Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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North Highlands

North Highlands (31211)

The neighborhood known as North Highlands is located just off the Gray Highway and just across the Ocmulgee River from downtown Macon. It begins at Nottingham Drive and includes a number of streets which literally climb the hill – North, Laurel and Summit Avenues, and Boulevard, as well as the initial part of Nottingham Drive.

It is a designated Historic District and is comprised of residences which were built predominantly in the last decade of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. There is also one house which is ante-bellum and has foundations which are as old as the city of Macon. The area at one time had been part of the holdings of Senator A. O. Bacon.

There is a charming variety of residences in North Highlands, including vernacular farm houses, Arts and Crafts bungalows and a handful of Georgian and Tudor examples. There are sidewalks and amply-sized yards and some formidable specimen trees which pre-date the development of the neighborhood. Front porches, or side screen porches, are common features where residents have enjoyed decades of breezes from the river valley not far away.

The location of the neighborhood, just minutes to downtown Macon, makes it an ideal place to call home and the neighborhood has been undergoing a steady rejuvenation since the 1970s. With affordable price points and, mostly, moderately sized houses, it is one of Macon’s best-kept secrets.

Cherokee Heights

Cherokee Heights (31204)

Cherokee Heights was one of Macon’s first “automobile suburbs”. Located just south of the Vineville neighborhood, and west of Pio Nono Avenue, its place on a time-line extends from just before World War I to a few years after. The neighborhood is the depository of some of Macon’s best 20th century architecture, from Arts and Crafts bungalows, small and large, to fine Georgian edifices. The renowned Georgia classicist architect Neel Reid designed a number of these charming houses, as did any number of other early 20th century architects.

The main streets are Cherokee, Hillcrest and Suwannee Avenues, which intersect with Courtland, Hilyer and Crescent Avenues, among others. This neighborhood was built by and for Macon’s professional class and was home to doctors, lawyers and educators in its heyday. Most of the larger houses are of masonry construction and almost all featured screen porches and outside terraces in the pre-air-conditioning era. The grounds and gardens of the houses were important in this area and the streetscape “rhythm” still remains with room to breathe between the houses.

Cherokee Heights had always been a stable and desirable neighborhood but the persistent “outward” push of developing ever newer areas of town in the mid-20th century seemed to have resulted in its marginalization until some “urban pioneering” types joined forces with some of the original stalwarts to revitalize this important historic Macon enclave. With its large yards, sidewalks, handsome architecture and convenient location Cherokee Heights is well-poised for further revitalization as it enters its second century.


Ingleside (31204)

Ingleside Avenue in Macon begins at Riverside Drive and meanders westward until it reaches Ridge Avenue, which runs parallel to Vineville Avenue. Although the first few blocks of the road are part of the Vineville area of Macon, once it crosses over Pierce Avenue the neighborhood becomes what is referred to in Macon as “Ingleside”, or “old Ingleside”. It is one of Macon’s most beautiful neighborhoods and, although it is not an officially-designated historic district, it does include some older neighborhoods which would be eligible for such a designation.

The main street is Ingleside Avenue, with Vista Circle coming in a close second. The area is characterized by an abundant tree canopy and rolling hills (much like Shirley Hills across the river) as well as large and well-tended yards. Some pockets of the neighborhood began in the first quarter of the 20th century and include typical elements of architectural styles and amenities like sidewalks. Others have a decidedly more “suburban” feeling with larger lots and were developed in the second quarter of the century.

Ingleside is certainly well-located and well-loved by its inhabitants. As with most neighborhoods which were built over a period of years, and over a large area, the neighborhood has a number of smaller “pocket” areas which form their own communities within the larger whole. These smaller neighborhoods foster strong allegiance and it is not unusual to find residents of many decades living next door to newcomers who were fortunate enough to find a home in this very special and convenient area of Macon.

Shirley Hills

Shirley Hills (31211)

Shirley Hills is one of Macon’s surprising hidden treasures. Although located just across the river from downtown, it is worlds apart. Situated on rolling hills with one of Macon’s densest tree canopies, Shirley Hills can often be ten degrees cooler in summer months than the rest of Macon. In addition to its natural beauty it has a charming variety of architecture.

Shirley Hills actually has two distinct areas. The older neighborhood, which has been designated as a historic district since the 1970s, consists of Jackson Springs Road, South and West Jackson Springs Roads, Oakcliff Road, and parts of Nottingham Drive, Twin Pines Drive, Curry Drive and Parkview. This area began to be developed in the 1910s and has houses built, for the most part, up to the 1940s (although there are a few newer ones scattered about). The newer part of the neighborhood has houses built in the 1950s forward. This area is being considered for inclusion in an expansion of the Shirley Hills Historic District, consists of Waverland Drive and Circle, Briarcliff Road, Hawthorne Road, Peyton Place, Twin Pines Drive and Lane, among others, and contains some early examples of Macon “ranch” houses, as well as more traditional styles.

Shirley Hills was carved out of property which was owned by U.S. Senator Augustus Octavius Bacon and was named for his granddaughter. The neighborhood is one of Macon’s most naturally beautiful places to live. Many of the houses along Nottingham Drive actually have river frontage and most of the houses in the area are on sizable lots with mature plantings and old-growth trees. The original part was laid out by the office of Frederick Law Olmsted, which also designed Druid Hills in Atlanta about the same time, and takes advantage of the hilly terrain to serve up charming, winding roads which are bordered with rock walls and aprons. It was one of Macon’s first “automobile suburbs” and became the home of many of the town’s most prominent citizens, although there is a striking variety in the sizes and scale of the houses – from small cottages to veritable estates.

There are many handsome houses in Shirley Hills and, not surprisingly for such a beautiful and special area, several are still in the hands of family members of the original builders. But, it is the natural, almost rural, aspect of the neighborhood which so endears it to those who call it home. Walking along the meandering roads one almost feels as if you are strolling along a country lane, although the road beneath you is substantial concrete. The sunlight through the tall trees filters down and creates a special, comforting magic which, when combined with the calling of the birds (the neighborhood is also a designated bird sanctuary), and the frequent sighting of other wildlife, sets this neighborhood apart and makes it unique – so much so that it is quite rare for any of its inhabitants to choose to leave to live in other areas of Macon.


Intown Macon (31201)

The area known as Intown Macon, which also comprises most of the original Macon Historic District, is really a series of smaller pocket neighborhoods connected by the central spine of College Street. These various smaller areas are also related by having been built in approximately the same era – primarily from the 1830s to the 1930s. “Intown” is a term coined in the 1970s when the area started seeing the first concerted efforts of historic preservation in Macon.

Intown is, essentially, located on the hills above downtown Macon where, in 1836, a group of Macon’s early “movers and shakers” established Wesleyan College (the first college in the world chartered to award degrees to women). In the area around the new school, these early real estate developers sold off lots for the building of, often, grand houses. The heights had the advantage of being uphill from the river valley and, thus, farther away from the mosquitoes and positioned to catch some breeze.

The neighborhood stretches from what is now Riverside Drive to the area around Tattnall Square Park and Mercer University, although Mercer did not move to Macon until 1871. Throughout the area can be found houses built in almost all of the decades during the century after Wesleyan was founded. Early on, the houses stood on much larger lots but, as time went on, these lots were often subdivided into smaller parcels which resulted in an interesting mix of styles and scale throughout the district.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, as in many other places in the country, the close-in neighborhood began to decline in popularity and many of the larger houses were turned into apartments or torn down. Some were converted into offices and surface parking lots began to appear. While some old families continued their ties to their family homes, many moved away, or died off, and many of the houses were owned by absentee landlords. Enter the preservationists.

In the 1970s, again reflecting national trends, a new crop of “urban pioneers” discovered Intown and began to buy the very affordable houses and convert them back into single-family houses. Many of these folks were new to Macon and saw great potential in the historic old homes and great value in the convenient neighborhood. Because of their like-mindedness and shared interests, the neighborhood grew stronger and more cohesive and began to fight unwanted developments within the district – often to the consternation of Maconites who had, long before, written the area off as a viable place to live. Before long the Intown neighborhood became, again, an attractive and desirable place to live for an eclectic population which consisted of rich and poor, black and white, young and old, student and retired.

In the past few years new energy and enthusiasm has developed, through the efforts of the College Hill Alliance, to reclaim the connection between Mercer and Macon’s downtown. The Alliance is focused on improving the quality of life in the “College Hill Corridor” and the Intown area utilizing the principles of New Urbanism.

Intown is one of Macon’s most valued historic treasures. It is a veritable museum of our built environment where visitors to Macon are taken to see what is special about Macon; and it is a living neighborhood of sidewalks and porches where most of the residents know and like their neighbors and look out for one another – much like in a small town or an earlier era. It is easily Macon’s most vital neighborhood and, because it boasts such a wide variety of residential opportunities, from small apartments and cottages to grand historic mansions, it will undoubtedly retain its appeal for future generations who value that diversity and vitality.


Vineville (31204)

The large, sprawling and diverse neighborhood just beyond Intown and downtown Macon, in a northwesterly direction, is called Vineville. This was once a separate rural “village” with its own train stop from Macon. It is called “Vineville” because, in early days, the idea that grapes would proliferate and vineyards would flourish drove many of the large properties to give this somewhat unexpected crop a try. Although the concept did not exactly succeed, the area did produce a number of flourishing neighborhoods which began to be developed in the latter part of the 19th century.

The main traffic artery, Vineville Avenue, is the spine which connects the neighborhood and anchors the pretty regular grid of streets. (Until well into the second half of the 20th century, Vineville Avenue was a two-lane road with overarching trees creating a tunnel-like effect. It is now the main traffic artery connecting downtown and north Macon.)

The neighborhood usually considered to be “Vineville” essentially begins at the interstate and goes out to just past the intersection of Pierce / Pio Nono and Vineville Avenue. Main streets are Rogers, Calloway and Corbin Avenues, Buford Place, Clayton Street and Hines Terrace on the river side of Vineville Avenue; and Buckingham, English, Oak Haven and Cleveland Avenues on the left side (going away from town). The compact area of Stanislaus is also considered to be part of Vineville as are numerous other shorter streets which are beyond Pierce / Pio Nono Avenues.

The area is characterized by eclectic architecture in a wide range of sizes, dating mostly from the late 19th century through the period between the World Wars, although there are several ante-bellum houses which date from when the area was farmland. An extensive sidewalk system, with grassy separations from the streets, adds to its charm. Many of the houses also have garages at the rear of the properties as a great deal of the area was developed when automobiles were becoming more prevalent.

Vineville has the advantages of a variety of price points and an extremely convenient location. It has a very active neighborhood association and its residents often band together to protect their neighborhood from unwanted developments as well as joining forces to enhance the area with group activities.

Within the larger neighborhood are smaller, more defined, areas with their own identities. Stanislaus is one of these and is considered to be one of Macon’s most prestigious addresses. It consists of an unusual grouping of architectural styles and was developed on the site of St. Stanislaus College, a Jesuit institution which burned in 1921.

The Vineville neighborhood never fails to impress residents and visitors alike with its old-fashioned charm and feel.