Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Tag Archives: Vanishing Middle Georgia
The Sparta Female Academy was established in 1832 by Sereno Taylor of Vermont. [Various sources also refer to it as the Taylor Female Academy, Sparta Female College, and Sparta Female Seminary]. It was supported by the Baptists. This and another renovated dormitory are all that survive of the historic boarding school. A preliminary evaluation by architect Brandy Morrison suggests that the rear section of this house is the earliest, circa 1815, with the front being added circa 1831.
After many years of neglect, the structure is finally getting some much-needed attention. Amber Rhea and Stacia Smith initiated a process of preservation in early 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has halted progress but Rhea and Smith are determined to see it through, whatever that entails.
A broadside dating to 8 December 1838 heralds the school’s reorganization and an enlargement of the course of study. The seven disciplines: Language; Mathematics; Cosmics; History; Geotics; Government; and Philosophy. Sereno Taylor was superintendent and a teacher in the Literary and Musical Departments. Five assistants were on staff, as well, with the expected arrival, in early 1839, of Madame Salmon Hantute of Paris, for the teaching of the French Language, Piano Forte, and Singing.
Annual tuition varied, dependent upon the level of instruction. It ranged from $25 for primary instruction to $125 for collegiate instruction. Musical instrument training was also on order, beginning with the piano forte, advancing to guitar, harp, and finally, organ.
Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Anne Chamlee made these photographs of the abandoned Stevens Pottery mill in August 1990. The rural community was named for the industry that was the largest employer in Baldwin County in the years following the Civil War.
Bill Boyd wrote in the 13 August 1992 edition of the Macon Telegraph: Henry Stevens, who grew up near pottery plants in England, worked his way to America aboard a merchant ship, landed a job as a railroad conductor and arrived in Middle Georgia in 1850. An ambitious and enterprising fellow, Stevens bought a sizable tract of timber land in the southwest corner of Baldwin County in 1854, and he discovered “an extensive and valuable deposit of fire-clay” according to an 1895 book “Memories of Georgia”.
After putting a sawmill into operation in that area, he built kilns and began to produce the first sewerage pipe ever produced in the South. The plant also turned out pottery and stoneware. During the Civil War, Stevens’s plant produced “knives, shoepegs and Joe Brown pipes” for the confederacy according to the history book. And, because of that General William T. Sherman burned the plant to the ground in 1864. Stevens rebuilt the plant after the war and sold it to his sons in 1876. By the turn of the century, the Stevens plant employed some 300 people and produced only brick.
The late T. L. Wood recalled in a 1984 interview with the Associated Press that Stevens Pottery acquired a reputation as a rough-and-tumble town where shootings and stabbings were commonplace at night and on weekends. “My mother wouldn’t let me go down there when I was a kid.” he said. But when he grew up, Wood, like many residents of Stevens Pottery and Coopers worked there for at least a while, and he remembered the plant as a “dirty, dusty, crude-looking place, (where) the work was hard- hauling brick in wheelbarrows and things like that.” Wood escaped the hard labor in the plant by operating a general store; and getting the town’s post office located in his store. But others stayed with the hard work and long hours, and as late as the 1950s, a person could work all of the overtime he or she wanted as the plant turned out brick for the booming sugar refineries in Cuba.
I’m honored to be able to share this photograph by Anne Chamlee; it will be one of several I plan on publishing here and on Vanishing South Georgia. Earlier this year, Anne reached out to let me know that she appreciated the work I was doing documenting Georgia’s rural architecture and that she had some photographs of her own that I might enjoy seeing. After several back-and-forth emails and some phone conversations, I’m so glad we were able to make a connection. She’s just as intrigued by the architecture of rural Georgia as I am and by the late 1980s was wandering around the backroads of Middle Georgia, photographing the endangered examples that sparked her interest. She’s also a delightful conversationalist, which is a bit of vanishing thing itself these days.
A Sooner by birth, Anne came South with her family just as the Dust Bowl was coming to an end. They wound up in Florida and she eventually met and married a man with roots in Hancock County, Tilmon Chamlee. Tilmon was a rising architect who had a very successful career in the commercial sector. After many years in Florida and then Macon, Anne and Tilmon eventually settled at Lake Sinclair in Baldwin County, where he continued his practice and indulged in his love for flying. He was also a commercial and instrument-rated pilot. Tilmon passed away in 2015 but Anne remains active in the community. After talking with her on the phone a few times, I still cannot believe she’s 85.
Regarding the structure: It was located near Haddock and is no longer extant. The photo dates to July 1988. It’s quite unusual as a church structure but was likely a multi-purpose center for the community. My guess is that the second floor was used for Sunday School and possibly even by a fraternal lodge. I hope to learn more.
One of Macon’s oldest restaurants, Tucker’s Barbecue was established at this location on Broadway in 1947.
Originally a drive-in, it saw its busiest days when Broadway was the prime industrial area of Macon, supporting several factories. Though this stretch of Broadway is now one of the most desolate areas in town, Tucker’s hangs on and still serves its original recipe of chopped pork marinated in a vinegary sauce. It has its loyal fans and detractors alike, but its very survival says they owners are doing something right.
The old sign is an amazing survivor itself, and is a popular stop for photographers visiting Macon.
Elam Alexander began construction on this house on Coleman Hill in 1836, for Jerry Cowles, the financier who brought the railroad from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Macon and who served as president of the Ocmulgee Bank. The house took on its present monumental appearance with the addition of the colonnade in 1840. Financial woes led Cowles to New York during the 1840s and the house was purchased by Joseph Bond, one of Georgia’s most prominent cotton growers. Bond’s time in the house was short, however, as he was killed by a neighboring plantation owner in a dispute over slave.
In 1865, the estate served as the headquarters of Union Brigadier General James H. Wilson during his occupation of the city. In 1879, James T. Coleman purchased the property and the surrounding area became known as Coleman Hill.
The Oriental/Moorish gazebo, built during the Victorian era, is one of Macon’s most popular photo subjects.
Beginning in 1960, the house served as the segregationist Stratford Academy for a time [now an inclusive institution located elsewhere] and was later gifted to Mercer University by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. It remains one of Macon’s most enduring landmarks.
Macon Historic District, National Register of Historic Places