Top 5 Notorius Macon Fires-Part 2
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. As the buildings in downtown Macon increased in size, so did the gravity of the fires. Our second installment of Top 5 Notorious Fires of Macon, Georgia are sure to leave you breathless.
1. A.L. Miller high school
The call came into fire departments around 12:30 Friday morning August 14th, 2015; a massive fire had begun to rip through the dormant A.L. Miller high school. The gymnasium at the old school, that has been vacant since 1999, was destroyed and other buildings on the campus were damaged from smoke and water at the once all-girl school. The main part of the historic three-story Miller school on Montpelier Avenue did not seem to be damaged by the early morning flames. Macon-Bibb fire investigators are calling the early morning fire suspicious and are currently looking into how a fire started at the old school on Montpelier Avenue. A.L. Miller High School and A.L. Miller Junior High School were designed and constructed in two eras, 1929 and 1950, to accommodate growing enrollment and changing educational needs in Macon and Bibb County.
2. lanier high school for boys
In April 1967, a fire was discovered on the third floor of the Lanier high school and that fire destroyed most of the Lanier campus. It was later discovered that trash had knowingly been piled under a "scuttle hole" and deliberately set on fire. As word spread all over town that the school was burning, students showed up to aid in saving more than forty years of trophies, photos, memorabilia and library books. Unfortunately the fire was too much and the main building was destroyed. Over the next several years, the school was rebuilt while the Senior and Middle High schools shared the Hendley St. campus. The new building, opened in December 1968, sat on the former site of Lanier Senior, though it faced Napier Avenue, with side entrances from Holt. Some buildings not destroyed by the fire were incorporated into the new school including the Vocational Building, JROTC Complex, and "Old Gym" portions of Central High School. The last of those buildings was demolished in 2009 to make way for new Central High School buildings. John M. Darity was arrested in connection with the fire and charged with arson and burglary and was sentenced to six years in prison.
3. pig 'N whistle
Anchored on the corner of Georgia Avenue and Monroe Street, the Pig 'n Whistle opened in 1929 as a curb service restaurant. Just after midnight on Christmas in 1949, the Pig 'n Whistle caught fire due to a frayed cord on a electrical motor. Even with the fire station located across the street, the fire was too big and too fierce for the immediate response and the main building was a total loss. But in 1961, fire struck again. The firemen stationed at the firehouse across the street, were awoken to loud explosions coming from the restaurant. Luckily, the firemen were able respond very quickly and avoided a total loss of the Pig 'n Whistle, but the main building was extensively damaged along with business records. The Pig 'n Whistle finally closed down in 1979 and was replaced with a Church's Chicken.
4. house of hines
Constructed in 1838 by William Solomon, the stately, two-story Greek Revival home located at 770 Mulberry Street had been home to bank presidents and Macon mayor James Nesbit. After years of being leased out as an apartment house, the building's owner, J. Freeman Hart, II leased the building to fellow friend and businessman Hines Causey for use as a formal wear store named The House of Hines. On a cold January afternoon during business hours in 1977, a store employee noticed that the base of the water heater had caught fire on the first floor. Firemen fought the blaze for over an hour, but the heavy smoke from the burning formal wear was too much for the firemen. The fire gutted the interior of the home as well as Causey's entire inventory, but the frame of the home remained intact. "In fact, the home's facade remained remarkably undamaged." Hart, who founded the Middle Georgia Historical Society, of which he was a honorary president, wanted dearly to preserve the historic home. For two years, Hart was able to dodge City regulations as he tried to secure tenancy. Hart ultimately lost his battle with the city and the building was immediately razed. "Hart then, in 1980, took the undamaged six great columns, the iron grillwork and a great many boards, timber and bricks of the mansion to his Montpelier Springs home in Monroe County, intending to rebuild the home there." The House of Hines soon reopened in another historic home on Vineville Avenue.
5. The dannenberg Building
The Dannenberg Building was fastened as an office building on the corner of Cotton Avenue and Cherry Street in 1887 by Joseph Dannenberg. Exactly one hundred years later in 1987 at 1:30 in the morning, the Dannenberg caught fire. The copius amounts of fire and water caused numerous safety concerns which led to framing the exterior of the building to prevent it from collapsing. There was no cause determined for the fire and the fire was ruled accidental.
third street park fire
Currently a fountain, but for many years there was an underground toilet stationed in Third Street Park. This "comfort station" was rarely serviced nor properly maintained by the City and on April 14, 1929 the toilet caught fire, emitting a foul smoke from its opening. It was reported that the fire may have "originated in a long accumulation of dried leaves, waste paper, old shoes and other articles, that was probably ignited by a cigarette."