Hey from the Hay House!

Macon, GA – Have I got a house for you!  It’s huge, it has a secret room, missing gold, and numerous people say it’s haunted.  Thought we’d head to Middle Georgia and go check out the Hay House, another property run by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. We are going on their behind the scenes tour that is offered once a month, which ends waaay up on top of the house outside that cupola.  This one took 5 years to build, and is considered Italian Renaissance Style.  Not your normal white columned mansion.  Believe me this is one big old mansion, with around 24 rooms and it’s a total of 3 stories!  Yes, really!  And this house has a secret room too.

And high tech (for it’s day) – they had a very early form of central heating, a 20,000 gallon water tank  in the attic that had spring water pumped into it.  That means running water!  In the 1850s! And let me tell you, it’s one opulent house too.

Of course it’s an unusual design for Georgia, especially at that time.  Turns out the original owners of the house, William and Ann Tracy Johnston had just returned from their honeymoon in Italy in the 1850s.  I’m sure however they got to Italy was more comfortable than economy seats on Delta, huh?  He was in several different businesses, banking and manufacturing – then during the Civil War he was in charge of the gold depository here.  It had over $15 million in gold at one point (wonder if it was in that hidden room?)


Front Doors


You get an idea how big this place walking up to the massive front doors.  They’re several inches thick and weigh over 500 lbs each – yet they are effortless  to open and close.  Things aren’t built like that these days!

left side

Luckily it was a beautiful morning when I toured this place.  You get an idea of how big it is with the side view.  The large stained glass window in the center is in the dining room.

Hay House Dining Room

So the dining room – check out that stained glass huh?  It’s an enormous room, as you can tell.  What surprised me in here?  The rug!  It’s not a rug!  It’s a painted cloth.  I haven’t seen that anywhere else that I’ve toured.  That Eastlake dining table with 14 chairs?  It’s original to the house.

The music room is 50 feet long as was recently restored.  The ceiling is 30 feet high in here.  Very opulent. The only thing I could relate to were the white floor fans.

from macon.com


Heading up the stairs another great stained glass window…and we’re really close to the secret room too!  So, this thing about folks saying it’s haunted.  First, really glad I didn’t read up on that until AFTER I went to the house.  People say they’ve seen an elderly lady in 1800s nightclothes roaming the hallways, felt cool spots in the house, and felt something breathing on their shoulder.  Had I experienced any of these, I promise y’all I would’ve run like the wind right out of this place!



Here’s where I can appreciate this is a house under restoration.  Once you get upstairs you can tell there’s still much more work to be done.  The bedrooms are nice enough, but a stark contrast from the fully restored first floor.  I think they have spent over $8 Million restoring this house so far.


So of course I was not really thinking much about going up to the octagonal cupola.  Looking down the winding staircase up there I started thinking “hey this is pretty high up here!”

cupola stairs


But once you get to the top and walk around outside, you are treated to phenomenal views of Macon!!!  Great panorama of the city.

Cupola View 1

Cupola View 2 More great views….


If you happen to be anywhere near Macon, this is a really interesting tour!  And an unusual style of home for the antebellum south.

Thanks so much for coming along to see the Hay House, I appreciate it!

May Patterson Goodrum House – Part 2

WP_20150311_088 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta – Alright, time to see more of this house!  And yes, the pic above is the back of the house, which kinda looks like the front of a house.  That’s how Shutze, the architect, built houses.  Another one he built just down the street is the Swan House, part of Atlanta History Center.  Same thing – is it the front or back of the house?

So I saved the most surprising downstairs room for y’all.  As we were touring, I heard someone ask in hushed tones “Are we going in the Menaboni Room?”.  Huh?  What’s a Menaboni room?  Picture me with a blank look.  But it turned out to be the biggest surprise on the tour.  It’s an octagonal breakfast room and you think you’re in a birdcage when you’re in it.



Of course this is not a large room and I try really hard not to get people in pictures on these tours, but look at these details in this room!  This is an old photo from when the house was staged…and looking in the kitchen you can see the old floor tile colors in there, those have been changed to original green color now.

WP_20150311_053That ceiling!  But wait, that’s not all!  Didn’t expect to see an elevator built into this room (think 1930s elevator, aka TINY!).  That door opens the elevator.



So who is Menaboni?  Think of him as Atlanta’s very own Audubon.  Athos Menaboni, an Italian immigrant, painted many, many birds in and around Atlanta.  He lived to be 90 and worked right up to the end!

From here we headed upstairs (this house has 5 bedrooms total).  As with many old homes, maximum detail and expense goes into the public rooms, so the floors are a different wood than the walnut floors on the first floor.  Impressive to see the original 1930s bathrooms (and hey, subway tile is back in a big way these days!).



The master bedroom is huge, but May Goodrum slept on the sleeping porch that was adjacent to it instead.  Here’s a look at the master bedroom.



See there’s some furniture in here?  The Watson Brown Foundation has been able to acquire quite a few of the original pieces of furniture in the house, so visitors will get to see what this place looked like in the 1930s.

Master bathroom:


The main landing upstairs had great arched doorways, this one is visible from the first floor too.


This place was originally a 5 acre parcel, though over the years a couple of acres have been sold.  Looking out in front, see all the boxwoods?



Well, here’s a funny story about the boxwoods out front.  In 1936, Mrs Goodrum had these planted in the shape of her initials.  Pretty cool idea huh?  She remarried in 1938 (and nope, he wasn’t a “G”, it was Francis Abreu) – and had the plants redone to reflect her updated initials!

The back gardens – I’d call this a bowling lawn – was really impressed by the curved walls, and at the very back, we’ll see the Watson Brown Foundation’s next big renovation here.



Yep – the pavilion is next up to renovate, and like most anything to do with an old house, nothing is ever as simple as it looks.  There are numerous city code requirements now on these things.


Standing in the back garden (oh you know it’s about to rain, don’t you?).



Last stop – a side garden and pond, that was set up as an outdoor theater back in the old days.


As we were wrapping up outside, the rain finally let loose in those huge raindrops that are the beginning of a 5 minute shower outside.  I think it lasted about as long as it took all of us to run back to our cars, which were parked off the property.  Got in the car, and voila, the rain stopped!  How does that happen like that?  Grrr!

Wrapping up the May Patterson Goodrum House – WOW.  It’s amazing that so much of the original detail in the house remained after years of benign neglect – like the mural in the dining room, the Menaboni painting, the original bath fixtures and things like that.  And while I promise you this is one big house, and has very formal spaces, it still feels comfortable inside.  Maybe it was not having furniture and paintings around everywhere, but all in all just an amazing property.  As I did my research and learned more about May Patterson Goodrum Abreu, it just reinforced how much that the people make a house a home.  Their stories are what makes history so interesting!

Thanks so much for coming along on this 2 part tour!  I appreciate you!



May Patterson Goodrum House – Part 1


Atlanta, GA – West Paces Ferry Road near the Governor’s Mansion – This post is longer than most, and I’ve had to break it into a couple of parts.  This stretch of Buckhead was called the Fifth Avenue of Atlanta in the first part of the 20th Century, and I recently had a chance to tour this one with the Atlanta Preservation Center.  This is the May Patterson Goodrum House, built in 1932.  Some of us know it as the Peacock House – yes, there were once peacocks here who got out and blocked the road from time to time.

I always love to learn about the people who lived in these grand homes back in yesteryear, and May Patterson Goodrum Abreu is one of those people who has a fascinating story.  In my research, I learned that she was the first recipient of the “Atlanta Woman of the Year” award in 1943 for her war efforts (remember, World War 2 was going on then).  She was a major supporter of the Humane Society, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and helped with the founding of a school in Rabun.

Photo from Abreu Foundation


She was not born into money, she worked at a store when she got married in 1926.  Sadly, her first husband passed away a couple of years later.  She married Francis Abreu in 1938 – but before that, she had this house built!

The architect, Philip Trammell Shutze, is one of the top classicist architects of the last century.  He designed many landmark homes in his long career.  I’m going to have a post on some more of his houses.

The house is currently undergoing major renovation by the Watson-Brown Foundation.  We were lucky enough to have Tad Brown as our tour leader – and he’s an expert on this house!


When you walk in the foyer of this house there’s a big living room off to the left.  While we were there, part of it was sealed off and as you can see, there’s a lot of work going on.


See that woodwork below?  Those are different southern flowers on there – magnolias, dogwoods, etc.

WP_20150311_026Here’s a pic of the living room when the house was for sale a few years ago.


Looking at the staircase, I couldn’t figure out the railing.  Was that art deco?  Was it Chinese?  Was it added later to the house?  What is up with that?  Turns out that’s part of the English Regency style – it plays on some Asian elements.  I guess it’s what they also call a “pop of color” on HGTV.




So remember how I said English Regency had some Asian elements in it?  Well going in the dining room, I was speechless (OK, for like 2 seconds, a long time for ME) at the Chinese mural in here.  It was painted by Allyn Cox – who also happened to be the same person who did mural in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington DC!





Here is a look at the room when was furnished – can’t you see the cast of Downton Abbey having a meal in here?  He actually painted these elsewhere and had them shipped and installed in the house.  See that door to the right of the fireplace?  Is that a secret door to somewhere?  Nah.

Historic Buildings, May Patterson Goodrum House_dining_room


I of course couldn’t stand it and had to see what was behind that door!  I realized quickly that it was the butler’s pantry and kitchen – all restored to the original 1930s look.

Checking out the kitchen, they have gone to great lengths to make it look period appropriate.


See this range?  This here is a 1926 Hotpoint.


I had to take a closer look at it – and when I was looking at the oven controls, I discovered it has “slow”, “medium”, “hot” etc listed on it.  Ah ha!  That’s what they have in those old cookbooks, “cook in a slow oven for XX minutes”…


And of course a vintage refrigerator in the kitchen.



Lots more to see around here, so will have a second post.  Thanks for coming along on this tour!

The Real Miss Daisy Lived Here

Miss Daisy House

Atlanta, GA – Druid Hills Neighborhood – Finally a pretty day after what seems like weeks of rain here in Atlanta.  Time to get out and look at some more houses!

Remember the film Driving Miss Daisy?  Well, the house above is the house of the REAL Miss Daisy.  Her name was Mrs. Lena Fox.  She was the grandmother of Alfred Uhry, who wrote Driving Miss Daisy.  This house is going to be featured on the 2015 Druid Hills Tour of Homes (first weekend in May).

So now we’ll go visit a few of Miss Daisy’s neighbors houses, they’ve all got some stories too.


Film Location

This hilltop mansion was used in the Driving Miss Daisy movie.  It was for sale a while back, wish they’d had an open house so we could all see inside!

Walter Rich House

Now this house, obviously having a little work done!  Well, here’s something interesting – it was built in 1913 for Walter Rich, the owner of Rich’s Department Store.  Lots of folks in Georgia remember Rich’s, and I know there were a couple in Alabama and South Carolina.  Now when I think of Rich’s, I remember Priscilla the Pink Pig at Christmastime!  Had a chance to see it a couple of years ago:


I miss Rich’s stores!


Tudor House

Above is the Strauss House, built in 1917.  This one is considered Tudor/Bavarian or something or another, but it’s just one big old house!  There’s a 3rd floor ballroom, and an elevator in this home. I love the fact that there’s a goal out in the front yard – always fun to see new life in these old homes.


This fancy home above was built 1909-1910 for Frank Adair, a prominent real estate company owner.  The 3rd floor of this place is a ballroom!  This home and most of the ones we’ve looked at were designed by Neel Reid, one of our famous architects from the turn of the 20th century

Neil Reid Home


Finally this house, built around 1913 – it was Neel Reid’s own home.  So you get an idea of what home an architect designed for himself over 100 years ago.

Thanks for taking a stroll through parts of Druid Hills with me today!

Inside The Oldest House in Decatur

Swanton House Front Decatur, GA – Founded in 1823, Decatur is just six miles east of downtown Atlanta.  I was excited to tour Swanton House, which is part of the DeKalb History Center – it’s practically in my back yard and I’d never been there.  Last Saturday, this 190 year old home was open for tours, and as I walked up I saw a guide in 1860s period costume.  This house was moved from it’s original location nearly 50 years ago – but it’s on land that was owned by the Swanton Family. 20150307_113801I was technically challenged on this tour, and my camera was misbehaving – sorry about that.  But this house has such a history, you’ll wanna go and see it yourself. So get this – this house was originally a log cabin!  It was built around 1825-ish.  Can’t say for sure because the courthouse burned in 1842 (and I think the next couple of courthouses burned too).  It started as a 2 room dogtrot cabin. There were a couple of owners ahead of Benjamin Swanton, who bought the house in 1852.  It was expanded, clapboard added and made into a Georgian style cottage. Going in you are in a good sized reception hall, with the front parlor on the right.  The painting over the fireplace is of Mr. Swanton.

20150307_123010 Bejnamin Swanton made his money in the Dahlonega Gold Rush – not as a miner, but by selling supplies to the miners.  He also had several different businesses in Decatur, including brick making, tannery, etc.

This needlepoint stool is original to the house.20150307_122926    Another item original to the house, this bookcase.  And yes, the top is larger than the bottom but that’s the way the Swantons always had it!


They call this a 1 1/2 story house and there are 2 bedrooms upstairs.  Get this – the Swanton family left and went to Maine during the Civil War, so they had Ms. Johnson stay there.  I was like “OK, so?”.  Well she had 10 children in here.  10!  And they actually captured a Union soldier in the house (then again, 10 kids is like an army, huh??).


Here’s an early Jenny Lind rope bed – and a period appropriate mattress.  Now y’all know I love history, but this mattress didn’t look so comfortable.  No Temperpedic mattress here!


There’s also what is called a child’s bed – I was glad to find this out, because at first glance I thought it was a huge doll bed, but it just seemed too big for that!


Outside of the house there are a couple of cabins that have been moved here, and I’ll have them in an upcoming post.  Here’s a look at the back of the house:

20150307_130650Now here’s something you don’t see all that often – an old hitching post!  This one dates to 1882.


So now you’ve seen some of the oldest house in Decatur!  Hope you enjoyed this quick look at the house, and promise I’ll have my camera behaving next time!  Thanks so much for reading the blog – I love getting to share these old homes with y’all!