Friday, May 27, 2016

georgia roadtrip: the palace of the south

a few weekends ago, we took a weekend trip to macon for the USTA state championship tennis tournament that stephen was playing in. we found ourselves with a couple of hours to spare on saturday and decided to check out the palace of the south, the historic johnston-felton-hay house near mercer university. oh my gosh, where to start? 

we didn't make plans ahead of time and luckily arrived at the hay house just before the hourly tour started. I definitely recommend checking out their tour hours before you go since you are not permitted to wander the house without being part of the tour. our tour guide was very hospitable, given that we had to depart the tour early for one of stephen's matches. if you find yourself in macon, georgia - you absolutely must spend an hour touring this amazing italian-inspired historic home.

the home was built by a wealthy georgia couple, inspired by their multi-year european honeymoon. the hay house has a definitive italian renaissance architectural style, which was not common for this period. the home spans over 16,000 square feet with 24 rooms, construction began in 1855 and took over four years to complete. the average home price for this time period was $10K and the johnstons spent nearly $200K, this equates to roughly $7M in today's money.

I won't spoil the tour for you, but one of the most interesting parts to me is the emphasis on trompe l'oeil. this is an artistic technique of using realistic imagery to create obstacle illusions.

you can see this technique was used all over the walls in the entryway and wainscoting throughout the home. the walls are painted to look like the finest of italian marble. some of the wainscoting is real, extremely intricate - while some is paint. how gorgeous is this ceiling?

the green room is pictured below with a painting of mr. hay.

another amazing architectural feat, among many, of this home is the usage of pocket doors. I had no clue people in the 1800s were building pocket doors, let alone curved sets. the home has two curved sets of pocket doors, as symmetry was greatly important for this type of italian renaissance-inpsired architecture.

the hay house is over four stories tall, and we got to see two of them - although our tour guide kindly told us that we saw the best parts. this home even has a wine cellar underneath the front stairs, not to mention something like the first home heating and cooling system of its time.

all this historical culture and home touring has me extremely excited for my upcoming girls' trip to charleston!


  1. I love historic tours like this! Sounds like a really interesting place!

  2. I've always thought I'd like to visit this house and your photos are great! I will say, however, that,like just about everyone else, you translate 19th C prices into today's prices using the supposed inflation index, when people should be using the 'purchasing power' of the dollar. Back then someone carving those mouldings might have made $1 or $2 a day; today, if you could find anyone who could actually DO the work, it would cost you at least 100 times that amount and probably more.

    1. this was the most ornate and intricate home I've seen in the US - definitely worth a stop just to admire the construction artistry!