Home renovation preserves history, revitalizes downtown

Inside Macon’s Historic District, the pink cottage on College St. often attracts attention from on lookers passing through the neighborhood.
The historic Willingham Hill O’Neal cottage was recently renovated by Macon native and Mercer University alumn Joe Adams. “I was really wanting to do a renovation, and this house really needed one,” said Adams. “I just love the house.”
The Intown Neighborhood of Historic Macon is home to a number of renovated houses originally built during the 19th century.
Calder Baynard Willingham constructed the cottage in 1854. The home’s original layout included four rooms within the main structure as well as a detached brick kitchen behind the house.
James and Ellis Hill acquired the house in 1882 were they had their daughter, Laura Hill. She occupied the house for 83 years making her the longest owner of the home.
During her time Hill made numerous renovations to the cottage. “Ms. Laura Hill did everything,” said Adams. “The foot print of the house has not changed since her time.”
After Hill passed away, the house changed hands twice before Adams bought it in 2010. The previous owners each occupied the residence for 20 years, but few renovations were made during that time.
Adams sought to renovate the house for both financial and personal reasons. Although no major renovation had been done for several decades, the house was still in good condition.
Adams received state tax credits for his renovations on the home with the help of Historic Macon. These credits can be used for up to 10 years.
In addition, the major renovations turned Adam’s property tax into a flat rate for the next eight-and-a-half years.
“My wife agreed to move here only if I did certain things,” said Adams. In order to please his wife, Evelyn, Adams converted one of the bedrooms into a bathroom and one of the closets into a bathroom.
Adams completely renovated the kitchen in order to make it look more historic. “When you go into the kitchen it looks like its original, it’s like Disney–we totally created it,” said Adams.
Along with the kitchen, Adams also replaced the roof. One day, the roofers caught the house on fire by mistake while working.
The incident caused Adams to renovate the front of the house as well. The process took seven months to complete.
Adams was able the recover the original 1854 hard wood floors because of the fire.
However, Adams did lose one of the original wooden pegs, used to put the house together. “I really hate it, ” said Adams.
Adams decorated the interior of the home while his wife did most of the landscaping. “My wife is the yard person,” he said.
The interior of the house is decorated with a mixture of Italian, French and contemporary pieces. The couple has been collecting antiques for 40 years and many of their pieces are displayed throughout house.
Adams acquires many of his antiques from estate sales. “A lot of these pieces have pedigrees; I can tell you whose house they came from,” he said.
In 1978, Adams became a real estate agent after teaching art for about seven years. He is also a contemporary painter and uses the servant’s quarters behind the cottage as an art studio.
“I love Picasso; I think he is a genius,” said Adams. Many of Adams paintings are displayed in the cottage.
The house was a light pink with blue trim before Adams bought it. He did not like this color combination and decided to change it. “We painted it this really weird color which we are calling coral,” said Adams.
Adam also changed the house’s trim to green, for contrast. “I just felt like this little Victorian house needed some color,” Adams said. “I don’t regret it at all.”
As a Historic Macon trustee, Adams has noticed a change in the quality of life in downtown Macon. “There’s a new vitality in town that wasn’t here back in the 70’s. It’s different now. It’s incredible. It’s the place to be,” said Adams.