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'Important to women's history': Debate continues over whether to demolish century-old condemned Vineville home

Some neighbors say the house once belonged to the family of one of the first women ever to earn a bachelor's degree.

MACON, Ga. — The debate continues this week over plans to demolish a century-old, condemned home on Macon's Vineville Avenue.

Some neighbors say it's historic, but the Big House Foundation, which owns the home, says it's not really significant.

"Catherine Brewer Benson lived in the house with her father in 1840 when she was going to Wesleyan, and became the first woman in history to obtain a bachelor's degree," said historian Caitlin Mee, who lives in the neighborhood.

"It was built out of other old houses around 1918. So, that makes it old but there's no historical significance to it," said Jim Wells, the treasurer for the Big House Foundation.

There you have it: the central debate around the house at 2353 Vineville Avenue. Mee says it's historic.

"It's important to women's history here in Macon," she said. "This current house that we're trying to save is the remaining half of the Brewer Benson house."

Others, like Wells, says Brewer Benson never lived in it at all. He says that original house burned down in 2007, and that 2353 is built from other buildings around Brewer Benson's home.

"We have good historical records that it was put together from the outbuildings that were on the property around the complex," Wells said.

He says the Big House Foundation owns the house, which is next door to the former Allman Brothers home. The foundation originally planned to restore it, he says.

"To restore the building for an event space on the first floor and have archival storage," Wells said.

But when they started the renovation, here's what they found.

"The house was in structurally unsafe condition," he said.

Now, the foundation plans to demolish the house and plant gardens. Wells says that's the best thing for the property. Not everyone agrees.

"Tax credits, American Rescue Act money, there's a lot of financial incentives right now to do more creative things with houses like this," Mee said.

Monday, the Macon-Bibb Design Review Board denied the demolition. The final decision belongs to Macon-Bibb's Planning and Zoning Commission. They're set to vote on Monday, August 8.

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