Tuesday, November 1, 2011


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.