on January 31, 2006
It's hard to believe now, but in 1954, historic Savannah seemed about to disappear. In particular, the Davenport House was slated for destruction--to put up a parking lot--when seven of the city's leading women raised the necessary $22,500 to save it. Their work led to the founding of the Historic Savannah Foundation the next year and eventually to Savannah's emergence as one of the nation's top tourist destinations. (Of course, that was helped along more recently by "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.")The Owens-Thomas House is one of the best houses to visit. Having OD'ed a little on homes in Charleston the week before, we decided to pick and choose a little--and settled on this beautiful home and the Telfair Museum of Art (which began life as a mansion), both designed by William Jay.An example of Regency architecture, the Owens-Thomas was built in 1816, Jay's first work in this style, yet often cited as the nation's best example. The house is filled with interesting details: curved walls, built-in water closets fed by a sophisticated rainwater collection system, a bridge across the center stairwell, and original Duncan Phyfe furniture throughout. Lafayette stayed here in 1825 (and spoke to Savannah's citizens twice from the balcony on the side of the house), which figures in the decoration in several rooms. The carriage house in the rear of the property contains the extensive and worthwhile gift shop, as well as exhibits on the home and an example of slave quarters. Tours actually begin here as well, with an orientation ("don't touch anything"), and then proceed through the pleasant gardens to the house itself.The Owens-Thomas House is owned by the Telfair Museum of Art, appropriately enough, and a combination ticket is available for $12, saving you $4 off the second admission. Both places are well worth seeing.
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