Contact: Susan Long
A chance encounter at a concert led a New York contractor to make a major donation to the Big House Museum that is being developed in Macon to preserve the home and history of the Allman Brothers Band.
Mark Franzoso stood next to Gary Giller, treasurer of the Big House Foundation, at a sold out concert in Saratoga Springs, NY and struck up a friendship that would bring him to Macon several years later to start the renovations needed to turn a 108-year-old stately Grand Tudor mansion into a unique, historic musical institution.
“I’m proud to be down here and be a part of it,” said Franzoso, surveying the work that his company, Franzoso Contracting, Inc., was completing after two weeks of work.
Franzoso’s five-man crew had just finished re-roofing the 6,000-square-foot house where the members of the Allman Brothers Band lived from 1970 to 1973 and wrote some of their most acclaimed music, becoming the principal architects of the new genre of Southern Rock music under the Macon label Capricorn Records.
A year after meeting Giller, Franzoso met Allman Brothers Band Tour Manager Kirk West, who had lived for nearly 15 years in the Big House with his wife, Kirsten, and had amassed an enormous collection of memorabilia.
“A year and a half ago when Kirk sold his house to the foundation, I was asked to look at the engineering report and come up with an estimate for a new roof,” said Franzoso. “I was flattered that I was asked to get involved.
“I knew once this museum got off the ground that I had to be the one to do the roof over where this important collection is going to be housed.”
Franzoso donated the labor for the roof and secured the donation of architectural shingles. He estimates the entire project at more than $35,000, including removing old roofing, re-roofing pitched and flat roofs, replacing rotted wood, installing new copper flashing and placing copper coping on the front edge of the roof. The new shingles are close to the same color as those that were removed from the house originally built for Georgia’s 67th Governor Nathaniel E. Harris.
The Big House Foundation is converting The Big House from a residence into a world-class, interactive, handicapped-accessible museum commemorating the wide-ranging cultural and historic impact of the Allman Brothers Band, said Foundation President Bob Johnson. It is expected to open in April 2009 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the band’s founding.
“The band was one of the few racially integrated groups that dared to perform throughout the rural Southeast where resistance to segregation was high,” noted Johnson. “The band’s popular music and its message of peace, brotherhood, and love had a barrier-breaking effect on Macon and the nation.”
The Big House’s 18 rooms will house the world’s largest archival collection of Allman Brothers Band memorabilia. The Big House Foundation will collaborate with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to operate arts and humanities programs meeting state and national K-12 educational objectives. The museum will have a particular focus on youth mentoring and positive lifestyle choices.
The Foundation also has acquired the adjoining, formerly blighted property, which has been cleared and will feature beautifully-landscaped grounds with handicapped accessibility to parking and to the museum.
“This museum is a rarity,” Johnson said. “Few sites in the U.S. exist where an internationally-acclaimed American rock band lived or worked and which are open to the public. The Allman Brothers Band is a huge contributing factor to Macon’s rich music heritage and the powerful attraction the State of Georgia offers to music heritage tourism.”
The Allman Brothers Band and members Duane Allman, Chuck Leavell, and Gregg Allman have been inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and the band is also enshrined at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.