In every town, there are hidden attractions that have unique lore or historical significance. Macon has a few that would surprise even the seasoned traveler! From hidden religious sites to a nearly 200-years-old "beer cave": Prepare to learn about the unusual sites and stories of Macon.
The Grotto - Private Property, limited access
Known as "The Grotto" this religious site was used by the students and faculty of St. Stanislaus College as a religious retreat in the early 1900s. "The new resort offered a villa, a reflecting/swimming pool, a path on which to pray the stations of the cross, statues of saints mounted on brick platforms, and a replica of the Grotto of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, France," states the Museum of Arts and Sciences. The statue that now sits at The Grotto is a replica of the original statue of Mary. There are also indications from an old photo that at one time a statue of St. Bernadette was found below Mary. Along the trails in the woods that are believed to have been created by Jesuits, there are a few other relics of the past. A square concrete structure with steps on each side and drains resembles what appears to be a pool. There is also a statue of what is believed to be St. Ignatius however where it used to be erect, it has now fallen. The Saint is holding a book that is inscribed "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam", translated to "For the Greater Glory of God." Overall thanks to a new family that owns the property and has made it private, what once was a hub of vandalism is now preserved. The only way to see The Grotto for yourself is to book a specific Airbnb hosted by the property owners or by taking a bi-annual tour presented by The Museum of Arts and Sciences. It is considered trespassing if you view the religious site in any other way and cameras are up around the property. Click below to learn more about the two options for viewing the property.
Coaling Tower - Private Property
A left-behind structure from the days of Macon's thriving railroad industry: The Coaling Tower was used as a coal chute until 1965. It was built in 1910 for the Central of Georgia Railroad company, according to the Historic Macon Foundation(HMF). The area was once the epicenter of Macon's industrial railroad district. While the area is mostly barren now, the property used to house the Central of Georgia Railroad car shops and a massive roundhouse complex, according to HMF. Over the years the structure has been neglected and under threat of demolition. Historic Macon Foundation added the structure to their Fading Five list several years ago which looks to protect historic structures from demolition and neglect. Recently it was announced that progress has been made in efforts to preserve the unique site. The Coaling Tower and a little over 22 acres of property surrounding it have been purchased! While no concrete plans have been announced, we do know the new owners have no plans to remove the structure. In fact, they are looking to keep it preserved!
This is private property. Please do not try to get on the structure, it is unsafe.
Where: Near the intersection of Seventh Street and Lower Bay Street in Macon, Georgia.
Locomotive 509 - Public Property
Speaking of Macon's industrial district, an old steam train engine has been restored to its former glory at Carolyn Crayton Park. According to 13WMAZ, the restoration project was a labor of love for a son looking to honor his late father. Chico Scott shares his father Benny A. Scott Senior worked on the train for more than four decades. The sight of it decaying was unbearable and Scott Jr. pushed local commissioners to fund the restoration.
A plaque was placed in honor of Benny Scott who is also acknowledged as one of the first Black engineers that worked with Norfolk Southern.
Steam Locomotive 509 was built over 100 years ago in Philadelphia and operated by the Central of Georgia Railroad, according to The Telegraph.
At one point it was used for marketing purposes and taken to various towns.
It now sits in the front of the park, looking as if it could take off at any moment!
Where: 115 Willie Smokie Glover Dr., Macon, GA
Beer Cave - Public Property, Warning: Dangerous Terrain Caution Advised
Near the back of Linwood Cemetery, one may find themselves asking the following questions: Is that a bear cave or some type of small animal burrow? The answer is far more interesting! The site has been reported to have once been a pre-civil war era brewery. According to The Telegraph, the "beer cave" was used by Russell & Peter's Brewery to age German lagers and ales over 200 years ago. The cave stretches roughly 50 feet below the surface. Efforts have been made over the years to preserve it but so far none have worked. You can not climb inside the cave, it is structurally unsound. However, if you would like to view the outside of it, the cave is found by walking to the Medal of Honor memorial in Linwood Cemetery. The memorial honors Sgt. Rodney M. Davis, who died in Vietnam in 1967 after he threw himself on an enemy grenade to save his comrades. If you continue to the right near the woods there is a small path. It's quite overgrown and we suggest good walking shoes. The path will begin to descend slightly with a large cliff-like structure appearing on the left which contains the beer cave. However, you must be careful because there is a portion of the cave to the left of the path that has a 25-foot drop! There is old caution tape near the drop so just be sure to stay on the path and do not walk above the cave opening. You can see the angle and a safe distance from the cave opening that you can approach in the picture above.
Where: Near I-75 woods at Linwood Cemetery in Macon
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, Open to the Public
Perhaps Macon's most well know hidden gem as it is certainly the largest: The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. The park has preserved artifacts and mounds that date back 12,000 years ago. With 8 miles of trails that loop around the park and beautiful scenery, this is one historical site that you have to see to believe. Walk inside the Earth Lodge which was reconstructed in the 1930s but still contains its original floors that date back to 1000 CE! Examine artifacts from thousands of years ago and learn more about the indigenous communities that call the area their homelands. This is one Macon attraction we recommend that all of our visitors check out and with plans to designate it as the Nation's newest National Park & Preserve soon, it's the perfect time to begin planning your trip!
Where: 1207 Emery Hwy, Macon, GA
St. Joseph Catholic Church, Partially open to the public
Over 60 stained glass windows and two twin towers that reach 200 feet are featured on the Romanesque Neo-gothic church that sits on Poplar Street. As many visit our downtown shops and restaurants, it's hard to miss St. Joseph Catholic Church. Its beauty is recognized by all with new pictures from wowed visitors exploring the church appearing online weekly. The church was built in 1889 and designed by Brother Cornelius Otten. It featured a domed cupola, flying buttresses, stained glass windows from Bavaria and a high altar of Carrara marble, according to the Georgia Historical Society. Inside you can follow the story of salvation told through the stained glass windows and view an organ with 1,000 pipes! The church was constructed after a small group of Catholics found their current presbyterian church to be too small in 1841. The Telegraph in its 1903 edition stated, “If architecture may be fittingly described as frozen music, St. Joseph’s Church, to be dedicated today, is a symphony.”
We recommend calling the church before to schedule a tour and check their gift shop hours as well. They also have Christmas tours where you can view beautiful Victorian decor.
To find their scheduled religious events, or to even plan a wedding just click here!
Where: 830 Poplar St, Macon, GA
Wesleyan Arboretum, Open to the Public
Macon has many hiking trails that feature our central Georgia scenery. Wesleyan Arboretum is no exception and its beauty shines during all seasons. The Arboretum is home to a variety of wildlife and flora. It was established in 1996 as an ecological study area and recreation resource for students. Today over 100 acres of mixed pine and hardwood forest are accessible through roughly 3 miles of trails. Are you a fan of bird watching? Spend time trying to spot over 150 migratory and residential bird species! Or if you prefer small critters, enjoy a wide range of butterfly species in the Spring. The trails loop around a babbling creek which makes this the ideal spot to just sit back and relax. You can also walk near trials that take you near their pond as pictured above. Mile markers and hiking routes are posted along the trails and make it easy to navigate through even for a beginner. The terrain can be a bit overgrown along the less traveled hiking paths so be sure to wear good hiking shoes.
Where: 4760 Forsyth Rd, Macon, GA
Propeller Plaque, Worst Plane Crash in Macon History: Open to Public
To round out our list, we have to include a small plane propeller plaque located on the sidewalk in front of Parish On Cherry. Visitors from across the nation visit the popular cajun hot spot but it's easy to miss the small propeller, a memorial for Macon's worst plane crash. In 1928, a Southeastern Air Derby was taking place in East Macon near Bowden Golf Course. At the time it was the location of Miller Air Field which hosted the air derby. Two pilots, Buck Steele and Lucky Ashcraft decided to fly over downtown in the hopes of capturing a larger audience. While in the planes they begin to throw out aerial bomb fireworks, a decision that would cost the pilots and many passerbys' lives. The third bomb thrown backfired in the plane. Devastatingly, the plane would crash near the block where Parish is now, killing the pilots on impact and badly injuring a 34-year-old man. The injuries would keep adding up after the sidewalk in the area collapsed. According to WGXA, about a dozen people were injured after falling into a basement under the sidewalk. Soon the tragedy was known nationally and the plaque that now sits on the sidewalk in front of Parish serves as a reminder and honors all those who lost their lives or were injured. You can watch the full video of the aftermath of the plane crash that was found at a local flea market in 2016 above or by clicking here!
Where: Parish on Cherry, 580 Cherry St, Macon, GA 31201