For the Love of Whiskey!

From 1920 to 1933 the U.S. was under prohibition, a federal law preventing the manufacture and sale of alcohol. But of course, there are those for whom laws do little in the way of separating them from their passions, even if those passions entail fermenting grain mash. This was the case with Macon's Russell Dortch. HMF's senior intern from Stratford Academy, Carson Greene, shares some of his research on this man and his turbulent love for whiskey. 

On the evening of December 5th, 1923, Russell Dortch was arrested and placed under bond for violating the National Prohibition Act.  Even though there are not many details given on this arrest, it is the first in a nearly 16-year string of Dortch being charged for selling illegal whiskey. 

  “Three Arrested in Speakeasy,” The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga), 1930.

“Three Arrested in Speakeasy,” The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga), 1930.

Dortch was most famous for operating the Broadway hotel, which is now underneath the Wells Fargo bank at 484 Mulberry St, and using his position as operator to sell whiskey out of backrooms during 1929 and 1930.  Some of these encounters were rather dramatic, like when the police had to break down the door of the Broadway Hotel on May 17, 1929, to find the 7 gallons of whiskey being hastily poured out. Dortch was sentenced to spend 1 year in jail.  But, shortly after his release, Dortch was back to his old habits.  On September 21, 1930, Dortch was arrested again at 464 Mulberry Street for the sale of whiskey at the Broadway Hotel. Another year in the county jail could still not break Dortch of his old habits.  On September 10, 1932, a squadron of police officers raided a dive at 454 Poplar Street only to find that it was being operated by Russell Dortch.  This address is now known as 460 Poplar Street and, unlike the Broadway Hotel, is still standing with the original building intact.  This arrest marked the end of Dortch just being content with selling whiskey.   

  A Macon Taxpayer and Voter, “Macon’s Dive Ordinance,” The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga), 1934.

A Macon Taxpayer and Voter, “Macon’s Dive Ordinance,” The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga), 1934.

In 1934, police raided an illegal distillery in Monroe County.  Seven men were arrested in total including Russell Dortch. Dortch was later revealed to be the head of the operation and he was selling most of the whiskey and beer they made in downtown Macon.  During the raid, police found 750 gallons of home brewed beer and 40 gallons of whiskey.  Since the Prohibition had ended in the previous year, Dortch was charged with violating the Internal Revenues Act since he was not paying taxes on any of the alcohol he made.  Needless to say, Dortch was sent back to the county for another year and fined to the tune of $300.  Unfortunately, there were no addresses given, so it is impossible to say exactly where Dortch was selling his illicit liquor.    

Finally, towards the end of 1938, Dortch was arraigned for selling untaxed whiskey outside of his home at 800 Elbert Street.  Police only found 8 gallons of whiskey this time and Dortch was sentenced to 2 years of probation after fighting his sentencing in court.

How lucky we are to flaunt our love of whiskey openly! And though we might resist prohibition laws should they threat to resurface, it doesn't prevent us from enjoying the thrill of recreating the vibe of a speakeasy for just one night. Our annual summer Preservation Pop-up Speakeasy is only weeks away. And though we won't share the location (yet), we can promise it will be a swinging time! 

2018 Patrons' Party

 Historic Macon celebrates our patrons at The Tubman Musuem.

Historic Macon celebrates our patrons at The Tubman Musuem.

As one of the newest members to the HMF staff, I am still getting acquainted with this versatile organization and our expansive work throughout the community and beyond. The deeper I wade, the more impressed I become. If someone were to ask me what HMF’s most outstanding characteristic is, I would need some time to consider the answer. Though I would be tempted to say the unique, innovative approach to revitalization through preservation or the highly skilled, professional, diligent team I work alongside day in and day out, ultimately I must concede that the members themselves stand out as the most exceptional trait.

From my very first day with HMF, members have surprised me with an astonishing level of involvement, whether it be time, money, energy, ideas, connections, or resources. How many organizations like ours can boast over 3,500 volunteer hours a year? And that number is only growing. HMF members continually amaze me with their passion for preservation and commitment to Macon.

It is for this reason I eagerly prepared and welcomed the Patrons’ Party this past January, hoping all would be just right for our faithful members. How excited I was to experience my first one, brimming with the friendly faces of those who have characterized my inaugural months with HMF. Despite months of preparation, much to my chagrin there were still slight hiccups throughout the night (like temporarily darkened restrooms, runaway name tags, or missing bourbon), laughter still resounded throughout the atrium, assuring me that our members were enjoying themselves nevertheless.

The Patrons’ Party can only communicate a fraction of our gratitude, but I hope the importance and value of your involvement was and is clear. Thank you for your membership, we wouldn’t be who we are without you.

If you are interested in learning more about our memberships and how you can give back through the power of preservation, click here or call Trish at 478-742-5084. 

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Las Vegas: A Preservation Theory Mecca?

Most people probably don’t think of Las Vegas, Nevada as a historic preservation hotspot. However, I recently attended the National Council on Public History’s (NCPH) annual meeting in Las Vegas and found several opportunities to engage with important questions facing the entire preservation community.

We had many great discussions about preservation and architecture at NCPH, but one opportunity that stands out is a tour of the Neon Museum. The museum was founded in 1996, and their initial collection was the “Neon Boneyard” that belonged to the Young Electric Sign Company, more commonly known as YESCO. Today, visitors have the opportunity to take hour-long guided tours of the outdoor collection.

 The Neon Boneyard originally belonged to YESCO and it became the initial collection of the Neon Museum when the organization was founded in 1996. Today, the museum collects not just neon, but any sign from Las Vegas.  Image by Kim Campbell.

The Neon Boneyard originally belonged to YESCO and it became the initial collection of the Neon Museum when the organization was founded in 1996. Today, the museum collects not just neon, but any sign from Las Vegas. Image by Kim Campbell.

My group was lucky, in Las Vegas no less, to have Tracey Sprague, the Collections Assistant, lead our tour, so we talked a lot about preserving these signs. Although the Neon Museum does have an offsite indoor storage space, ninety-five percent of the collection is exposed to the elements of southern Nevada in the Boneyard. We asked Tracey how she felt about this fact, and she told us about the constant internal battle between keeping the signs visible to the public in the Boneyard and better preserving them in the private storage space. Since almost all historic buildings are exposed to the elements, we face similar issues of maintenance in historic preservation, though typically without the option of moving them to a more protected space.

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 Although many casinos and hotels in Las Vegas are demolished to make way for totally new businesses, others have gone through several facelifts or “re-brandings.” The Golden Nugget is one of those casinos and is still open in the “Glitter Glutch” section of Las Vegas Today.  Images by Kim Campbell.

Although many casinos and hotels in Las Vegas are demolished to make way for totally new businesses, others have gone through several facelifts or “re-brandings.” The Golden Nugget is one of those casinos and is still open in the “Glitter Glutch” section of Las Vegas Today. Images by Kim Campbell.

Only a few of the neon signs in the Neon Boneyard now light up. When asked why this is the case, Tracey explained that the process of “restoring” a historic neon sign actually involves gutting the original electrical system and replacing it with a modern system to ensure it is safe. When rehabilitating historic buildings, we constantly face this same decision. Should we gut the building and essentially make it modern inside? How little can we remove while meeting minimum life safety requirements? This battle is ever present in the field, and while the Neon Museum has the option to strictly preserve some signs in their non-functioning state, preservationists are typically faced with the option to either allow a building to be demolished or make it functional for modern life.

 Whether or not signs are rehabilitated to function is decided on a case-by-case basis. La Concha’s sign was relit for interpretive purposes, since the visitor’s center is now housed in the moved original structure.  Image by Kim Campbell.   

Whether or not signs are rehabilitated to function is decided on a case-by-case basis. La Concha’s sign was relit for interpretive purposes, since the visitor’s center is now housed in the moved original structure. Image by Kim Campbell.  

The Neon Museum presented one final key preservation issue: that of a moved building. The visitor’s center and gift shop is an incredible example of a mid-century modern structure in the Googie style. Paul Revere Williams, the architect of the building, was the first African-American architect allowed in the American Institute of Architects. (To learn more about Paul Revere Williams, check out this great episode of 99% Invisible recommended to me by my coworker Lauren Mauldin.) This building was originally La Concha Motel on the Las Vegas Strip. When it closed in 2004, it was threatened with demolition because real estate on the Strip is so valuable. To save the structure, it was moved to the Neon Boneyard site. While preservationists are all for saving buildings, many in the field disapprove of moving structures, arguing they are not the same “place” once their setting changes. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, I think we can all agree that La Concha’s new home next to the Neon Boneyard was a major preservation win for Las Vegas.

Historic Macon Consulting in the “City by the Sea”

Historic Macon’s consulting department had the opportunity to spend a week in Brunswick the “City by the Sea” at the end of January assisting on a National Register of Historic Places update of their Old Town Historic District. Many towns in Georgia have National Register historic districts; these are historic areas that the federal government officially recognizes as “worthy of preservation” through their listing. Beyond this official recognition, the National Register is an important preservation tool, since being listed grants a property access to federal and state historic tax credits. Unfortunately, many districts in Georgia’s downtowns have not been updated since the 1970s and 80s, leaving decades of buildings that are fifty years old ineligible for preservation incentives and stalling the revitalization of historic town centers. This situation was the case in Brunswick’s Old Town Historic District. Our consultation enabled these newly qualifying, historic buildings to be added to the National Register. 

 

Brunswick Field Notes

by Caity Hungate

Mid-Century architecture is oftentimes overlooked and under appreciated. In fact, many consider Mid-Century buildings to be downright dreadful. I was among the many who felt this way. Fortunately, a trip to Brunswick, Georgia changed my mind. During that trip my colleague Kim Campbell and I drove or walked up and down every street in Brunswick’s Old Town Historic District. While many of the homes and businesses were built in the Victorian era or around the turn of the century, there were portions of the district that were developed during the 1950s-1960s. The modest Ranch houses stood out against the large Folk Victorian homes that surrounded them. At first I thought that these small and boxy houses lacked the complexity that was seen in the surrounding Victorian houses. Little did I know that Ranch houses are not only complex, but they vary in style. Eichleresque Ranches, for example, are long, angular, and feature exposed structural elements (similar to Craftsman style). Colonial Revival Ranches have many details that are similar to traditional Colonial Revival houses, such as columns, pediments, and decorative shutters. There are countless other styles and types of Ranch houses. Fortunately, I was able to learn about each one and gain a new appreciation for Mid-Century architecture. These houses and buildings are important. They represent an era in history— an era of transition and growth.

2017 Preservation Picks

Historic Macon Foundation has a far-reaching approach to preservation and revitalization in our community. Consequently, each member of our staff possesses a unique combination of background, skills, interests, and passions they bring to the preservation table. Get a glimpse into the minds of this all-star team with our first ever Preservation Picks. This collection of recommendations will give you plenty to read, watch, and listen to over the road trips and layovers of this holiday season!


The Bitter Southerner

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"With articles ranging from haunted histories to food reviews, The Bitter Southerner does not disappoint. This website is rich with content and images from across all the Southern states. The Folklore Project in particular always pulls me in; it's the perfect Saturday indulgence."

Ethiel Garlington, Executive Director


99% Invisible

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"If you're like me and really love obscure and fascinating stories about architecture, art, and design, then I highly recommend the podcast 99% Invisible. These short episodes are highly entertaining, and I promise you'll learn something new!" 

Top Recommendations: 

"The Architect of Hollywood" - featuring Paul Williams, the first African Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, who was instrumental in building iconic Golden Era of Hollywood buildings. 

"The Revolutionary Post" - follow along a timeline of the post office's fascinating history, and discover how the post office helped shape America. 

"The Great Restoration" - Stirling Castle's restoration of the Great Hall was highly controversial and shows a fundamental debate about historic preservation and restoration. 

Lauren Mauldin, Director of Revitalization


Oliver's Corner Bistro

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"It's so exciting when something new opens downtown. Nothing compares to seeing historic buildings come to life with a new purpose. One of our latest additions, Oliver's Corner Bistro, just keeps calling me back. The food is fantastic, but it's the atmosphere that draws me in! It captures classy like no other."

Latachia Clay, Business Manager 


Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

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"One of the issues we often run into in community revitalization and historic preservation is that many people find it hard to visualize what buildings, neighborhoods, and towns could be with some TLC. This show does an incredible job showing accurate, Victorian-era architecture, along with the bustling downtowns, and neighborhoods. The books by Kerry Greenwood are awesome, but the programme is so visually rich that it is perfect to demonstrate how much life we can bring back using historic structures." 

Kim Campbell, Director of Preservation Field Services 


Second Sunday Concert Series

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"Photographer Jenna Eason perfectly captures the spirit of Second Sundays! This family friendly, monthly event does a lovely job of utilizing Macon's green space while also celebrating and preserving our rich musical heritage. Second Sundays are a wonderful way to engage the whole family in the beauty and culture of this town we love so much!" 

Trish Whitley, Director of Development


You Must Remember ThiS

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"I love this podcast for so many reasons. It takes a closer look at some of my favorite entertainers from the 20th century. Longworth does her research; each episode contextualizes the life and art of its chosen subject, drawing connections I never realized before. For instance, did you know The Crucible by Arthur Miller was a parable for the Communist Red Scare? Me either. Listen to this episode to hear all about the events in history that inspired one of the most iconic plays to emerge from the 1950's."

Rachelle Wilson, Director of Engagement 


Haunted Houses: Preservation Help or Horror?

"This article talks about how 'haunted' houses benefit historic preservation. In the past haunted houses or houses that simply look haunted were considered to be a blight on the community. Now, with the rise of dark tourism, haunted houses have become more and more desirable. While some individuals like the spooky Adams Family/Norman Bates aesthetic, others genuinely love the history behind the house. These scary stories inspire individuals to not only purchase these once derelict homes, but to preserve them."

Caity Hungate, Education and Preservation Coordinator


Ocmulgee National Monument

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"Macon has so much natural beauty that is well worth exploring and treasuring. The Ocmulgee National Monument is a great example of preserving and promoting one of our community's historic treasures. It's a great place to take the family but I also enjoy going alone to reflect and unwind. Whether you've never been or just haven't been in a while, put a visit on your calendar; you won't regret it."

Michael Phillips, Preservation Carpenter    

 


Custom Macon Maps

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Historic Macon Foundation is all about celebrating the past and highlighting its relevance to the present. That is why we are proud to hang this modern depiction of our beloved city in our new downtown location! Artist Jennifer Beck of Modern Map Prints provides a bird's eye view of Macon in both black&white and orange. Feel free to stop by our offices at 338 Poplar Street to say hey and check out our orange map. If you want a modern Macon map of your own, use our link to purchase one. This allows you to celebrate your love of Macon in a modern way while also helping our foundation preserve the history that makes Macon the treasure that it is. 

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