Downtown Macon, Ga., has seen many of its historic structures returned to life in recent years — and Frank and Susan Broome have certainly done their part. Their restoration of four older homes near the Mercer University campus brought recognition this year: the Revitalization Award from Historic Macon Foundation.
The Broomes moved into the downtown Huguenin Heights neighborhood in 2000 and lived in the basement of their first historic home while working evenings and weekends on the rooms above. Their move to Coleman Avenue put Susan near her job as a librarian at Mercer, a position she retired from in 2014 — giving her more time to scrape, sand and paint.
Frank, the first and only coordinator for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, will retire at yearend — a few months after he and Susan move into their fourth downtown renovation. Tenants for their other homes tend to have ties to Mercer, putting school or work and fun (such as Tattnall Square Park) and food (Mercer Village) within easy walking distance.
It takes vision to see the potential in a dilapidated house, well beyond its glory years, even when available at a good deal.
It takes patience to remove multiple layers of paint from century-old doors, window trim and hardware — hour after hour — as well as an appreciation for the deep-grain beauty beneath.
It takes time — more of which will come when both Frank and Susan are retired. Frank said he doesn’t fault others who enjoy golf or other pastimes. He’d just rather recreate a rosette or another piece of wood trim that fools the eye into believing it was original to the house.
It takes commitment to work with one’s spouse on such projects — making choice after choice and dividing tasks not done together — not just on one historic house, but four.
It take perseverance to watch flames leaping from the roof of your nearly completed renovation and the water used to douse the fire destroying the beautiful wood floors — and then to start over. But that’s what the Broomes did last year.
In one sense, such meticulous, hands-on renovation requires and offers delayed gratification — but there are some delights along the way, said the Broomes. They enjoy having family around — some of whom are their neighbors as well.
The Broomes have worked with the same trusted contractor on all four projects who does about 60 percent of the construction. He knows the parts Frank and Susan want to do themselves.
Tax credits are good incentives for historic preservation — but they are not enough to get a couple to purchase and renovate such properties. It takes vision, patience, time, commitment and perseverance — and an appreciation for seeing the old become new.
There is something quite biblical about that perspective — something spiritual about stripping away dingy, flaking layers of the past to bring new life.