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Georgia Trust Preserves Macon's Time-Honored Landmark, Hay House

By Kelly Church

As part of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Hay House in Macon, GA is one of the state's most historic architectural structures. The 18,000-square-foot home was declared a landmark in 1974 after standing tall for more than a century representing Italian Renaissance revival architecture. Two families lived there, of which both have belongings still housed in the mansion that now serves as a museum.

Built in 1855 by William Butler Johnston and his wife after honeymooning in Europe, the mansion served as a pseudo museum of their own to remember their extensive trip by. As they travelled through Europe, they collected different pieces of fine art (ceramics, sculptures, paintings and other works) that they displayed throughout their time in the house. It was then passed on to their daughter Mary Ellen, and her husband William Felton.

The Hays family came next, after the Feltons died. The property was sold to Parks Lee Hay, the founder of Banker's Health & Life Insurance Company. The Hays family did a complete overhaul of the mansion, removing its European Renaissance elements, and updating the home to better match the look of 1920s America. In 1962, after Mrs. Hay's death, family turned the house into a private museum that operated until 1977 when the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation acquired it.

"Our primary mission is to educate guests of all ages and interpret the architectural and social histories of Hay House," William Aultman, Curator of Education, said. "The museum may be particularly beneficial to school aged children who are studying American history, art or the history of Georgia. Many children love coming to the house just to see how big the building is and view Macon from the Widows Walk of the Cupola on the seventh floor."

Throughout the year, many students walk through the doors of the Hay House. School tours can be accommodated for most grade levels and the staff works to meet Georgia Core school standards so every tour is beneficial to the students.

Other members of the community and tourists can visit Hay House, too. There are five tour options: the basement, the main floor, the second floor, behind the scenes that goes through more unique rooms in the house, and the art that covers much of the work displayed throughout the mansion.

A network of members and donators supports the Hay House. There are various levels of patronage, requiring different donations to the museum and coming with a growing list of benefits. Individuals, businesses and organizations can become sponsors.

"By becoming a member of the Georgia Trust, you will be directly contributing to the preservation of historic structures and properties in the state of Georgia," Aultman said. "If you would like to help preserve Georgia's architectural and cultural heritage for generations to come, contact the Georgia Trust or visit their website georgiatrust.org."

The tour schedule and ticket information can also be found on hayhousemacon.org.

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