Friday, December 14, 2012

DAY 113- Hay, Harriet, & Molly’s…

It was still raining when I got up in Macon, GA.  I was a bit disappointed because I had hoped to visit the Ocmulgee National Monument which is a preservation of southeastern Native American culture.  I guess it has an earth lodge and burial mounds on site but with the rainy weather some of it would be closed.  I also was considering stopping by Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust, GA which would have been on my way to Atlanta but that was open only when weather was permitting.   Rainy weather in this case was not a good thing and I needed to find stuff I could do inside.  I got my computer on-line after grabbing breakfast and did some searching.
Photo- Hay House from the front street area.

That’s where I found a place called the Hay House.  It had some good reviews.  I googled the address for it and also got the address and directions for a Harriet Tubman Museum nearby too.  I figured between those two, I could fill a few hours before I needed to drive on to Atlanta, GA for the night.

I pulled up to the house and I have to admit that the on-line pictures didn’t do it justice.  It was a beautiful old Italian Renaissance house on a well sculptured landscaped corner lot.  I parked across the street and saw a sign that said for tours enter through the back entrance.  I walked around to the back door.  I walked in and told them I was interested in a tour.  I got a bit of a discount with my AAA and I was introduced to my lovely tour guide.  She had a good friend that moved to Utah recently and we started talking.  It was more like taking a tour with a good friend and it was rather fun; it was just myself and the tour guide.

My tour guide took me into a room in the basement where she told me the history of the Hay House.  The house was built by Mr. William Butler Johnston who was a wealthy retired man in his 40’s and his new bride in her 20’s.  They had gone on a 3 year honeymoon trip in Europe and came back to Macon inspired to build a house.   The building of the house started in 1855 and was finished up in 1859; this occurred during the Civil War.  It took a bit longer because there weren’t many craftsmen available to build houses; most of them had volunteered to go off to war.  But when it was finished it was referred to as the “Palace of the South”. 

The house passed on through to further generations of the family until it became too large and expensive to up keep.  Then, it was sold in 1926 to the wealthy Mr. Hay who was a founder of a bank and life insurance company.  In 1977, it was donated by Hay family descendants to the Georgia Trust Historic Preservation where eventually it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.   Which all I can say is that’s a very good thing because this house was amazing!
Photo- The front door area of the Hay House.

From the basement, I went out a side door and my tour guide let me in from the front door where the porch had an amazing design that I didn’t see when I went around to the back.  The front doors were 12 ft. tall and 5 inches thick carved wood.  I walked in through them and my breath was taken away!  Carved painted wood, molded plaster, faux bois (painted wood graining), and hand painted friezes, etched glass, and painted areas that looked amazingly like marble.  I was in awe!  The tour guide kind of chuckled at me but I was speechless.  It amazed me that all this high level of craftsmanship took place in a time when it was done with hand tools; I could really understand why it was called “The Palace of the South” because it was and still maybe is. 

We went from room to room; while my tour guide pointed out different aspects and nuances of the house.  There was a Christmas luncheon being served in a large downstairs room and we jumped ahead a bit to get those areas before they were filled.  She talked and showed things that were restored or made to look like the original.  She explained some of the ventilation and planning behind the house’s layout.  I got to see one of the first ever elevators that were installed into a house in the US.  Though, this one was more designed with the idea transporting kohl and ash between the floors than people. 

Then, we went upstairs and I got to see where efforts were still being made on the second for restoration.  It was a little rougher up here and simpler but even then I saw the possibilities of it all.  We went through the second floor and then down the backstairs to the basement into the kitchen area.  She showed me the speaker tubes that were used to call servants and explained how they worked.  There was a drawing and an open floor area that showed some of the heating and cooling that were used for the house.  That was the end of the tour but I ended up chatting with the tour guide for a while until another group showed up for a tour.  Unfortunately, they do not allow photography to be taken inside of the home.  However, I did take a few of the outside afterwards.
Photo- The wall murals in the first room at the Tubman African American Museum.

Next, I drove over to the Tubman African American Museum.  I paid the entrance fee and then the layout of the museum was explained to me.  This museum has been in existence since 1981 and since then it has been preserving, collecting, and exhibiting works of art and historical artifacts of the African American culture.  It is the largest museum in the southeast dedicated to African American history, art, and culture in the US.  It was named in honor of Harriet Tubman who is described as a “Black Moses” for leading slaves to freedom and serving as a Union spy, nurse, during the Civil War.

The museum starts with a room full of colorful painted wall murals which feature Africans throughout history.  Harriet Tubman is featured prominently in one of them.  As you turn the corner there’s an area dedicated to Harriet Tubman with photos, documents, newspaper articles, and even a wanted posted stating a reward for her capture during the Civil War.  Next you enter into an exhibit hall area.  At current they were exhibiting Mr. Imagination’s artwork.  He was born in Chicago under the name of Gregory Warmack and he uses cast off objects in his art.  He is best known for using bottle caps in his artwork.  I guess you could almost say he was the father of now what we call recycled art.

In the next room, the museum shows more current art African American art from local Georgia artists.  There was one piece I liked in particular called I’d Rather Two-Step Than Waltz, Step Three.  The mixed media features two figures of a young girl and boy in a dancing pose with other object surrounding them.  It was just a fascinating piece.  Then, the museum went on to show Folk Art and explained what it is and why it is important to a culture.  Next was the Inventors Gallery and had a sampling of what inventions came from the minds of African Americans.  It was amazing to see the inventions; some of which get used in our everyday life.   
Photo- The Inventors Gallery.
From there, I climbed upstairs to a second floor where there more African American art and a film that’s playing.  The film is based on the true life story of two slaves that escaped the Macon, GA during the Civil War.  From that area you went into a larger area that had pottery and other pieces of art on the walls.  I was amazed at how large the place was because it doesn’t appear to be that large from the outside.  I walked down the stairs and checked out the gift shop area before I left.  I found a bumper sticker and purchased it.

As I was getting ready to leave, I asked the women where a good place would be to have lunch.  She mentioned a couple of places but then said that I would probably like Molly’s on Cherry Street and gave me directions.  Molly’s on Cherry Street was a simple little place on the corner that does new specials every day.  I had the gumbo-like soup that the gal mentioned was the soup of the day.  She said it was very hearty and I will admit that it was.  I would have called it more a stew than a soup.  I had a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant with it.  This was a hearty sandwich too.  I had a mud brownie with a bit of ice-cream for dessert.  But more than the food or the place itself; it was one of those places were you were made to feel welcomed and at home.  The server and the host made you feel like part of the family and they quite often were hugging regular people as they came in through the door.  This was a very local place and one filled with all kinds of warmth.  Next with a happy tummy, I found myself on my way driving to Atlanta, GA.

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