Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
Murphy, North Carolina
January 10, 2006
From journal Mercer House
March 19, 2005
This house had quite an interesting history even before if was purchased by antique dealer Jim William in 1970. There were two rather mysterious deaths many years before Danny Hansford was killed there in 1981. It was designed in 1860 by New York architect John Norris for General Hugh Mercer, the great grandfather of Johnny Mercer. The Mercers never actually lived in this house. The "unpleasantness" interfered with construction, and it wasn't completed until 1868. General Mercer sold the house unfinished in 1865. It belonged to the "Shriners" for forty years, and they removed walls on the second floor to construct a large meeting room. As you walk through the first floor hall, you get to peer up the stairway to the stained glass skylight. You only get to visit the first floor and I believe only four rooms. Marsha, our guide, was very entertaining. She had many anecdotal facts about the house; however, neither the murder nor the book was mentioned.
If you are familiar with "The Book", you know that Mr. Williams was an antiques dealer--a very extraordinary one. He began as a young man and had an excellent sense of style and value. The decorating of the house reflects that. He had eclectic taste and collected things both old and contemporary. He supported local artists and has a fine collection of both paintings and porcelain. He also had a fascination with Audubon engravings and things that I would expect to see in a Natural History Museum, not necessarily someone’s home.
I personally was a little uncomfortable visiting here. There was a guard in the hall while we toured the rooms to make sure we didn’t touch anything or try to walk off with a piece of art. We weren’t even allowed to linger in the garden. We stood on the steps while Marsha told us a little about the changes Mr. Williams had made. So, you decided, I felt we didn’t get very much for our money here.
No photography or note-taking is allowed. Particularly interesting is that Dr. Dorothy Kingery, Jim Williams sister, has trademarked the façade of the house. Several years ago, before tours were allowed, the house was on the market for $8.95 million. That would have made it the most expensive house ever sold in Savannah.
From journal Strolling in Savannah
by Mary Dickinson
January 28, 2005
A sign on the cast-iron gate in front of the house informed us that the tour would start around back in the carriage house, now a gift shop. Our tour guide, Marsha Dodd, invited us to follow her into the garden. She had the same Southern accent Kevin Spacey used in the movie when he portrayed Jim. She told us about the house and all Jim had done to improve it, along with thirty other historic homes in Savannah. The double veranda, with vines growing up it and white wicker furniture, was in perfect taste, of course. We climbed the steep slate stairs and went into the entrance hall through the big double doors.
All the rooms, the double front and back doors, and the grand, free-hung circular staircase, with the stained-glass window/light fixture above it, led to the wide, 60-foot entrance hall. She explained that Jim had a gourmet kitchen built next to the formal dining room, where he ate alone. Inside the china closet was a set of porcelain, miraculously retrieved from an old, sunken sailing vessel, along with other priceless pieces. The study was exactly like the setting in the movie. I’m a purist in restoring and was shocked to hear that Jim had taken a huge ornate fireplace front from the Armstrong House and transplanted it in there. I wasn’t able to discern the meaning of the white arm of an oversized statue that was placed above the secretary, but I’ll keep it in mind. Marsha gave a clue, but she wouldn’t allow notes, so I forgot it.
It's hard to imagine two hundred of Savannah’s elite gathering in the double living room, with its collection of taxidermied animals and other fine things. If you’re really impressed with Jim’s way of living, the house is on the market for $8.95 million.
From journal Daylight in the history of Old Savannah
July 23, 2000
From journal A Novel Approach to Savannah