Built as the winter residence of Dr. Henry Norton Torrey, Ossabaw’s Spanish Revival “Main House” was designed by Swedish-born Savannah architect Henrik Wallin [1873-1936]. Its pink stucco walls, whose tones vary widely with the changing light of the day, are a defining feature. Red clay roof tiles and wrought iron ornamentation complete the Mediterranean character of the house. [There is no public access to the house, which the Ossabaw Island Foundation hopes to eventually stabilize and restore].
The Torrey family had owned a 40-room winter residence, Greenwich, in Savannah. They bought Ossabaw Island after Greenwich burned, and built the house between 1924-1926. Dr. Torrey was a prominent Detroit physician whose wife Nell Ford Torrey was the granddaughter of John Baptiste Ford, the founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG). Dr. Ford died in 1945 and upon his wife’s death in 1959, the island was inherited by their daughter Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West and her late brother’s heirs. But Sandy was the only one interested in living there full-time and it became her domain.
In 1961, Sandy and husband Clifford West established the Ossabaw Island Foundation, which served as an artist’s colony from October until June each year. Sandy sold the island to the State of Georgia (via the Nature Conservancy) in 1978, retaining a life estate. She lived in the Main House until 2016, at which time she moved to Savannah to an assisted living facility.
At 105, Sandy West remains a beloved symbol of independence for her tireless efforts to protect Ossabaw from development. Jane Fishman profiled her in a fascinating book, The Woman Who Saved an Island: The Story of Sandy West and Ossabaw Island, (Real People Publishing, Savannah, 2014).
The rear of the house features a loggia opening onto a patio. A tennis court and formal gardens have long since been reclaimed by nature.
Outbuildings, like the house, are in a bad state of repair today.
National Register of Historic Places