Tour Stop 10: Hotel Forty Five

401 Cotton Ave

Hotel Forty Five represents a confidence and enthusiasm in downtown Macon that has not been felt in the community’s recent memory. Just ten years ago, the possibility of a hotel in the walkable core of downtown Macon would have been unfathomable. But in February 2022, Hotel Forty Five became the first, new hotel to open in downtown Macon in several decades.

Visit Macon published a market study that stated downtown Macon could absorb 1000 hotel rooms due to its vibrant nightlife, cultural amenities like theaters and art venues, and robust dining scene. IDP Properties purchased the former Willie C. Hill Annex building from Macon-Bibb County with the intent to convert the building into lofts but realized the market potential of being the first hotel in a revitalizing downtown Macon.

The 94-room boutique hotel was completed in 2022, resulting in a $39 million investment, which is the single largest investment in downtown Macon in the past 10 years. When online room reservations went live in November, 200 rooms were booked, showing the excitement around the project. Hotel Forty Five also generates substantial sales tax revenue for Macon-Bibb County. This is particularly significant because the county adopted an OLOST last year, which collects sales tax revenues for the county’s general fund. A hospitality project of this size will generate even more revenue for the county that can be used to make public improvements around the city.

The building has been beautifully restored and converted to its new use, despite being reconfigured into a wide variety of office spaces over its history. Historically known as the Bankers Insurance Building, the structure retains a high degree of architectural integrity. IDP Properties and Mainsail Lodging and Development worked with local architect Gene Dunwody, the grandson of the original architect, to incorporate the art deco elements that make the building distinct. Historic details like the golden brick exterior, original terrazzo floors on the first and second stories, marble on the first floor, and the central elevator lobby on each story have all been restored and become prominent features of this exceptional adaptive reuse project.

Today, the hotel is part of the Marriott Tribute Portfolio and managed by Mainsail Lodging and Development. Learn more about this iconic building and Hotel Forty Five from general manager Stephen Amesoeder.

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Building’s History

provided by Historic Macon Foundation

Constructed in 1923, the four-story Bankers Insurance Building in the triangular corner of First Street and Cotton Avenue was addressed 439 Cotton Avenue. The structure was purpose-built to fit its lot and has load-bearing masonry walls and original concrete floors. The eleven-story structure to the east is a large addition to the original structure at 439 Cotton Avenue. Fire proof doors connecting the two buildings were part of the original construction of the Bankers Insurance Building. 439 Cotton Avenue was originally home to the Bankers Insurance Company, the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company, and other businesses even before the large addition in 1941.

Designed by W. Elliott Dunwody Jr. starting in 1939, the eleven-story addition shows the influence of the Art Deco style while utilizing a modern concrete and steel structural system. Dunwody's earliest designs for the structure did not utilize as much of the lot, so the design was adapted during construction to increase the size of the building on the lower stories. After its completion in 1941, the newly enlarged Bankers Insurance Building immediately became one of the most coveted office addresses in the city. Many local businesses had offices in this structure, including WMAZ, which was a radio station only when they moved in but soon became a local television station that still exists today. Other businesses included numerous law offices, contracting firms, barber shops, beauty salons, railroad companies, dentists, and many others.

Beyond Dunwody's design of the structure, the building has also housed several renowned Macon architects, including Dunwody himself, Bernard A. Webb Jr., and Dennis and Dennis. Various levels and types of government offices also used this space, even before the structure was officially purchased by the City of Macon. Examples include military recruitment centers and congressional offices.

In 1970, the building was officially listed as the Southern Trust Building, though many of the same businesses remained in place. In 1976, the Mayor Buckner Melton proposed that the Urban Development Authority (UDA) purchase the building to alleviate overcrowding in City Hall. UDA declined to purchase the building without the approval of the full City Council, but eventually did so. In 1996, UDA transferred the building to the City of Macon, and in January of 2014, Macon-Bibb County became the official owner of the building with the consolidation of the city and county governments.

Despite being reconfigured into a wide variety of office spaces over its history, the Bankers Insurance Building retains a high degree of integrity. On the exterior, different signage has been applied to the building over the years, an awning was added over the front door c.1977, and screens were added in front of all the original windows c.1977. Otherwise, the exterior of the addition remains true to Dunwody's design. Throughout all the floor plan changes, the central elevator lobby has been retained on each story. Additionally, the original terrazzo floors on the first and second stories and marble on the first floor have also been retained.

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