The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
One of Macon's musical and educational treasures, the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, will soon have a new home. Mercer University announced in a press release Friday, November 9, that the Atlanta-based Robert W. Woodruff Foundation had approved a $1.5 million grant to fund the renovation of the historic Bell House on College Street to serve as the new home for the center.
“I am extremely grateful to the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation for its generous and powerful vote of confidence in the mission of the McDuffie Center for Strings,” Center Founder and Mansfield and Genelle Jennings Distinguished University Professor Robert McDuffie said.
According to the release, the McDuffie Center's growth created a need for a separate facility to house the program, which is currently housed n the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University. The Bell House will include dedicated practice rooms and teaching spaces on the its second floor, and a 60-seat performance hall on the first floor.
“I believe the renovation of this space will usher in a new era of performing arts at Mercer,” said Amy Schwartz Moretti, McDuffie Center for Strings director and Caroline Paul King Violin Chair. “The opportunity for our students and faculty to practice and perform in such an incredible space will be a great addition to our students’ educational experience. Our vision and dreams are now becoming reality.”
This move is a monumental one of the center, but it is not the first time the Bell House has been tied to the musical heritage of Macon. The home was also featured on the cover of The Allman Brothers Band's self-titled debut album in 1969. At that time the home had fallen into disrepair, and the contrast of its former condition with its new use is a testament to the revitalization of the historic district in which it is located. According to the release, "The house was individually listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is one of 57 historic places in Macon to receive individual listing status."