MACON, Ga. — Tucked away in the woods off Forest Hill Road sits one of Macon's most historic and iconic landmarks.
It was once used as a place for retreat and recreation for the students of St. Stanislaus College in the early 1900s, and this month, you may get the chance to see it up close and personal.
For three days in November, the Museum of Arts and Sciences is offering three exclusive tours of the Grotto. The first tour is Thursday night starting at 5 p.m.
"We do try and gauge it around the people that are on the tour, so if they are looking for more of a Catholic history experience, of course we want to do that, if they're coming here for prayer, of course we want to respect that, because it is a religious site," Sherry Singleton, director of communications with the museum, said.
Singleton says the Jesuits bought the 90-acre area in 1901, and it had a villa, swimming pool, and areas to pray. It's a replica of the Grotto of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, and it's also rich in Native American history.
But you may notice the Grotto looks a little different from past photos.
Once heavily vandalized, Singleton says the landmark has undergone extensive restoration efforts.
The Reichert family purchased the property last year and with the help of a local construction company, they pressure washed the rocks and put in security cameras.
But restoration was taking place long before that, Singleton says. It was almost five years in the making.
She says she wants people to cherish and realize the Grotto's historical value.
"Well the first thing I want them to get out of it is the need to protect it, to keep it safe. I also want them to gain a real sense of ownership that this town that they live in, and this community that they live in is ripe with history," Singleton said.
If you can't get a spot on the tours this time around, Singleton says not to worry. She says the tours have been a success so far, and they'll be offering them again in the spring.
And if you're thinking about heading out to the Grotto yourself -- don't.
Singleton says the landmark is on private property, and tours are only offered through the museum.
Click here to learn more about tour dates and to buy tickets.
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