Last Lanier High building razed

A piece of Macon’s history was demolished Thursday, ending one school era and hastening the start of a new one.

An excavator roared through the construction site where the new $38.6 million Central High School is being rebuilt, ripping down yellow brick walls from the last remaining building of the old Lanier High School built in the 1920s.

This past school year, the classroom wing housed Central’s band, art and technology classes.

But the building dates back decades, when it was part of Lanier, Macon’s high school for white boys before integration.

“It was the old wood shop building, although I never had any classes in there,” said architect Gene Dunwody Sr., who stood at a fence Thursday to watch it fall. The 1951 Lanier graduate helped design the new Central High building.

The Bibb County school system started planning to rebuild Central in 2005 after voters approved school improvement projects in a $165 million sales tax referendum.

The school’s outdated buildings, some from the 1920s and others built in the 1960s, have all been torn down since then, with the old wood shop building the last to go on the Napier Avenue campus.

By Tuesday, the building should be leveled, and it will be covered with sod into a field for the coming school year, said Bill Thelen, an assistant superintendent for Gilbane Construction Co.

JeDarius Shine, 15, a rising Central sophomore, got to football practice on the campus early and paused on some steps watching the old building being demolished.

“It’s amazing to watch,” he said. “But the new building is real nice and looks like the school we are and students we are.

“It fits us better.”

Even Central custodians who were cleaning the school’s new gym poked their heads out to watch the old building tumble.

“It’s a happy and sad occasion. It’s one of the original buildings,” said Geraldine Washington, who has helped clean the school since 1979. “I’ve worked here 30 years and seen a lot. ... Now it’s gone.”

Dunwody said about 4,000 yellow bricks from the old Lanier Junior ROTC building were saved during its demolition last year, and more bricks from the old wood shop building will be saved to make a commemorative “sitting wall” in front of the new Central.

It will open next month to about 1,000 students.

The new two-story high school is more than 95 percent complete and has some of the same windows and military-style exterior as the old Lanier.

“It should last another 30 to 50 years,” Dunwody said.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.