Walking through downtown Macon, it is hard to miss all of the new businesses replacing empty store fronts. In fact, the President of NewTown Macon, Josh Rogers, says in the last five years more than 40 buildings have been redeveloped.
But Kim Campbell from Historic Macon says it is above downtown that holds some of Macon’s greatest treasures.
From the outside the Newman building looks just like most, but inside Campbell says is one of the coolest buildings downtown.
“It disappears from the written record, and we're pretty sure that's because it was a speakeasy,” says Campbell.
She says the rooms inside are full of history.
“We found these awesome floors. We found the old walls and the old ceilings, and they were all just kind of tucked up beneath this newer stuff,” says Campbell.
She says different businesses moved in over the years, covering up the original walls of the 1890's building.
“It's sort of like peeling back layers of an onion. You sort of peel back different periods of the buildings history,” says Campbell.
She says it is behind those layers where they found remnants from what they believe was a speakeasy, an illegal drinking establishment. One of the items is a one-way mirror.
“It's useful cause you can tell if the person knocking is someone you’re supposed to serve, or someone trying to bust you for serving alcohol during prohibition,” says Campbell.
Down the street from the Newman Building, is another building Campbell says has played a large role in the community since the mid 1800's.
“This building today we call the Lawrence Mayer building, but historically it would've been the Hardeman building,” says Campbell. It is a building she says has never been empty.
Jon Mayer says his family bought the building in the 1990's.
“Restaurant in the front, drug store in the back,” says Mayer describing what it looked like when his family purchased the building.
He says he and his father spent months converting the building into the florist store.
“It was always very creepy. You know it had been a hotel on the third floor and the second floor had been offices, so if you went into the parts we hadn't renovated it looked like 1900,” says Mayer.
But like much of downtown, contractors are converting the two floors into lofts.
“Finally uncovering the history and we have the opportunity to incorporate that history into the present day,” says Campbell.
The old becomes new. A pattern that sheds light onto some of Macon’s greatest treasures.
Rogers says they do not track unused upper floors, but he says in their last survey in 2015 it showed that only eight percent of downtown parcels are unoccupied.
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