Time is not always friendly to buildings, but Historic Macon hopes to reverse that fate at some of the city’s older structures.
The foundation selected the former Alexander IV Elementary School building, the Schofield Iron Works Complex, the Cotton Avenue District, the Bonnybrae-Bedgood House and the Ware House for its first “fading five” list of structures it wants preserved.
“It represents a wide range of architecturally, historically and naturally significant places,” Alex Morrison, chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, said at a Wednesday’s news conference.
Historic Macon will work with the owners of each building to develop a plan for restoring the structure and find new owners and uses. A new list will be released each year, with buildings remaining on the plan until a resolution is reached or preservation is no longer possible.
“As an organization, we’ve always seen preservation and our role in the community as a proactive role,” said Ethiel Garlington, Historic Macon’s executive director.
Schofield Iron Works opened in the 500 block of Fifth Street in 1859 and benefited from Macon’s central location for trade along the Ocmulgee River and rail lines, Garlington said. Since the building was last vacated in 1995, holes have developed in the roof, and there’s been other damage.
Still, Historic Macon is confident that a “viable use” for the building can be found once necessary repairs are made.
“This is a perfect example of demolition by neglect,” Garlington said.
Degradation isn’t as much of an issue for the Elam Alexander building at 3769 Ridge Ave. Last in use for students in 2011, the building was declared surplus by the Bibb County school board in 2013 but is in “pretty decent shape,” Garlington said.
“We really think that this could be an asset to the community and Macon once again,” he said.
School board member Lester Miller owns the Baber House, where the news conference was held, and he said taking care of such buildings has become a priority for the board. He also noted that park space, residential development and even a new charter school have all been presented as options for the building.
“There’s been some offers there, so we’d certainly like to preserve it,” Miller said.
The Cotton Avenue District is actually something of a misnomer because the area is actually on Forsyth Street near the H&H Restaurant. That area of downtown Macon lost two older buildings, the Douglass House and Tremont Temple Baptist Church, in 2014 despite efforts to save them before they were torn down to make room for new businesses.
Garlington said those events helped lead to the “fading five” initiative. The Cotton Avenue District, he said, was identified through surveys and studies as especially important to the black community.
He’s hopeful any preservation in that area “maintains its character and legacy.”
“What we know is there’s still buildings that are perfectly sized for new businesses and local businesses,” Garlington said.
The Bonnybrae-Bedgood House, located at 1073 Georgia Ave., was originally built in the 1830s but got its Bonnybrae name in the late 19th century from then-owner Flewellen Reese. The home was bought in 1976 by the Bedgood family, which still owns the home.
“This house is one of the last antebellum houses in Macon that hasn’t been updated and rehabbed,” Garlington said.
The fifth selection for the list is the Ware House, which sits at 1107 Oglethorpe St. in the Beall’s Hill neighborhood. Built around 1880, the home stands out in the community because most of the others are smaller, Garlington said.
The Ware House is listed online at more than 3,200 square feet.
“One of the interesting things about this house is the size and grandeur and the details of this house,” he said, adding that the area’s “momentum” from recent rejuvenation efforts make the home an ideal candidate.
The program is special because of the different sets of circumstances for each building, both in terms of work needed and potential uses. Garlington wasn’t able to give a timetable for work, but it’s already begun for several of the structures.
“We’ll be providing updates as soon as we can on these places,” he said.
Besides the economic benefits for getting large and potentially attractive structures back on the tax rolls, Miller pointed to a more intangible benefit of the projects for residents of Macon.
“I think it lets them know that we care about our history and our heritage,” he said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.