Villa Albicini, Tucker Road, Macon, Georgia


In order to fully appreciate living in Villa Albicini, you would have had to grow up in Hay House. The villa only really became the villa after Elizabeth (Betty) Hay Curtis bought the place and made it shine.

She also made it look appropriately weathered, like a classic Italian villa should be.

She knew just how to do it, because she spent her formative years in Macon, Georgia's "Palace of the South," Hay House.

Hay House (formally known as the Johnston-Felton-Hay House) is a seven story Italian Renaissance mansion, with a two story cupola. It was built between 1855-1859, and has 18,000 square feet. 

The Hay family bought it in 1927. Elizabeth (1913-2007) was the youngest of their five children and was married in the house. 

{not Elizabeth, but brides still like to pose there, source}

I believe Elizabeth is on the right in the photo below. Sorry that it's grainy - it's a video screenshot. 

The Hay children established their house as private museum in 1962, and later deeded it to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977.

After growing up in such splendor, Elizabeth was more than ready to tackle what was then known as the Horgan House or Idle Hour Nursery. Daniel and Edith Horgan built the house in 1927. They were wholesale florists, so they surrounded it with a rock garden, streams, fountains and reflecting pools. 

Remnants of them can still be seen today.

Although Elizabeth restored the Horgan's gardens...

it seems she mainly turned her attention to the interiors, earning her and decorator Charles Townsend a feature in Southern Accents magazine Spring, 1979 issue. (She also hired one of the same decorators her parents had used, David Byers of the W.E. Browne Decorating Company of Atlanta.) Townsend was the one who forever changed the house's history, though, because he found a pair of 17th century tapestry panels made in Italy's Villa Albicini. Elizabeth re-named her house in its honor.

It's difficult to find more pictures or much information about the tapestries. They're no longer in the house. They may be visible in the Southern Accents pictures, but here's the thing: the Hay family also did a lot of decorative painting. It's often hard to tell what's real and what's faux.

The carved door pediment below? Faux painted.

Here's how the foyer looked in Elizabeth's day:

The dining room's Venetian chandelier is the same...

but a lot of the room has changed. Those could possibly by Villa Albicini tapestries in the old photo:

I wasn't sure until I found this 1971 photo that labels them as such:

Across the foyer, the drawing room has also changed quite a bit over the years. Today:


I think Elizabeth's decorating was inspired by the double parlor she grew up in at Hay House:

Villa Albicini's rotunda in the entrance hall, today:


The rotunda leads to the morning room at the back of the house. Here are two views of it today:

It also has changed very little. The handpainted Chinoiserie wallpaper is as stunning now as it was then:

All of that glamor stops at the kitchen, though. Well, I guess you could say it starts and stops.

I'm not sure if the stone backsplash and counter is faux or not. 

It's in good company if it's not real. As grand as it is, Hay House's foyer has faux-painted marble walls, and the front doors are pine painted to look like bronze.

Regardless, if it were mine, I would use the best of the existing materials to turn this...

into this:

The villa is an example of "opulence on a modest scale" and has three bedrooms (two pictured) and two bathrooms in 3,420 square feet.

According to its National Register of Historic Places' entry, "the predominant colors... are pinks, orchids, and creams." They forgot greens. In 1979 it had green shutters:

Neither Hay House or other similar houses by Villa Albicini's architect Philip Shutze have shutters though, which points to them not being an original feature.

Like the tapestry panels, the shutters were yet another way that Elizabeth Curtis personalized the house and changed its history.

A great video tour of Hay House is here. The 1979 photos are here. The Old House Dreams listing is here.

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