Tuesday, March 29, 2016

10 Fabulous Historic District Homes in Savannah, Georgia

Historic District

1. Davenport House Museum is located just off Columbia Square. Saving the house from demolition by the Seven Ladies Organization was the beginning of  Historic Savannah Organization. The house was built in 1820 by Isaiah Davenport a carpenter by trade in the Federal style. Mr. Davenport migrated to Savannah from Massachusetts and made his money building homes. He also became a slave owner and his slaves are believed to have helped him with his building business. Unfortunately Mr. Davenport died of yellow fever in 1827 and left his wife to care for their several children, seven who lived to adulthood. After her husband's death, Mrs, Davenport had to sell the slaves, nine in total at the time and turn the house into a boarding house.  She kept the house until 1840. The next family kept the house in the family over 100 years and the house went through many changes, lastly as a deteriorating apartment complex in a seedy neighborhood. It was set to be tore down when the Seven Ladies came to its rescue. Luckily this did not start a revolution, it started something even better preservation.

2. The Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girls Scouts at 10 Oglethorpe Avenue was originally built for Mayor James Moore Wayne between 1818-1821, he later became a Supreme Court Justice.  The architect was William Jay, the house was built in the Federal style. The house was sold to the Gordon family in 1831. Mr. Wayne's niece, Sarah Anderson Stites Gordon was Juliette Gordon's grandmother. Her grandfather, William Gordon I was a cotton manufacturer that started the Central Georgia Railroad to get his cotton inland transported to the river ports. He also served as mayor of Savannah for a short period of time. Juliette was the second child of William Gordon II and Eleanor Lytle Kinzie born in 1860, six months after she was born her father enlisted in the Confederate Army. She was a sickly and accident prone young lady that suffered from frequent earaches.  She eventually became deaf in one ear. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America purchased the property in 1953 and her birthplace serves as a memorial to the Founder of the Girl Scouts.  This is the only mansion in Savannah that I went inside of, it was part of the evening ghost tour and said to be haunted and photographs are encouraged and thy ask if you see anything when they are developed please send them along. I don't believe I captured any Caspers with my camera but I can vouch for the haunting feeling I feel whenever I pass a girl scout outside the supermarket selling girl scout cookies if i don't buy them. This feeling probably stems from my own experience selling the cookies. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark, the first in Savannah in 1965.

 The "Lady of Compassion" statue in the Gordon garden was sculpted by Juliette Gordon Low's great-great niece Nina de Burgh.

This location in Philadelphia now a McDonald's

3. The Andrew Low House is located just off Lafayette Square. It was built by New York architect John Norris for Andrew Low a cotton merchant from Liverpool. Juliette Gordon Low married William Mackay Low, the son of Andrew Low II heir to Andrew Low I's fortune. Juliette and William's marriage lasted over twelve years but this was not a happy marriage.  The couple hardly spent any time together and did not have any children together. Eventually, Mr. Low took a mistress and when Mrs. Low found out she assumed he wanted a divorce and she asked him to wait a year.  He agreed but wanted to live apart. He then became ill and she didn't want to press the divorce button until he was well.  He recovered but suffered a fatal seizure before the divorce was final but in his will he had bequeathed much of his estate to his mistress, Anna Bateman. Juliette Gordon Low contested the will and won.  She became a very wealthy woman and the Andrew Low estate was hers. She did keep the house but continued to travel back and forth to Europe.  It was there that she met Robert Baden-Powell, the Founder of the Boy Scouts and brought the idea to the United States for girls. A one-time boarder at the Andrew Low house during the time Juliette rented it out, was Edmund Nash the father of Ogden Nash. The Nash family are also descendants of Abner Nash an early governor of North Carolina whose brother Francis, Nashville, Tennessee is named for, just information I am gathering for my day on Jeopardy.  I found it at Wikipedia. Juliette Gordon Low died at the Lafaytte Square in 1927 from breast cancer.

For more information on Andrew Low I and Andrew Low II interesting gentlemen in their own right go to the AndrewLowhouse.com to read more about their wealth and connection to the Civil War. You can virtually tour the mansion there.

Side-view of the Andrew Low House

The carriage house behind the house was the First Headquarters for the Girl Scouts in the U.S.

Plaques outside the carriage house of the Andrew Low House marking the location of the 
First Girl Scout Headquarters.

4. Owens-Thomas House is the first of the William Jay designs, this home was completed just after
Jay's twenty-first birthday. Jay, an English architectural genius came to America to supervise the construction in 1817. The mansion was built for Richard Richardson, a Savannah merchant. The Marquis de Lafayette stayed here as a guest when he visited the City of Savannah in 1825.  I am enamored by General Lafayette and I am constantly falling into places that he has been at in his lifetime.  I sometimes feel I am retracing his steps. Lafayette would have walked through those doors.

Lafayette spoke to the public from the balcony on the side of the house and the couple sitting on the wall  witnessed my stumble as I hurriedly walked down the street to take a picture of the balcony. They did not offer to help, but later remarked I fell with such poise. I actually ripped my favorite jeans and put a gaping hole into my knee that probably should have gotten stitches but I did gather myself quickly and marched on, as only Lafayette himself would do.


5. The Scarborough House another William Jay design in the neoclassical style was built in 1819 for William Scarborough, president of the Savannah Steamboat Company. President James Monroe came to this house while he was in Savannah witnessing the launch of the S. S. Savannah for the world's first transatlantic steamship journey. From 1878-1962 the house served as West Broad Street School for African-American children and later the headquarters for the Historic Savannah Foundation.  It now home to the Sea Maritime Museum.

This replica of the S.S. Savannah is at the Savannah History Museum and Visitor Center.  I am sure the Sea Maritime Museum has a nice one too but I did not go inside due to time restraints.

6. There is one other notable William Jay building in Savannah and I missed it, so I will have to return, the Telfair Museum located on Barnard Street.  I don't know how I missed it. I stayed practically right next door at the Inn at Ellis Square. I must have been looking for Lafayette.

7. Flannery O'Conner was a novelist and short-story writer She lived in this house during her childhood. She was said to write with a "Southern Gothic" style . Much of her writings reflected her Catholic faith. She died at the young age of 39 from lupus. Touring this home you get a sens of what life was like during the depression in Savannah.  Here is a link to one of her short-stories that appears online at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~DRBR/goodman.html, A Good Man Is Hard To Find.

8.The Green-Meldrin House located at Madison Square was built for a wealthy Savannah merchant Charles Green by John Norris.  When Savannah surrendered to the Union Army, Green offered his home to Sherman as a headquarters.in December 1864.  Perhaps Green was thinking the house would not be destroyed if Sherman occupied it.  Savannah was spared the destruction that Atlanta took during the civil war.  It is said that Sherman had friends here and I also read where he assisted the Low family in relocation during the war. The big highlight of this home it that it is the site that Sherman sat down and wrote his famous telegraph to President Lincoln, giving Savannah to Lincoln as a Christmas present. Saving Savannah was also a huge Christmas present to the people of Savannah. Sherman was probably the closest they got to Santa Claus that year.

9. Sorrel-Weed House was designed by Georgian architect Charles Cluskey in the Greek Revival-Regency style for Francis Sorrel, who as a child was saved by a faithful slave in a riot and massacre of white colonists in St. Dominigo. Sorrel's son, General Moxley Sorrel, a  Conferdat who servd under Longstreet lived in this house as a child. General Robert E. Lee was said to have been one of the prominent visitors to the house. It was purchased in 1859 by Henry Weed.

10. Harper Fowles Estate was built in 1842 and it is thought to be a Cluskey design. The passing down of ownership is an interesting read beginning with Stephen Gardner. Alida Harper purchased the home in 1939 for $9,000 and lived there with her mother.  "WOMAN" is stamped across the top of the deed according to an oral history stated on the Harperfowleshouse.com. Alida, an artist renovated the home and filled it with her antique collection. She married six years after moving into the house and hr husband died a year later. Mrs. Harper-Fowles did not inherit money from her family or her marriage, she was a self made woman. Alida also saved the building and a restaurant, The Georgian Tea Room which was located in the basement of the Pink House. One of the finest restaurants in Savannah today, it is called the Olde Pink House now. Alida died in 1985,she lived in the Harper-Fowles house for 45 years, during this time she renovated 10 homes in Savannah.  In her will she left the house to the Society of Cincinnati of Georgia with the stipulation that it never be sold. It is used as their headquarters and tours are available to the public. Her father and brother were members of the Society of Cincinnati, descendants of Officers of the Continental Army.

There are many historic homes in Savannah, stroll the streets and you will find them.

An additional good reference source:
New Georgia encyclopedia

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