Middle Georgia realty firm with ‘passion for business’ set to celebrate 80th anniversary

On a Friday morning in mid-April of 1942, a front-page article in The Telegraph told of plans for “a modern city” south of Macon, something “tremendously big.”

That something was word of a wartime housing boom afoot for a military air base in what was then the map-speck crossroads of Wellston. The place would before long become the town of Warner Robins.

The article went on to mention a relatively new Macon realty firm, Fickling and Walker, which was founded three years earlier and had at the time been ready to begin construction on 350 homes near the air depot in northern Houston County.

A public relations man from the air depot said the first 1,000 or so houses being built as a “model city” to serve the base were “just a start on the construction of a city of which the people of Macon will be proud.”

On Oct. 16, the company, known today as Fickling & Company, will celebrate its 80th anniversary with a 5 p.m. ribbon cutting at the Fickling building at 577 Mulberry St. in downtown Macon.

Fickling will salute its history, which dates to Jan. 1, 1939, when William A. Fickling Sr. and B. Sanders Walker merged their commercial-and-residential real estate and insurance companies. In those days, the Mulberry Street firm’s phone number was all of three digits: 867.

In what was likely the company’s first in-print advertisement, the firm listed an “attractive” four-room rental on Lamar Street for $27.50 a month.

In March of ‘39, an ad the company ran in The Telegraph that featured a photograph of a house, a “New Brick Bungalow,” could be had on Belvedere Drive in the Ingleside area — “Macon’s Growing Suburb” — for a down payment of $250.

A company news release in recent days promoting the firm’s 80th anniversary notes that its “proudest and most vital moment came in 1941 when the U.S. Department of Defense granted Fickling & Walker its first priority contract ... for immediate emergency housing for military personnel at Robins Air Force Base,” a project that unfolded “at a record pace, completing about three houses daily.”

In recent days, Denny Jones, one of the company’s residential real estate agents, attributed the firm’s longevity, in part, to perseverance.

“We have a passion for business in Middle Georgia,” Jones said.

According to a company history published in recent decades, the prominent building that now bears its name became its current home across from the Bibb County Courthouse at 577 Mulberry in 1969.

“This well-known 15-story building is still the tallest building in Macon,” the company history notes. “Over the years, the building has undergone three ownership changes, and in 2001 became known as the Fickling & Company building.”

According to the history, “Subdivision development and home building were specialties of of the Fickling & Walker business” early on, and in later decades became known for developing Westgate Shopping Center, which opened in 1961 as the first climate-controlled mall in the Southeast.

“The company,” the history write-up adds, “continues to develop many subdivisions, multi-family housing and retail centers.”

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.