Tag Archives: 18th Century Georgia

The Pirate’s House, Savannah

The history of the so-called Pirate’s House is as colorful as the history of Savannah itself, and like many landmarks in the city, its origins and history are often the subject of debate. I’ll open the proverbial can of worms here and note that though it often appears on superlative lists as the “oldest building in Georgia”, this claim is spurious at best. The Herb House, built in 1734 in General Oglethorpe’s Trustee’s Garden, has been absorbed into the structure you see today. Because its historic integrity has been almost completely lost by centuries of remodeling and expansion, though, the ‘oldest in Georgia’ qualifier is dubious to many, particularly architectural historians. I concur completely. This is not an attack on the present institution housed here but rather an attempt to consolidate disparate histories. Scores of websites, especially ‘ghost’-related sites, are driven by myth and therefore confusing to say the least.

The Pirate’s House Restaurant has been a leading tourist attraction in Savannah for decades, and though their website claims that it was built in 1753, the city’s own tourism website dates it to circa 1794. It’s clear that it had its origins as a tavern, frequented by sailors for its liberal atmosphere and proximity to the Savannah River. Tunnels were actually dug beneath the property in its early days with the purpose of smuggling rum and kidnapped sailors to the riverfront. The site gained literary immortality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, as the scene of Captain Flint’s death. The character of Long John Silver noted that he was with Captain Flint when he died in Savannah. Of course this is a fiction, based loosely on stories a young Stevenson heard as a guest here in the early 19th century. The stories are harmless as long as they’re not posited as fact. And they are, often.

The house was purchased by the Savannah Gas Company in 1948 and subsequently restored and expanded to accommodate its present-day purpose.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Major Charles Oddingsells House, 1797, Savannah

Revolutionary War veteran Major Charles Oddingsells (1754-1810) came to Savannah as a young man, and he soon became a prominent planter and state legislator. He owned land all around Savannah but spent most of his time on Skidaway Island, where he died at the age of 56. He and wife Sarah Livingston Oddingsells had two children, neither of whom lived to adulthood.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Hopeton-Altama Plantation, Glynn County

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Main House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Altama Plantation House

George III of England granted 2,000 acres along the south bank of the Altamaha River to William Hopeton in 1763 and Hopeton soon set about creating the rice plantation which bore his name. So began the long modern history of this property, first known as Hopeton and now more widely known as Altama. In 1805, the property was sold to two Scottish immigrants, John Couper and James Hamilton, who grew Sea Island cotton with hundreds of slave laborers.   Couper’s son, James Hamilton Couper, vastly improved the property after he acquired it in 1827. He built the original Altama plantation house in the Georgian style circa 1858 (its ruins may remain, per a Glynn County historic resources survey). After visiting Holland he introduced a system of dikes, canals and rails to move his rice and sugar efficiently to the river for transport into nearby Darien. Couper was perhaps Georgia’s greatest “Renaisance Man” and it’s unfortunate that he isn’t better known today outside a small group of historians. He led the survey party which mapped the Georgia-Florida border, built Christ Church in Savannah, and was the first to describe the Indigo Snake to science. He is honored eternally in its Latin name, Drymarchon couperi.

The Civil War was the death knell for Hopeton-Altama as a working plantation. In 1898 a small colony of Shakers attempted to tame the property, which was long neglected and dotted with ruins of its former glory. Their efforts to grow rice and raise cattle were unsuccessful and they abandoned the project in 1902. William Dupont bought the  adjacent Hopeton and Altama properties in 1914 and renamed the expanse Altama. Dupont wintered and trained racehorses here and built the main house (pictured in this post) based on the original plantation house. Cator Woolford bought the plantation in 1930 and built the swimming pool and “Play House”. In 1944, Alfred W. Jones scion of the Sea Island Company, acquired Altama, primarily for use as a hunting reserve. Cabins and structures supporting the sporting life were constructed in the ensuing years. With the Sea Island bankruptcy in 2010, Altama was bought by a private equity firm who planned to develop the property as homes and shops. With the help of the Nature Conservancy, the Marine Corps and private donors, the property was acquired by the state of Georgia in 2015 for future protection and management and will now serve as a publicly accessible Wildlife Management Area, part of a 120-mile corridor of protected lands stretching from Florida through the Okefenokee Swamp to Fort Stewart. It’s a real conservation success story and the cooperation of state and private entities is commendable.

The photos that follow are placed in relative order to where you will see them walking over the property from the main entrance, at Highway 99 just off Interstate 95. Though not particularly historic in terms of age, most of the outbuildings have a cultural value as part of a grand 20th-century hunting plantation. The Playhouse and swimming pool, built by Cator Willford, are important in their own right, as earlier examples in the evolution of Altama.

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Hunting Cabin, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Interior Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Hunting Cabin Interior, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Work Barn Arched Door Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Work Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Storage Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Ancient Live Oak Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Ancient Oak, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Lodge Fanlight Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016The Playhouse (Side view showing fanlight), Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Lodge Swimming Pool Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vansihing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Swimming Pool, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Backyard of Lodge Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Behind the Playhouse, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA White Camellia Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastall Georgia USA 2016Camellias beside the Playhouse, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Shed Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016DNR Check Station, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Near Main House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Guest House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Garage Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Garage behind Main House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Big House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Main House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Palm Lined Drive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanshing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Palm Lane, Altama Plantation

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY

Fort King George, 1721, Darien

Fort King George Darien GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The first British outpost in present-day Georgia, Fort King George was built and commanded by Colonel John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell in 1721, under the auspices of South Carolina Governor Francis Nicholson. Upon its construction it was the southernmost fort in Bristish North America, manned by His Majesty’s Independent Company of Foot. The British claimed the land along the Altamaha River as part of the South Carolina colony as a protection against Spanish forces, who sought to expand their reach northward from Florida. Colonel Barnwell died in 1724 and a mysterious fire claimed the fort in 1726. Rebuilt, it remained in use as a garrison until 1732 when it was officially abandoned. Upon its ruins General Oglethorpe founded Darien in 1736.

Fort King George Darien GA Colonial Stockade Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The blockhouse was built of cypress logs. Its construction proved no simple matter in the wilderness of Coastal Georgia. Though Nicholson and Barnwell had requested fit young soldiers, they were instead supplied with members of the Regiment of Invalids, veterans who in one way or another were not capable of heavy service. The British welfare system of the day allowed them light duty and by 1722 about 100 soldiers were sent from a hospital in Port Royal, South Carolina, to Fort King George.

Fort King George Darien GA Stockade Gun Embrasure Port Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

From embrasures (gun-ports) on the top level of the blockhouse, soldiers kept watch over the Altamaha River delta. Guardhouses, or sentry towers, were also essential to the site’s security.

Fort King George Darien GA Sentry Guardhouse Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

None of the original fortification survives; the structures seen today were built using original plans in 1988. Besides the blockhouse, an officers’ quarters and workshop were also reconstructed.

Fort King George Darien GA Outbuildings Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Fort King George Darien GA Interior of Residence Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Barracks were located at the rear of the property and provided quarters for His Majesty’s Independent Company of Foot.

Fort King George Darien GA Barracks Exterior Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Fort King George Darien GA Barracks Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Fort King George Darien GA Barracks Hearth Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Black Island Creek flows behind the barracks.

Black Island Creek from Fort King George Darien GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

National Register of Historic Places

http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/fort-king-george

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Darien GA

18th Century Tympanic Icons of Midway Cemetery

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Slate Headstone of James Wilson Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympana are the semi-circular arches atop early headstones, usually featuring an iconic relief sculpture. In early America, the most common of these icons is the “winged death” head, usually represented as a cherubic face or skull above a pair of wings. New England churchyards and burying grounds abound with these earliest forms of American sculpture, but they’re rarities in the Deep South. Charleston has the largest concentration, with other examples scattered around the low country of South Carolina; Savannah has a few examples but Midway has the best variety in Georgia.

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Slate Winged Death Tympanum of James Wilson Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the James Wilson stone. Slate. Date of death not visible, as the headstone is half-buried (see first photo).

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Winged Death Nimbus Tympanum of Elisabeth Way 1795 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the Elisabeth Way stone, 1792. Sandstone. In regards to design, this is the most important headstone at Midway. In Early Gravestone Art of Georgia & South Carolina (UGA Press, Athens, 1986), Diana Williams Combs wrote: “As far as I know, the nimbus has not been employed elsewhere during this period of American gravestone art. In this context it emphasizes the salvation of the deceased.”

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Winged Death Tympanum of Susanna Stacy 1780 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the Susanna Stacy stone, 1780. Slate.

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Winged Death Tympanum of Margaret Stacy 1792 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the Margaret Stacy stone, 1792. Slate.

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Winged Death Tympanum of Miss Sarah Winn 1767 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the Sarah Winn stone, 1767. Slate.

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Winged Death Tympanum of Sarah Stevens 1767 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the Sarah Stevens stone, 1767. Slate.

Midway Congregational Church Cemetery Liberty County GA Cherub Tympanum of James Osgood 1793 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Tympanum detail of the James Osgood stone, 1793. Marble.

Midway Congregational Church Liberty County GA Brick Cemetery Wall US Highway 17 Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

There’s always a nice view of Midway Congregational Church (1792) across US Highway 17 from the famous brick wall surrounding the cemetery.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Midway GA