From Historic Macon Foundation by Oby Brown – The D.T. Walton Building, the former office of one of Macon’s leading dentists and civil rights activists, was added to the Historic Macon Foundations’s 2023 Fading Five list on Thursday.
The preservation nonprofit also removed from the list of threatened historic sites the Bobby Jones Performing Arts Center, located at 1389 Jefferson St. It was the longest-listed Fading Five site, making the list initially in 2016.
Nathan Lott, Historic Macon’s executive director, made the announcements from the former arts center, located across the street from the Booker T. Washington Community Center in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood.
“All of the sites on this year’s list are important to the Macon community in their own right, and we’re dedicated to saving them with help from our partners and our supporters,” Lott said. “We are grateful for everyone who believes in our mission and stands with us.”
Historic Macon sifts through nominations each year to craft its Macon’s Fading Five list. 2023 marks the ninth year of the program, which calls attention to historic sites across Macon-Bibb County that could be lost due to development or neglect.
Since the launch of the Fading Five program in 2015, Historic Macon has put 18 properties on the list. To date, 13 of them have been saved and protected — 72 percent — while just one has been lost.
Tonja Khabir, who bought the Bobby Jones center almost a year ago, said her plans to create Jones Cafe at the site are well under way.
Applications for both state and federal historic tax credits to help with the project, coordinated by Historic Macon’s Matt Chalfa, are in the pipeline, as is financing for renovations. Plans call for two new apartments in the building, as well as a co-working area and meeting space.
A new roof, new windows, new flooring and new HVAC systems will be installed, as well as new electrical and plumbing systems.
In 2014, the community lost two historic structures, Tremont Temple Baptist Church and the former Charles H. Douglass home, to commercial development, prompting the Fading Five initiative.
A property remains on the list until the site is no longer under threat, the foundation’s Preservation Committee determines that it has been appropriately preserved, or it is lost. An updated list is announced annually.
Thanks to the generosity of The 1772 Foundation and the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, HMF has a revolving fund — the Fading Five Fund — dedicated to preserving endangered places in the community. Those funds have been used to revitalize houses in the North Highlands neighborhood and acquire the old Fire Hall No. 4 on Third Street, which is now Historic Macon’s office.
Besides the Walton Building, Macon’s Fading Five list for 2023 also includes: the Dr. E.E. Green House; the Roxy Theatre; the Willingham-McBrearty House; and the First National Bank and Trust Co. building.
D.T. WALTON BUILDING
What is now the D.T. Walton Building, located at 591 D.T. Walton Way, was built in 1887. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982.
Dr. D.T. Walton Sr. bought the building — at the intersection of Cotton Avenue and New Street — in 1936, and he operated his dental office there. It’s part of the Cotton Avenue District, a major center of Black-owned businesses that flourished during the Jim Crow era of strictly enforced racial segregation.
Other businesses operated out of the building over the years, including the offices of Drs. Wanza A. Davis and Joshua S. Williams; Dixie Tobacco and Candy; the Dixon John Radio Service; Lary’s Bakery; Six Point Weiner Stand; J.L. Montgomery Art Supply Co.; a harness maker; a life insurance company and a women’s clothing store.
Walton was a World War I veteran and Howard University-educated dentist. He was one of the founding members of the Georgia Dental Society, the first black dental association in Georgia. He was a trailblazer in the dental profession and influential in Macon’s civil rights movement.
The building, which the nearby First Baptist Church now owns, has been vacant since about 2005.
In 2008, First Baptist had the opportunity to acquire the property from the Walton estate. The family wanted to ensure the preservation of the building and to maintain the family legacy associated with the building.
First Baptist made plans to rehabilitate the building for its ministry’s outreach and community services. Due to a variety of circumstances, including the Covid-19 pandemic, construction plans were delayed.
THE ROXY THEATRE, 445 HAZEL ST.
Over the last 18 months, Historic Macon has worked on the first phase of a National Register nomination for the Roxy Theatre building with the support of a grant from the E.J. Grassman Trust.
Last summer, the building was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in the areas of entertainment/recreation and ethnic heritage as an example of a venue built specifically for African American entertainment during the era of segregation. The building also appears eligible in the area of architecture as a surviving example of a Quonset hut-type building adapted for use as a theater.
The agency determined that the appropriate period of significance starts in 1949, the year of construction, and will end in 1958, when the theater closed.
We hope that nomination will add momentum to renovating the building — and the surrounding Greenwood Bottom area — together with the investments made nearby at the new Macon-Bibb Economic Opportunity Council and the commercial development along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
- E.E. GREEN HOUSE, 353 MADISON ST.
Dr. E.E. Green graduated from Howard University Medical School in 1886, and he and his family moved to Macon afterward. In 1890, four years later, he built a house at what was then 405 Madison St., in the heart of the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. It was home for Green, his wife, Georgia, and their four children — two of whom went on to work in medicine.
Later, he also moved a pharmacy that he owned in Macon, Central City Drug Store, into his home, and he may also have treated patients there too. (Green also was a landowner who became a landlord in the neighborhood.)
The house is about 2,700 square feet. After the Greens lived there, it was a single-family home for teachers and others for the next 20 years. It was turned into apartments in 1950, and it has sat vacant since 2000.
Tops Housing LLC in Lawrenceville bought the home in 2021 for $37,000. It has since transferred twice and is now owned by Taishan Capital Ventures. As it sits vacant, it continues to deteriorate, an unnecessary example of demolition by neglect. Historic Macon is eager to work with the owner to rehabilitate this important house or find a new owner.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST CO., 2791 HOUSTON AVE.
This building, built in 1957 as the southside branch of the First National Bank & Trust Co., closed in 2000. It made the Fading Five list in 2021 — the youngest building ever listed. The property was purchased in February 2019 for $32,000.
It is a mid-century modern building, designed by Macon architect W. Elliott Dunwody Jr. It has traditional and art deco details, such as the door surround and the belt course under the roof, reminiscent of a Greek temple.
As the building sits vacant and blighted, it continues to deteriorate, threatened with demolition through neglect. It regularly draws complaints as a blighted building, so Historic Macon is eager to work with the out-of-town property owner to find a new buyer — and new use — for the sturdy building.
WILLINGHAM-MCBREARTY HOUSE, 381 COLLEGE ST.
Since listing the house on the 2021 Fading Five list, Historic Macon has had several inquiries about buying the house. The owner, however, has been unresponsive.
Earlier this summer there was activity in the house and the neighborhood was optimistic that the house had been sold. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm was short-lived and the activity ceased.
Historic Macon would like to see the house occupied and cared for. If it continues to be neglected and unoccupied, it will only continue to degrade and the value will decrease accordingly.
For more information and to get involved with Macon’s Fading Five, visit www.historicmacon.org or call 478-742-5084.