Tag Archives: Architecture of Coastal Georgia

Mercer House, Circa 1868, Savannah

Due to the success of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the book Savannah loves to hate, the Mercer House is perhaps the most famous in town. T0day, it’s officially the Mercer-Williams House Museum. [I added the hyphen; I don’t know why they don’t use one]. It is owned by the sister of Jim Williams, the antiques dealer who shot and killed one of his lovers, a hustler named Danny Hansford, in the house. Everyone knows the story. Wiliams’s eclectic collections are highlighted throughout.

The house was designed by John Norris [architect of the Savannah Custom House and the Andrew Low House, among many others] for General Hugh Mercer, great-grandfather of Johnny Mercer, though the general nor the songwriter ever lived here. Construction began in 1860 but was interrupted by the Civil War. It was completed about 1868 by its new owner, John Wilder. In the 20th century it was used for a time as the Savannah Shriners Alee Temple and was purchased and restored by Jim Williams in 1969.

Two other tragic deaths are associated with the Mercer House. An owner tripped over a banister and eventually died from a concussion in 1913 and a boy chasing pigeons on the roof fell off and impaled himself on one of the iron fence posts in 1969.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Andrew Low House, 1849, Savannah

Built between 1848-1849 on a trust lot facing LaFayette Square by architect John Norris, the Andrew Low House is one of Savannah’s most iconic residences and its most popular house museum. Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray described it as the “most comfortable accommodations in America”. Low was self-made, with early  success in retail and shipping. He eventually became Savannah’s premier cotton factor and wealthiest man.

Andrew Low persevered through numerous personal losses and a Union blockade and was even captured and briefly imprisoned for his part in procuring the largest successful shipment of guns and munitions to reach the Confederacy. Losses brought on by the war and the instability of the cotton market led Low and his remaining family to relocate to Leamington, England in 1867. Andrew Low, who always maintained ties with Savannah, died at Leamington in 1886. He was buried alongside his wives and son at Laurel Grove.

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was married to Low’s son William Mackay Low. They planned to divorce but before it was final, Low died in 1905. Juliette, known to friends as Daisy, inherited the house and lived here until her death in 1927.

Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Silas Fulton House, 1860, Savannah

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Club House, Circa 1886, Ossabaw Island

The Club House was constructed during Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker’s ownership of Ossabaw Island. Some sources state it was originally built for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 and moved to Ossabaw and reconstructed; other accounts suggest that it was simply a kit house, without the Philadelphia history. Either way, it’s the place where most visitors stay on the island today.

National Register of Historic Places

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Tabby Smoke House, Circa 1820, Ossabaw Island

Besides the tabby slave cabins, this is the only surviving structure from North End Plantation. It has been expanded with brick veneer.

These days, it’s popular with the Sicilian Donkeys.

National Register of Historic Places

 

 

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Boarding House, 1918, Ossabaw Island

This structure, also known as the Bachelor’s House, was built for partners of the Strachan Shipping Company who purchased Ossabaw Island from Henry Davis Weed in 1916. During their ownership it was used primarily as a hunting plantation and at least one superintendent (Hinely) and his family lived here.

National Register of Historic Places

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Genesis Project Ruins, 1970s, Ossabaw Island

The Genesis Project was an interdisciplinary artists’ colony launched by Ossabaw Island owner Sandy West in 1970.

It was centered at the site of an antebellum plantation known as Middle Place and was a starkly primitive affair.

Project members paid a nominal fee to be here and contributed a couple of days of manual labor per week.

The earliest participants constructed these utilitarian dwellings. Abandoned since the early 1980s, they’re slowly going back to nature.

 

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