Helena, GA is not a big town by any standard. It easily gets lost as an almost “suburb” of McRae, GA. As of the 2010 census the town had grown by nearly 580 people with a thriving population set about 2,883 people.
Settled on the map a little Southeast of Macon, Helena is an old city with a few fun historical facts.
Written up in an article celebrating little known and lost parts of the historic south is the remains of the once proud Hotel Willard. Built somewhere around 1893, it once stood as a picturesque and welcoming presence for railroad travelers of the deep south.
Over the years it has been called by a number of different names and also served as a VFW and several restaurants.
Quotes from previous articles about the hotel include this one from a woman called Becky: “Read in a reference book in Telfair County Library, that it was built by the railroad. It has been called many names..The Brick Inn, The Willard Hotel, the Telfair Motor Lodge just to name a few. It states that it cost just 2 dollars a day to stay. Doesn’t give date of construction, but the railroad come to Helena in 1870s. Another photo dated 1893 of the wooden depot in Helena shows very tip of the hotel’s steeple in the background.”
And John Smith: “My Uncle operated the Pure Oil service station that was on the back side of the hotel, facing us 341. The VFW club was located in the building and had a separate entrance. It moved to a location west of McRae and Mr. Finch opened a restaurant where the VFW had been. Eaten there many times as a young boy. The hotel sits about 100 yards south of where the Seaboard RR crossed the Southern RR and where the passenger depot was situated.”
A number of other buildings and landmarks still dot a few of the streets of Helena, but as time passes, more and more of them are being dismantled as they fall into ruin. Even the Hotel Willard is not habitable or usable and will most likely be soon condemned and torn down.
At least it can be held in memory via pictures like these.