $20,000 to the fund.
“We’ve got so much to offer here in the way of Civil War history,” said Janice Marshall, CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I don’t know of any other city in Georgia, except maybe Madison and Milledgeville, that has this sort of architecture.”
Marshall encouraged local arts organizations and museums to begin planning Civil War exhibits to take advantage of tourists who may be visiting during the anniversary period that will run until spring 2015.
“Certainly there are so many of us who have memorabilia that can be loaned,” Marshall said.
Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said commissioners embraced the trail proposal at their Tuesday meeting.
“We’re seeing now if we can dig into our coffers and come up with some funds for the markers,” Hart told the crowd at Wednesday’s news conference.
Rabbi Larry Schlesinger is trying to identify donors in the Jewish community to help pay for a marker to represent religious life during the Civil War.
Schlesinger, who sits on the Macon City Council, wants to highlight the role of a contingent of Jewish immigrants from Germany who fought in the war.
“I think we have a story to tell, and frankly the opportunity is there,” Schlesinger said. “I think the story is not widely known, but I think this presents an opportunity to tell it.”
The Macon Sesquicentennial Committee has been researching events and locations that will tell Macon’s Civil War stories including the role of blacks and women.
“The American Civil War or the War Between the States really left a lasting legacy on our state like no other event,” Longcrier said. “It really was an event worth remembering — not celebrating but commemorating.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.