If you frequent the nightspots in downtown Macon, maybe you have enjoyed a drink on the patio behind The Hummingbird Stage and Taproom on Cherry Street or cut through the alley from Mulberry Street to have dinner on the sidewalk outside Market City Cafe, also on Macon’s main street. On Friday evening, Aug. 14, Historic Macon Foundation held its first Summer Stroll, The Alley Tour, hosted by local landscape architect Wimberly Treadwell, who knows every downtown alley like a tomcat.
Using Sanborn maps from the 1930s, Treadwell explained that wider alleys were originally used for services and deliveries, the narrower ones for buggy and pedestrian traffic. The Sanborn Map Co., founded after the Civil War to track post-war urban development, provided information primarily to fire insurance companies to determine risk. The buildings in the business district had deep lots behind them for parking buggies, then cars. Parking decks were things of the future; therefore, almost all retail establishments had rear entrances.
EXPLORING HISTORY FROM BACK TO FRONT
Tricia and Buck Donnelly and Sally Heard joined the crowd of history buffs who followed the tour from its start at the storefront recently restored across the alley from The Rookery, winding through the lane as it crosses Cherry Street where the Lamar Lofts, carved out of an old drugstore building, have just opened with a gated back patio. This alley has been designated “pedestrian only” because the width hardly allows motor traffic. However, Cherry Street Lane, which runs parallel to the main street, north and south, intersecting with the smaller alley, is almost 20 feet wide, and can accommodate large vehicles. Treadwell pointed out the restoration and renovation of two buildings, one of which houses Travis Jean Gallery and an enclosed garden, with living space above. Named for his grandfather, Joseph N. Neel Jr., Joe Neel III joined the tour to point out the second location of the store that bore his grandfather’s name for a record-setting 107 years. On the rear of the building, the store’s slogan, “One price to everybody,” is barely visible. The store, which closed in 1993, eventually moved to a third location on Cherry Street.
Treadwell spoke of the efforts to have utility and service companies cooperate with private developers to keep the lanes unobstructed, well lighted and trash free. Toward Martin Luther King Boulevard, the murals on the wall of the building that adjoins the Hummingbird add a French cafe ambience to the lounge’s gated, outdoor seating area. Next on the tour was the Macon-Bibb CountyConvention and Visitors Bureau, where the partially repaved and improved back alley offers access for visitors to the recently opened Tubman Museum on Cherry Street Plaza.
The walking tour ended in Mulberry Street Lane where several restaurants have created a streetscape reminiscent of ancient European cities, one which garnered notice from the Bhamarchitect’s Blog, originating in Birmingham, Alabama, for Macon’s progressive use of its parks, wide streets and back alleys. Titled “Lessons from Macon,” the article praises the city/county consolidation and the cohesive approach to preservation in our town.
Historic Macon Foundation took advantage of the afternoon tour to preview the Summer Sale sampling of flea market items the next day in the same store front. The expanded event opens Oct. 2 in the old Karsten-Denson building at 536 Third St. This is the 38th year the group’s volunteers have worked tirelessly to clean and organize antiques and gently used household items to sell for one of the organization’s signature fundraisers.
HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE
On Saturday night, Aug. 15, tables were sold out at the City Auditorium for the Navicent Health Pine Pointe Hospice Summer’s Night Picnic and Dance, hosted by the Medcen Community Foundation. The local musicians that are members of the Grapevine are no small part of the success of this annual fundraising event. Part “Men in Black” and part “Blues Brothers,” it is obvious this is a second career for all of the guys who have as much fun as the dancers they entertained for three hours with beach music, Latin tunes and line dancing. Tables lighted by candles overflowed with lavish picnics that guests brought to share during the evening. B. Keith Williams, another favorite musician in Macon, was spotted taking a busman’s holiday and table hopping to visit friends and fans, Sheila and Bob Johnson, Billy and Janet Walker and Deborah and Henry Oliner at their spread.
Pine Pointe is Macon’s first nonprofit hospice and offers end-of-life palliative care for patients at its spacious and hospitable facility on Peake Road. For more information on Pine Pointe’s services, call 800-211-1084.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.