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  • Hay HouseHay House Macon, Georgia
    The Johnston-Felton-Hay House in Macon, Georgia is more often referred to as the Hay House, which had been constructed between 1855 and 1859 by William Butler Johnston and his wife, Anne Tracy Johnston in the Italian renaissance revival style; and called the "palace of the south". This magnificent mansion sits atop Coleman Hill on Georgia Avenue in downtown Macon, by the Walter F. George School of Law that is a part of the Mercer University. This majestic 18,000 square foot 24 room mansion was designed by the New York architect, T. Thomas and Son with four floors and crowned by a wonderful three-story cupola, commissioned by innovative owners and master craftsmen, with outstanding technological advantages that were relatively new in the mid-19th century. They would include central heat, a French lift or elevator, an intuitive ventilation system, hot and cold running water, an in-house kitchen and a speaker-tube system that connected fifteen rooms. For three generations, only two families would live here, with the majority of the mansion's furnishings preserved from the Hay family that lived here from 1926 to 1962, with a number of pieces carried over from the Johnston family, that included an exquisite Eastlake-style dining room set, and a beautiful 1857 marble statue, "Ruth Gleaning", by American expatriate sculptor, Randolph Rogers. Johnston would gain his significant riches from investing in public utilities, banking and railroads, instead of the typical agrarian cotton economy, and in 1851 he would marry Anne Clark Tracy, who was 20 years younger than he was at the time; and they would begin a marvelous extended honeymoon in Europe from 1852 to 1855. As they journeyed across Europe they would stop at the museums, art studios and historic sites, collecting sculptures, fine porcelains and paintings for mementos of their magical grand tour. It was while on this excursion that they became inspired by the magnificent Italian architecture, so naturally, when they returned, they would construct their home in the Italian renaissance revival style. Sadly, only two of their six children would live until adulthood, with Caroline born in 1862, and Mary Ellen in 1864, growing up in the glorious mansion on Georgia Avenue. Anne Johnston would pass on in 1896, and leave Mary Ellen and her husband, Judge William H. Felton the estate to live in and enjoy. They would remodel and redecorate many areas of the outstanding house, as well as modernizing the plumbing and installing electricity, having their only child, William Hamilton Felton, Jr. in 1889. Junior would marry Luisa Macgill Gibson in 1915, and they would move into the house with the older Feltons and have two sons while there; William Hamilton III and George Gibson Felton, who lived in the house until 1926. After the Judge and Mary Ellen passed on, in 1926, the heirs would sell the house to Parks Lee Hay, Sr., who had started the Banker's Health and Life Insurance Company, for $61,500. The Hays would significantly redecorate the mansion to more reflect the changes that were happening in the 20th century, and the house would continue to be a landmark locally for genteel living. After Mrs. Hays passed on in 1962, her heirs would start the P. L. Hay Foundation and run the home as a private house museum, and because of its national importance, it would be made a National Historic Landmark in 1974, and by 1977, the estate would be transferred to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. The house has become a major attraction in the city of Macon, and welcomes over 20,000 visitors each year.

  • Sidney Lanier Cottage
    Sidney Lanier Cottage Macon, GeorgiaThe Sidney Lanier Cottage in Macon, Georgia was built in 1840, and Sidney would be born here in February of 1842, moving with his family to Griffin, Georgia just after his birth, returning with his family to Macon where he finished his elementary schooling. At the age of 14, he would enter Oglethorpe College by Milledgeville, Georgia, graduating in 1860 with high honors, actually at the top of his class, and then he joined the Confederate Army in 1861 with the Macon Volunteers. He would be sent to work on the blockade runners, where he would be captured and imprisoned in 1864, spending five months in a federal prison, where he would contract tuberculosis, or consumption as it was called back then. This illness would haunt him for the remainder of his life, but even so, he would marry Mary Day in 1867 in the Christ Episcopal Church in Macon, and they would eventually have four sons. After trying various trades, and even spending some time in his father's law offices, he would go to Baltimore, Maryland, playing flute for the newly formed Peabody Symphony, as well as lecturing in the English department at Johns Hopkins University. In 1881, Lanier would pass on near Lynn, North Carolina, at the age of only 39. Mary Day Lanier, would live another half century, editing, publishing and promoting her husband's voluminous manuscripts, poems and letters. Lanier was a gifted poet, realizing it a bit late in his life, but during his short stay on the earth, he ventured into many areas, like playing the flute, writing poetry and other works, while working at various jobs. The cottage would be added to the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being made a Landmark of American Music and in 2004, a Landmark of American Poetry by the Academy of American Poets. A few items that are still located in the cottage are Lanier's flute, which is a silver, alto flute created by the Badger Flute Company, numerous portraits, first editions and Mary Day's wedding dress from 1867. In the near future, the Sidney Lanier Center for Literary Arts will also become part of his heritage located in the cottage.

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  • Tubman MuseumTubman Museum Macon, Georgia
    The Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia has continue to grow into one of the biggest and most significant facilities of its kind in the state and an important educational and cultural resource for the southeast regions. Pastor Richard Keil would make a down payment on a dilapidated old warehouse in downtown Macon, Georgia, in 1981 to create one of the South's most significant cultural institutions; the Tubman African American Museum. "It seemed the right and just thing to do, to create a place where African American culture and history with its beauty, courage and brilliance could be shown and appreciated", Richard Keil, Tubman founder museum. This original 8500 square foot area is not able to hold all the growing collections, programs and audiences, so a funding campaign is in the works to finish the construction of a magnificent new 49,000 square foot museum; dedicated to explore, present and interpret African American history, culture and art with excellent exhibitions, outstanding special events, school outreach programs and publications. A special exhibit gallery has been installed called; Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People, which pays the highest honor to Harriet Tubman, who was an African American woman that would escape slavery to become one of the finest abolitionists, conductor of the Underground Railroad and avid activist of the African American rights. The exhibit will be permanently installed on the first floor, next to the mural From Africa to America, with outstanding features like documents and works of art from its collections that describe the true story of this heroic woman and her life, as well as historic photographs. The Tubman museum was named in honor of Harriet Tubman, whose life and exploits would become a significant inspiration to the museum's founder, Richard Keil. Its main mission is to educate all people about the African American culture, history and art, since they all have made such an important contribution to the history and culture of the entire United States. In response to that mission, the museum has created numerous permanent exhibitions that are dedicated to the different aspects of the African American creative expression, history and culture, that includes; black inventors, folk artists and middle Georgia history. A few of the monumental goals of the programs showcased include the documentation of the history of African American art and artists, to provide opportunities for social, intellectual and civic engagements between the museum and the diversified region that it resides in, and to confront and explode the cultural assumptions that have continued to keep this country divided by race, more so than any other derisive force in our history or future. Using the multi-purpose room and the special exhibitions galleries, the museum is able to mount about four to six special exhibits each year, making it the most active facility in Macon, as well as becoming the premier venue for enjoying contemporary art in the downtown area. The fabulous mural mentioned earlier, From Africa to America, was created especially for the Tubman Museum by Wilfred Stroud, taking him years to complete, beginning in 1988 and finishing in 1996, this acrylic on canvas is an outstanding illustration of the history and contributions of the African Americans in Macon and the world. Stroud is a musician, storyteller/oral historian, called a Griot in Africa, and seemed to be the embodiment of West African oral traditions, who would preserve their history by reciting and song, but since this is not Africa, and it isn't going to be, so Wilfred did the next best thing by preserving the African American history in acrylics and oil paint. It is now known as his best work, and measures 68 inches tall and 55 feet long, and is a magnificent perception of the history and culture of these great Americans. Wilfred has stated that, "the purpose of this mural is to present a visual history of the black man and woman from the earliest times in Africa to the present times in America. The panels focus attention upon the impact of outstanding persons, and events that made a change in the lives and conditions of black people in particular and the world in general." Like many aspects of our lives, our histories and our challenges, if the black people had not been brought to this nation, what would be their status and situation now? Granted that they did suffer horrendous trials and tribulations, would the African nations be better off economically?, intellectually?, would they have achieved the monumental successes there that they have certainly had here? Something to chew on.

  • Museum of Arts and Sciences
    Museum of Arts and Sciences Macon, GeorgiaThe Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia is a community museum for Middle Georgia, starting out in 1956 as a children's museum in the Wesleyan Conservatory, and then moving into its own facility in 1964, with a planetarium, workshop and gallery. Today it houses four galleries that change their displays quite often, the Mark Smith Planetarium, live animal habitats, the Discovery House containing hands-on activities, a lovely nature trail, classrooms, observatory, garden, store and auditorium. They have recently added exhibitions about fines arts, the humanities and science topics that are showcased for periods of four to six months. A new addition was added in 1980 that installed the majority of the museum's infrastructure, with the Discovery House, classrooms and new lobby added in 1996.  In their collections, there is a unique skeleton of a 40 million year old whale that had lived in Middle Georgia during that era, and was discovered in a kaolin mine in Twiggs County, Georgia. They found a vertebrae of a small shark still inside the belly of the whale, indicating that the large sea creature had just eaten before he died and is now part of the exhibit called zygorhiza. Another exhibit is the large low-fire whitebody with numerous commercial glazes called the Gesturing Woman and created by Viola Frey. Another is the four trapezoids as two rectangles V, from 1987 and created by George Rickey in stainless steel. The kinetic sculpture has become one of the focal points at the museum and is rarely at rest, floating, turning and moving by the smallest breeze. Ruins and rituals was created by Beverly Buchanan in 1979 and is an array of concrete objects that supposedly talks to the memories and mythologies of the ancients; while the Kingfisher Cabin that had been constructed in 1928 by Harry Stillwell Edwards and his son, Jackson Lane Edwards. The cabin was built by Harry, who was a southern writer, quite well known down here, who built the cabin as a sanctuary to write in that was situated on his property in Holly Bluff. It would be moved to Wesleyan College in 1941, to be preserved, but was moved to the museum in 1964 to be restored, and it would be further rejuvenated in 2006. Young Pan is the bronze sculpture created by Marshall Daugherty in 1986 and sits awkwardly in a secluded garden area by the museum, wondering quite possibly how he would end up in a small woods in Middle Georgia.

January 11, 2011