Perhaps the most impressive home is the Hay House, an Italian Renaissance Revival mansion built between 1855 and 1859. The original owners, the Johnstons, built the 18,000 square foot mansion after completing a three year honeymoon to Italy.
The Hay House is open daily for tours with the last tour beginning at 3pm. Adult admission is US$11 (as of February 2018) for a tour of the first two floors of the house. The Top of the House Tour is an additional US$4 and takes visitors up to the copula.
After purchasing tickets, we browsed through the museum on the ground floor. Our knowledgable guide then gathered the group and showed us the food pantry, where shelves were suspended in order to keep rats out of the stock.
We then went through several different rooms of the house, learning about the interesting architectural innovation that was used in order to keep the house symmetrical. The guide pointed out features such as hidden walls, mirrors, faux marble, and more.
The house is still undergoing renovation, with every meticulous detail researched in order to restore the home to its original glory. That was more evident on the second floor, where the original floor was exposed under the floorboards. There are also walls where paint had been peeled back to reveal the original murals.
From one of the second floor windows, we were able to get a view of three religious landmarks in town: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the First Baptist Church of Christ, and the Temple Beth Israel.
Overall, it was an enjoyable tour and the guide did an excellent job. However, we thought it lasted a bit too long. The guide finished up the tour after nearly 90 minutes.
Another important house is the Judge Asa Holt House, better known as the Cannonball House. It was built in 1853 but got its name after being hit by a cannonball fired during the Battle of Dunlap’s Hill (current site of Ocmulgee National Monument) on July 30, 1864. Tours of the house are given daily except Sunday and cost US$8 per adult (as of February 2018). We didn’t have a chance to take the tour this time, but I remember taking it with my family on a drive down to Florida around 1990!
Other beautiful homes line Georgia Avenue, Orange and Bond Streets. The woman at the visitors center suggested walking up Georgia Avenue from Cannonball House, turning right on Orange Street, and making another right on Bond Street.
Where Bond Street curves to the right overlooking Coleman Hill Park, there’s the Woodruff House. This Greek Revival mansion, also known as the Cowles-Bond House, was built in 1836. Major General James Harrison Wilson used the mansion as a Union headquarters during the occupation of Macon in 1865.
Mercer University School of Law
Next to the Woodruff House is the Mercer University School of Law. Founded in 1873, it’s one of the oldest law schools in the country. The building is a three story partial replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Coleman Hill Park
As for Coleman Hill Park, it’s got great views of downtown Macon and some monuments around it. There’s even a slide on the top of the hill which is a fun distraction.