March 19, 2005
Unlike some of the other houses that you visit in Savannah, Davenport House was more of the artisan class house. Isaiah Davenport was a master builder. He was well to do but not extremely wealthy. The public rooms of the house have wonderful architectural details. These rooms were a form of advertisement of the type of work that his customers could expect. The fireplaces are made of Italian marble and the detail is in the neoclassical style, which was cutting-edge at the time. They are both original to the house, but one of them was only returned in 1997. It was sold during one of the lower periods in the house's history. The family rooms, which the public would never see, were very simple. The floors are made of heart of pine, and daughter Cornelia's wedding china has made its way back to the house.
The furniture in the house is period but not original, Mrs. Davenport had to sell all the furniture. This house owes its very existence to five women who saved it from demolition in the 1950s. Every effort has been made to return family items to the house. There is a needlepoint fire screen made by Cornelia's granddaughter, a silhouette of Cornelia at 4 years old, and Sarah Davenport's book of memory, which has locks of family hair in it.
The tour covers three floors of the house, you need to be able to negotiate narrow, curving stairs. We ended in the garden, but the only exit from the garden is back through the gift shop. I enjoyed this tour more than some of the other, fancier houses, and the gift shop is very nice.
"Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!" Have you ever wondered what this meant? Sleep tight refers to tightening the ropes on a rope bed, and since most mattresses were stuffed with natural materials, bugs were a fact of life. Fascinating stuff.
No story about the Davenport House would be complete without a word about the Historic Savannah Foundations. It was the attempted demolition of this house in 1955 that led seven Savannah women to found the Historic Savannah Foundation. Not only did they save Davenport House, but they helped initiate a program of historic preservation in the city of Savannah. Just visiting there, you have to be grateful to them for their efforts.
It was supposed to be torn down for a parking lot in the mid-20th century. The saving of this house was the beginning of the Historic Savannah Foundation, a group dedicated to the preservation of historical buildings in Savannah.
From journal Strolling in Savannah