Walking up Bull Street from Forsyth Park to Monterey Square was like walking into the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There was the Armstrong House (Jim Williams’s lawyer lived there), and across the street was the Gentlemen’s Club (Jim had his private Christmas parties there). As we arrived at Monterey Square, we could see Temple Mickve Israel to the right. Raskin Antiques was in a very old, but dignified brick building on the corner, and next door was Serena Dawe’s House (she had the gun at the Christmas party). And there was the impeccably magnificent Mercer House, with the upstairs balcony where Jim hung the Nazi banner to annoy a movie production crew. I expected to see Danny Hansford’s (Jim’s paramour) clunker on the street, but instead, there was a very expensive white Corvette.
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.