Federated Garden Clubs of Macon, Inc. Endowment Fund
The grand old house at 730 College Street, home to the Federated Garden Clubs of Macon, Inc., had its beginning as a residence when the noted Southeastern architect, Neel Reid, designed it for Joseph N. Neel, for whom he was named. Neel Reid was a friend of Mr. Neel who helped Reid complete his architectural training after the death of Reid’s father. One of the first houses that Reid designed, the impressive structure was built in 1910 and was home to only one family until the Neels sold the property to the Federated Garden Clubs of Macon in 1957.
Set on the high side of College Street, with broad porches and pleasant views, the home was a showplace that the Neel family and their many friends enjoyed. By the time the Federated Garden Clubs purchased the house, it was almost 50 years old, and beginning to show its age.
As the signs of age became more evident, members of the Federation began seeking ways to fund maintenance and repairs. Like all older homes, the Garden Center (as it is familiarly called) needed a constant cash flow to take care of recurring problems with a leaking roof, ancient plumbing and outdated wiring.
In 2001, the Board realized that a more stable source of funding was needed to provide continual upkeep for the lovely structure that was home to the Federation and used by many garden clubs as well as the broader community for a wide variety of activities.
A serendipitous meeting with Betty Sweet Simmons pointed the Garden Center toward a lasting means of preserving and protecting the beloved house. “You should start a fund at the Community Foundation, to protect this place forever,” she said. A longtime donor and supporter of the Community Foundation, Mrs. Simmons spoke as one who understood the benefits and who wanted the Garden Center to enjoy the protection that a permanent endowment fund could bring. She issued a challenge grant to the three immediate past presidents of the Federation; they accepted, and an Organizational Endowment Fund was born. This fund was the perfect match for the Garden Center, whose leadership sought ongoing management of a fund that would protect the building and grounds forever.
Giving is always personal, and the success of this endowment fund is no different. In this case, it was personal contacts with people who knew about the wonderful Neel Reid home on College Street and wanted to make a difference in preserving a precious part of Macon’s architectural heritage.