Top 5 Facts About St. Stanislaus

The site of one of Macon's first subdivisions is such a landmark.  Situated on one of the highest hills in Macon, Stanislaus consists of 42 beautifully landscaped acres located on the corner of Vineville and Pio Nono Avenues. There is a long chain of history woven within the property; beginning with Macon’s early establishment and continuing through the War Between the States up to the present time.  On Sunday May 3, 1874 hundreds of people came from all over the southeast and walked from downtown out to the property to witness the laying of the college’s cornerstone.  On one side it read, “Pio Nono College”.  On the other side it read, “Erected May 3, 1874”.  Inside the cornerstone, were placed many coins and newspapers of the day to commemorate the occasion.  Thus began the history of the Stanislaus neighborhood.

1.  Pio Nono College Established

The property originally was acquired by Rev. William H. Gross, bishop of Savannah, for the establishment of Pio Nono College.  The 42 acre site was the former summer home of J.H.R. Washington, Macon’s mayor in 1856.  Pio Nono College was an undenominational school and was chartered to offer degrees in 1876.  Records indicate that attempts to operate Pio Nono College as a non-sectarian institution were unsuccessful and the college was taken over by the Society of Jesus in 1883 and renamed St. Stanislaus College.

2.  Jesuits Take Over Pio Nono College

Up until 1898, Stanislaus’ main building was incomplete and looked like an industrial factory that was dubbed by non-Catholics as the “Priest Factory.”  It was later changed into a handsome and attractive structure with an additional wing, three up front roomy porches and a beautiful cupola towering above the roof.  The Novices occupied the east wing, the Juniors the west wing and the whole community met in the center of the college for prayer in the chapel and for meals in the refectory.  Oil lamps were replaced by electric lights and an unappealing barn with its herd was moved to the opposite side of Pio Nono.

3.  Stanislaus Housed Rare Books and a Valuable Altar

St. Stanislaus housed a library collection consisting of 6,000 volumes from all over the world.  Some of the rarest books ever printed were said to have been amassed there and the collection was considered priceless.  There was a Spanish Bible dated 1490 (2 years before America was discovered) that was the only one in existence as well as a number of books on Catholicism that were authored by notable Greek and Latin writers that dated as far back as 1492. Stanislaus was also home to one of the most beautiful and most valuable hand-carved altars in the world.  This alter was carved for the chapel by a brother student named Hynenes, a native of Spain and an architect by profession.  Hynenes gave up his profession of architecture to study the priesthood in the Jesuit Order.

4.  Fire Destroys St. Stanislaus 

One November night in 1920, a fire started in the 5th floor corner of the college.  The fire is believed to have started in a clothes room after students detected an odor of burning cloth.  The Macon Fire Department was called, but upon their arrival they found that college was too far from the street and the hoses were not long enough to reach the upper floors of the college.  Thousands of volumes of rare books were destroyed, but not before students and priests sacrificed their personal property in an effort to save the priceless books.  Priests and students then stored the books in the poultry house located at the rear of the property where Guards were stationed to watch over the books.  The whole community, Catholic and Protestant, opened their private homes to priests and students.  The Mayor allowed use of the city hospital as a shelter while other accommodations were offered at the Hotel Lanier and the Hotel Dinkler for students and Novices.

5.  Stanislaus Becomes Macon's First Subdivision

After Stanislaus burned, local leaders and civic organizations started a campaign to raise $75,000 towards the rebuilding of the college, but only $45,200 was raised and all hopes to rebuild Stanislaus College were quashed after Rev. Edward Cummings decided not to rebuild the college in Macon.  General Chairman of the St. Stanislaus Building Association, Chris F. Sheridan, notified the public that the college’s old site would be sold immediately and the property was to be turned into a million dollar real estate development called Stanislaus after the old college. The firm of Murphy, Taylor & Ellis was the exclusive agent of the property and the first of the 110 lots created was sold on June 21, 1926.  Stanislaus was made into an exclusive and highly restrictive community.  Purchasers received a warranty deed that protected them against any possibility of sites being used for commercial purposes and wiring was run through the rear of the subdivision so power poles would not be seen.