BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO DOWNTOWN FOUNDATION EARNS TWO AWARDS FOR TATTNALL SQUARE HEIGHTS REVITALIZATION WORK
Macon Telegraph, The (GA)
April 18, 2004
Author: Liz Fabian, Telegraph Staff Writer
More than 40 years ago, Marie and Bill Chapman moved into a grand old house with 14-foot ceilings and pine plank floors on Tattnall Street.
While their house was in excellent condition, the years and absentee landlords were much less kind to the surrounding wood-frame homes built between 1897 and 1930.
"We were here when it was the slums down the street," said Marie Chapman. "We just stayed here because we had a hedge to cover up some of the ugly things we didn't want to see."
In 1998, the Historic Macon Foundation, formerly known as the Macon Heritage Foundation, took on the daunting task of resurrecting the Tattnall Square Heights neighborhood one house at a time.
From 2000 until 2003, the foundation restored 15 houses and built three new ones that look right at home with the existing one-story Queen Anne and late Victorian vernacular cottages. The 82-house neighborhood stretches along Tattnall and Chestnut streets on the northeast side of Tattnall Square Park.
The restoration project earned Historic Macon two awards from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation at their annual meeting Saturday in Savannah.
In addition to an award for excellence in rehabilitation, Historic Macon received the 2004 Marguerite N. Williams Award for having the greatest impact on preservation in the state of Georgia for the year.
"I was just blown away. I couldn't believe it," said Bette-Lou Brown, Historic Macon's executive director.
The project, which also is being considered for an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, already has won over longtime residents of the neighborhood.
"When people who grew up in the neighborhood come by, they're really impressed," said Phil Dunwoody, a Mercer professor who, along with his wife, bought one of Historic Macon's new houses on Chestnut Street last fall.
Mercer University provided a total of $48,000 in incentive money for faculty and staff to purchase homes in the neighborhood.
Proximity to the campus helped sell the Dunwoodys on their home.
"I have a seven-minute walk door-to-door," Dunwoody said.
While his 2-year-old son Aron played on the front porch, his wife, Marlene, added new flowers to their planters Friday afternoon. They already had planted pale pink geraniums and lavender lantana behind the picket fence in the front yard.
In the once overgrown neighborhood, 90 percent of the yards are maintained now on a regular basis, according to Historic Macon.
Friendships are blooming too between neighbors who have little in common other than their address.
"It's a real diverse neighborhood racially and occupation-wise," Dunwoody said. "It's nice that way."
"Everything is quiet over here," said David Carson, 71, who inherited his Chestnut Street home from his aunt. "Everybody gets along like two peas in a pod."
Tranquility wasn't always the case. The crime rate has dropped 58 percent, according to Macon Police Department statistics released by Historic Macon.
"The crack houses are gone, and we don't have the break-ins," said Dianne Vaughn, manager for Eye Center of Central Georgia, built in the heart of the neighborhood in the mid-1980s.
The center donated $10,000 to support the project.
"It's so much more beautiful than it was. The neighbors take pride in their yards. The flowers are beautiful," Vaughn said.
Tony Pearson, 28, who bought a renovated house through Historic Macon, remembers what the area was like when he rented an apartment as a Mercer student.
"A lot of these neighborhoods you wouldn't feel safe walking in during the day," Pearson said.
He is now the technical director for Mercer's theater program, so Mercer's stipend incentive paid off for him when he chose a "fixer upper" at the corner of Adams and Chestnut streets.
"It was pretty rough looking, but you could see a lot of promise in it," Pearson said.
A brilliant rainbow hovered in the spray of the Chapmans' sprinkler late Friday afternoon as Jim Kenaston, 43, arrived home from work at Mercer.
He lives in the house next door to the Chapmans, built circa 1860, he said.
It had been such an eyesore that Marie Chapman said she reported it to the city of Macon.
Now it's restored to its former glory. The intricate lattice work on the front porch is a copy of the pattern on the Chapmans home, built about the same time.
Kenaston traced the history of the occupants of his house back to 1888. Most recently it was divided into two apartments, one housing eight people.
"I had heard this was basically a crack house," Kenaston said.
Historic Macon stipulates the houses must remain owner-occupied, single-family dwellings.
"By and large, people who live here take better care of a place," Kenaston said. "I think that's a strategy that works well."
The project far exceeded the goals of Historic Macon, which is continuing to identify at-risk properties for restoration.
"The historic fabric is so important to maintain because that's what gives a town its character," said Historic Macon's Brown, who is inspired by the awards.
"It gives you energy to move on in the future," she said. "I think everybody needs praise."
--- To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
photo (5) Nick Oza/The Telegraph and Historic Macon
Foundation/SPecial to the Telegraph chart(1) Historic Macon Foundation
Copyright (c) 2004 The Macon Telegraph
Record Number: 0404180141