Top 5 Notorious Macon Fires

One of the worst enemies of progress is fire.  It takes man many years to build a city and it takes nature only a few minutes to completely destroy his dreams.  These Top 5 Notorious Fires of Macon, Georgia are sure to leave you breathless.


Chartered in 1836 as the nation's first college for women, the College Street building fell into disrepair and was closed for good in 1953.  In its later years, it was referred to as the Wesleyan Conservatory.  To the disappointment of local historians and college alumni, the federal government purchased the property for $400,000.  On Feb. 24, 1963, the bell in the conservatory's elaborate tower was tolled for the last time before the dismantling of the building initiated.  Twelve days later, a fire destroyed the entire structure.  To this day, it remains one of the larger fires in Macon's history.  The site is now the U.S. Post Office.


The hallowed wiener stand, which has been an institution since 1916, was gutted by fire on a rainy, Friday the 13th.  The blaze started in the back of the 120-year-old building at 430 Cotton Ave., at about 3 a.m. according to Macon Fire officials.  Fire crews quickly determined the blaze was in the ceiling of the commissary, a large food preparation area that had small overhead lofts but no official second floor.  The flames never made it into the restaurant, but the ceiling and roof collapsed on top of it.  Nu-Way owners, Spyros Dermatas and Jim Cacavias, said fire crews told them there was no way the building could be saved.  Dermatas and Cacavias were not deterred by the glistening of smoldering embers, and said this will not be the end of their business.  Once their claim is settled, the businessmen will begin planning to rebuild the iconic restaurant that will turn 100 years old in February 2016.


In the Vineville section of Macon in 1874, the diocese, with the support of the city, opened Pio Nono College, which included a seminary. This venture failed to attract many students, and the diocese ultimately turned the school over to the Jesuits, who renamed it St. Stanislaus.  On the evening of November 7, 1921, the entire college burned to the ground after an oil-soaked mop caught fire in a sealed closet. Taken in the blaze was the entire library including some volumes dating from the 15th century.  The loss was estimated at $200,000 at the time.  After failing to raise enough cash to re-build the College, the Jesuits collaborated with local real estate company Murphey, Taylor and Ellis to redevelop the site into a residential neighborhood in 1926. 



Disaster struck in April 1965 with a fire that gutted the sanctuary. The fire began when a painter using a blow torch, scorched a wooden panel located beneath a stained glass window.  Sparks from the torch fell in between the walls and ignited the old heart of pine beams in the sanctuary ceiling.  The firewall located behind the sanctuary prevented the flames from spreading to any other locale in the church.  Miraculously, all the stained glass windows survived, but the one exception; “The King of Kings.”  The King of Kings stained glass window, located above “The Last Supper” stained glass window, was punctured a few days after the fire when a remaining damaged ceiling beam fell.  The stained glass windows were sent to the Patterson Studio in New Jersey and were later installed in the present sanctuary which was re-opened for worship in 1968.


On March 26, 2011 thick plumes of dark smoke billowed above Macon’s historic Vineville neighborhood as fire engulfed the more than century-old Atlantic Cotton Mills facility.  A lot of raw cotton, spun yarn, scrap cotton and machinery was in the mill and the maintenance building at the time of the fire.  The fire spread from the maintenance building to the rest of the facility within a matter of 20 minutes.  Two men told the Macon Police that they were working in the building that was “being scrapped.”  They said the building “suddenly caught fire” while they were working.   In a matter of minutes, black smoke began pouring out along the roof line as the fire spread.  At times during the rampant blaze, the fire shot dozens of feet of flames into the air and fire crews continued to work into the evening to extinguish the fire that eventually gutted the property.  All that remained of the historic mill building was smoldering heart pine and charred bricks.

For more fun facts about Macon, check out our TOP 5 List of Macon's Oldest Churches!

TOP 5 Macon's Oldest Churches