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Dannenberg tours family buildings

The Dannenberg building in downtown Macon is in the final stages of its reconstruction as loft apartments, a gym, restaurant and grocery store.

It's ready for new uses and new memories.

But Walter Dannenberg, the buildings' former owner, sees the past around every door, window and floor board.

Walking around the interior of the new loft apartments, Dannenberg said, "It was a big first-class department store."

He said he started working at the store at the age of 13. He was following in his father, grandfather and great-grandfather's footsteps. His great-grandfather started the business in the 1880's in another Macon location.

At 87 years old, Walter Dannenberg never thought the building that housed the family business from 1903 to 1965, would be starting over as apartments.

Prior to 1965 when Dannenberg's closed, the apartments were departments; 60 of them in total.

Looking around the second floor, Dannenberg said, "We had the best houseware department on this side of the country.

He pointed to where ladies' handbags and jewelry were sold. There were two departments for men's, women's and children's clothing. Dannenberg's housed a beauty parlor, pharmacy, and shoe repair shop.

They even sold auto supplies, including tires. Dannenberg said, "We guaranteed 25,000 miles on each tire."

Standing in a loft facing Third Street, Danneneberg remembered what it used to be. He said, "You're in Birdie Bell's storage room. All the hat bodies were in here."

In what's now an electric closet, He sees the old optometrist's office. Behind the brick and plaster, he remembers a restaurant called "Danneberg's Cafenette".

He said, "It was a regular lunch, a meat and two vegetables, desert and a drink for 35 cents."

A sign still on the back staircase read, "Employees only." That's where his 80-plus employee's made the trip to his third floor office. Dannenberg said, "It got hot up there." There was no air conditioning on that level for many years.

On the third floor, is also where the family installed the vault. They rigged it with tear gas to deter thieves.

The vaults still up there. It's now a tenant's eccentric apartment decoration, complete with the disconnected tear gas canister still inside. It's locked, but Dannenberg said, "I got the combination to it, if you want to go in it."

He remembers every valve, each sprinkler connection in the building. Pointing to a pipe on a back hallway, he said. "This is a newer one. It was put in in 1913."

Out of the nearly 100,000 square feet in the building, its the floors, all original, that amaze him.

He said, "They are really pretty."

They catch his attention over and over, as he walks the building, saying, "These floors amaze me."

62 years of Dannenberg customers strolled across them. Four generations of Dannenbergs earned a living on them.

Dannenberg says his great-grandfather would be amazed at what the whole place has become.

He said, "He would love it. He'd be running all over the place to see what's here." He said his grandfather would be thrilled that it's once again bustling with life; the way it will always be in Walter Dannenberg's memory.

The Dannenberg Company got it's start in the 1880's and located at the Poplar and Third Street location in 1903.

It stayed there until it closed, because of competition from shopping malls.

Until the early 1980's, Dannenberg ran a blue jean manufacturing business in the basement. He employed about 35 people, and made "96 dozen" pairs of jeans each day. That business closed, Dannenberg said, when it became cheaper to manufacture jeans in foreign countries.


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