The Hay House Mansion in Macon Ga

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Date Submitted: 11/16/2012 10:34 AM

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In 1974, Macon declared the Johnston-Felton-Hay House, better known as the Hay House, a National Historic Landmark. Building of the unique structure that would become a shining beacon in an extremely dismal time would begin in 1855 and completed in 1859. The plans for the house were the result of William and Anne Johnston’s three-year honeymoon in Europe. The Johnston’s were inspired by the Italian architecture and the collected mementos of their trip.

Once completed, the house became known as the “Palace of the South.” Not only was the Italian Renaissance Revival style façade of the house different from the Greek Revival style that was popular in the South, but the inside sported amenities unsurpassed in the mid-19th century: indoor bathrooms, hot and cold running water, central heat, a speaker-tube system, in-house kitchen and an elaborate ventilation system.

The ‘palace’ housed the Johnston’s, their daughters, and their extended family until the death of Mrs. Johnston in 1896, when their daughter, Mary Ellen and her Husband, William H. Felton took ownership of the house. They updated the plumbing and added electricity. After the Felton’s death in 1926, the heirs sold the house to Parks Lee Hay. They added the driveway and brick gateposts, as well as adding the lower garden and fish pond. On the death of Mrs. Hay in 1962, her heirs established the P.L. Hay foundation and operated the house as a private house museum. Ownership of the house was formally transferred to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977.

One of the glorious tales of the house is its survival of the civil war. On May 8, 1864 General Sherman left Chattanooga with 98,000 men on route to Savannah with a mission to capture Georgia and bring it under the North’s control. Hoping that by capturing the economic center of the Confederacy, the South would be too weak to continue with the war and the Union would win.

Just before Sherman began the sixty-mile path of destruction through...