Not many Maconites know about the historic treasure trove that awaits in the industrial district.
Natives and newcomers boarded a trolley for inaugural rides on what is designed to be a self-guided tour “Pedaling through the Past.”
Mercer University students mapped the fairly flat terrain with cyclists in mind on streets that are pretty quiet on Sunday, tour guide Kim Campbell said.
The preservation and education coordinator for Historic Macon led dozens of people through forgotten gems of history.
George McCommon grew up in Macon and remembers Sunday driving with his dad, looking at all the old brick buildings.
The city veterinarian often drove through those streets headed to the old animal shelter, riding right past the old stockade with its art deco adornments.
“It is a great piece of Macon,” McCommon said. “I’m exited that Historic Macon is embracing it.”
Through a Downtown Challenge grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, brochures are available highlighting nearly two dozen landmarks off the beaten path.
Nearly at the dead end of Seventh Street, Campbell noted the architectural pedigree of the Modern Grocery Co.
Bernard A. Webb Jr., a Georgia Tech trained designer who worked with the acclaimed Ellamae Ellis League, fashioned the modern supermarket in 1969.
“Here’s this guy who’s designing internationally acclaimed hotels and offices and he builds a grocery store,” Campbell said over the trolley speakers.
Webb, who was internationally lauded for his work on the Town Pavillion Hotel in town, capped the store’s entrance way with a brick arch.
“I didn’t know this was here,” one woman said as she looked out the window of the rundown building with rusted metal stained golden brick.
Campbell pointed out the loading dock as the trolley pulled away from the store that closed in 1981.
Many of the long and low buildings on the tour were built to accommodate railcars in this hub of activity in the 19th century.
Stops include the birthplace of Crisco shortening, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and Capricorn Studio now anchoring a major loft project on the site of the old Union Depot.
Alison Evans, who moved to Macon a few years ago as CEO of the Methodist Home, learned of Saturday’s free tours through Facebook.
The 30-minute trolley ride gave her a greater understanding of the city’s past and efforts to preserve that heritage.
“It was excellent. It was well done and it was free,” said Evans, who was particularly interested to find the Old City Cemetery she recently learned of and wondered “where in downtown is that?”
Decaying cherry trees circle the old burial site that was restored in the 1970s, but you have to turn off Seventh Street to see the old gates.
Along with patches of blight and preservation potential stand proof of a resurgence of activity that could lead to a renaissance for this district.
A new loft project has been approved behind Terminal Station and work has just begun on a new project at the old Bryan Transfer and Storage Co. built in 1925.
Historic Macon is now renovating new headquarters at 338 Poplar Street in a 1908 brick building, near the 1859 Schofield Iron Works that flourished in the birth of railroad and had clients from Japan and South America.
Although Macon’s old Acme Brewing and Bottling Co. died an early death in prohibition, Saturday’s tours began at the Macon Beer Co. that occupies an old 1949 warehouse on Oglethorpe Street next to the Historic Macon Flea Market.
Evans enjoyed learning about the Tipple, the coal chute that towers above a 22-acre Central of Georgia Railroad car property.
McCommon encourages people to explore the district.
“I’m just excited people get to see this because so may don’t know all this is here.”