Honoring the Sidney Lanier cottage

Built in 1840, the cottage located at 935 High Street in Macon, Georgia was the birthplace of poet, musician, and soldier, Sidney Lanier (1842-1881). Subsequently dubbed as the Sidney Lanier Cottage, this location has been home to Christmas celebrations, countless weddings and receptions, and Historic Macon Foundation's most recent office. During our transition this fall to a downtown location, HMF's staff reminisces on some of our favorite moments and memories in the quaint cottage that will forever have a place in our community and in our story as an organization.

First Impressions by Ethiel Garlington

Snapped by Ethiel Garlington on his first visit to the cottage in 2014.

Snapped by Ethiel Garlington on his first visit to the cottage in 2014.

The Cottage will always have a special place in my heart.  When Michelle and I came to Macon in February 2014 for the interview weekend, the Cottage was the main venue.  Starting on Saturday afternoon with my presentation for the hiring committee in the double parlor to the reception with Trustees later that evening (complete with Bernard bartending from behind the Dutch door) - the Cottage was our introduction to Macon.  We were smitten.  

As the staff continued to grow over the next couple of years it was clear that the Cottage could no longer house our bustling organization.  As we begin our move to the new HMF headquarters on Poplar Street it's hard not to miss features of the Cottage.  I'm delighted that HMF continues to own and operate the Cottage.  I look forward to many more events and memories at the beloved Sidney Lanier Cottage.

Lifelong Friends by Trish Whitley

The Barfield wedding reception in 1971.

The Barfield wedding reception in 1971.

Saying goodbye to the Cottage is definitely bitter-sweet. In 1971 my parent’s had their wedding reception at the Sidney Lanier Cottage. I attended summer day camps at the cottage in the 80s. As a young adult, fresh out of college, I promoted the Cottage as a tourist attraction in my job at the Convention & Visitors Bureau.  And now, I’ve spent the past three years upstairs in the Cottage with some of the best co-workers in middle Georgia, working to preserve Macon’s historic buildings and share the history of these places and their historic neighborhoods.

It’s been an exciting time for the staff of Historic Macon and an interesting, kind of quirky, time for the Cottage.  I’m sure the pioneers of the Middle Georgia Historical Society and Macon Heritage Foundation never imagined an upstairs full of computers, desks, filing cabinets, and so many people.  The work we’ve accomplished from the Cottage's second floor has been remarkable and we’ll continue that excellence – just a little further down the hill!

The Cottage Tour that was Stranger than Fiction by Kim Campbell

My favorite memory of the Sidney Lanier Cottage begins on a hot summer’s day in 2015. I was on site in the middle of doing field documentation, when I received a call from an unknown number with a foreign area code. Remembering our newest co-worker at the time is originally from South Georgia, I answered.

Upon saying hello, Lauren immediately launched into asking me if I could come back to the Cottage. I was quite frankly concerned something was seriously wrong based on her breathless demeanor. Lauren then said, “there’s this group of Germans here, and they want a tour. Emily’s trying to stall right now, but how soon can you be here?” That’s right, there was a group of Germans who showed up for a tour of the Sidney Lanier Cottage without warning, and there was no docent present to lead a tour. I hopped in the car and drove (faster than I will admit) back to the Cottage.

Sure enough when I flew through the back door there were 30 or so Germans and their translator waiting, not so patiently, for a tour while Emily told them facts about Sidney Lanier. Not wanting to keep the group waiting any longer, I immediately launched into my tour narrative. I had hardly finished welcoming the group before the translator/group leader said, “You must speak slower for me to translate.” While this request makes perfect sense, I already talk rather slowly. However, I did my best to do as the translator asked.

The abnormally large rocking chair of the Sidney Lanier Cottage.

The abnormally large rocking chair of the Sidney Lanier Cottage.

The tour proceeded as my Cottage tours generally do, with the exception of the fact that I continually had to speak in smaller and smaller increments until it really felt like a sit-com. “This. . . portrait. . . is of. . . Mary. . . Day. . . Lanier. . .” After taking about twice as long as we usually do, we finally made it to the last room and time for questions. One gentleman asked me about the unusual size of the rocking chair in the room. When I had finished answering, the man looks at me and says in English, “You know, her translation of what you’re saying is totally wrong. She even used the wrong word for ‘rocking chair’!”

You may be asking why this seemingly wasted tour with what turned out to be a German Alcoholics Anonymous groups is my favorite memory of the Sidney Lanier Cottage. The answer is simple. Although I think only four or five people understood what I was saying that day, it was absolutely worth the time and effort to share this place with those few people. Some truths are stranger than fiction and always worthwhile to share; the stories of the Sidney Lanier Cottage, not to mention this particular tour, certainly fit that category.

Besides, how many people can say they’ve given a random group of Germans a tour of the Cottage?

Taken by Rachelle during her and Caity's first porch party.

Taken by Rachelle during her and Caity's first porch party.

A Haiku by Rachelle Wilson

Rocking chairs in front

Cars and donations behind

Family inside


Short and Sweet by Caity Hungate

The Sidney Lanier Cottage will always be dear to me. While we've only been acquainted a short time, I made several cherished memories. I will always remember being greeted by Sidney the cat each morning. I will never forget the time that I found a stray turtle walking down the driveway. I am fortunate that future education events, like Sidney Salons, will bring me back to the Cottage on a regular basis.

Captivating by Latachia Clay

When I think about the Sidney Lanier cottage, what comes to mind is my first encounter with Sidney’s black and white guard cat. I was absolutely terrified when I arrived on my first day and found him sitting at the door, looking at me as if I was an uninvited guest. I was so terrified of the cat that I spent many mornings thereafter sitting frozen in my car in the back parking lot that I could barely navigate myself out of when it was time to leave. I guess it came as no surprise to my co-workers that I became acquainted with the on street parking in front of the beautiful Sidney Lanier cottage with the white rockers.

What captured my attention inside of the Sidney Lanier cottage, aside from the over-sided rocking chair that read Sidney’s chair, was the mirror in the double parlor. I just love the mirror and have spent many days passing by it purposely. It is truly hard to single out one memory about the cottage. I have had encounters with Sidney himself, indirectly of course. Days when I would be left alone that I constantly yelled, “is anybody there?” The wonderful moments spent on the front porch with my fabulous co-workers as we discussed everything from how the week went to plans for the weekend. Despite any fears I initially had, I have to say that I grew to love all of them.

After spending almost three years at the cottage, it has been like a second home. Even though our new location was needed to fit our growing needs, there will always be a special place in my heart for the Sidney Lanier Cottage, and I believe a part of my spirit, like Sidney’s spirit, will always remain there.

Memories by Sabrinna Cox

The unique, memorable wallpaper of the cottage's entryway. 

The unique, memorable wallpaper of the cottage's entryway. 

What comes to mind when I think about the Sidney Lanier Cottage are Fridays on the porch in rocking chairs with co-workers; encounters with the Cottage ghost waiting for laundry to dry; the hazing delivered by the Education Committee my first week on the job (I totally believed there were going to be bouquets of bacon); the Cottage cat, Sidney, greeting me in the garden to ask for breakfast; the loose spindle that helped me up and down the stairs after a sprained ankle; the sound of squirrels in the walls; the post-event gossip in the kitchen.  All those moments come to mind but what is seared on my visual memory is the asymmetrical, yellow wallpaper with rows of diamonds and sprays of foliage that greets you when you walk through the front door!

Gratitude by Lauren Mauldin 

The Sidney Lanier Cottage has seen a lot throughout its 160+ years – births, celebrations, history, and lately, the home of Historic Macon Foundation. Not only has the Cottage witnessed a lot, but in a few short years, it’s seen this organization grow into a national leading preservation organization. The Cottage was our home when we received a $3 million investment from Knight Foundation, continued neighborhood revitalization efforts in Beall’s Hill, introduced Macon’s Fading Five, created Historic Macon’s Music Registry Plaque Program, and expanded to include 10 incredibly talented staff (just to name a few accomplishments). The Cottage was home to the organizations responsible for the preservation of Middle Georgia’s history and heritage, and its legacy will continue for years to come. As we transition into our new home on Poplar Street, I can’t help but be thankful for what the Cottage represents – our past achievements and growth – and am excited to see how the new office represents our ongoing success and continued growth. 

Thank you for joining us in honoring the Sidney Lanier Cottage. We'd love to hear your favorite memories of the cottage in the comments below!