Tuesday, November 1, 2011

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.