Tag Archives: Landmarks 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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

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

Leave a comment

Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Silas Fulton House, 1860, Savannah

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

Leave a comment

Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Patterson-Brown House, Circa 1870, The Ridge

William Henry Patterson came to Darien after the Civil War and purchased the land on which he built this house from the Blount family. The neighborhood on the Old Shell Road (Georgia Highway 99), known as The Ridge, was an exclusive retreat for river pilots and timber brokers who worked in Darien, three miles to the south. Captain Patterson was a successful bar pilot who guided timber in and out of Darien.

The house was originally a Georgian cottage with a central hallway, two rooms deep, and featured a detached kitchen and shed veranda porch. Captain Patterson lived here for just two years before building a more formal house across the street.

The Redding family later owned the home and “modernized” it in 1938, adding the bay windows, an attached kitchen, front and rear foyers within  the central hallway, and hardwood flooring over the heart pine. Hannah deSoto Brown and Andy Tostensen purchased it in 1973 and restored many of the original features, including the hallway, high ceilings, and rough plaster walls. It’s a very welcoming space and I’m grateful to Hannah for sharing the history.

The Ridge Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

1 Comment

Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, The Ridge GA

Sunbury Cemetery, 1758, Liberty County

Laid out in St. John’s Parish in 1758 on land originally owned by Mark Carr, Sunbury soon drew comparisons to Savannah as one of Georgia’s great seaports. Nearly 500 lots (not all occupied) were situated around three squares: King’s, Church, and Meeting.

St. John’s Parish fervently supported opposition to British rule and urged the rest of Georgia to revolt. Savannah was hesitant, so the parish sent Dr. Lyman Hall, a citizen of Sunbury, to the 2nd Continental Congress as a non-voting delegate. When Georgia at last joined the revolution, Dr. Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton were chosen as the official delegates and signed the Declaration of Independence. Fort Morris was constructed for the defense of Sunbury but fell to the British during the Revolutionary War. Many of the pioneer families left during the occupation.

In 1777 St. John’s Parish and the neighboring St. Andrew’s and St. James were combined to form Liberty County. On 18 November 1783 the first session of the Superior Court of Liberty County was held in Sunbury and it remained the county seat until removal to Riceboro in 1797.

Sunbury Academy, established in 1788, was one of the most prominent schools in early Georgia. A Baptist church was organized in 1810 and held services into the 1830s. But the community was already in decline. The Hurricane of 1804 and the Hurricane of 1824 did major damage to the area, dispersing the remaining population. It was a ghost town by the 1840s and nothing remains today except the cemetery. Many stones have been lost or destroyed over time, some due to storms and others to residential development.

Tomb of Reverend William McWhir, D. D. [9 September 1759-31 January 1851] & Mary McWhir [27 September 1757-16 December 1819]

Dr. McWhir, a devout Presbyterian who migrated to Georgia from Belfast, Ireland, was one of the founders and the Principal of Sunbury Academy for 30 years. He died at the home of Roswell King.

Tomb of Josiah Powell [?-21 July 1788]

The exquisite ironwork surrounding the Dunham family plot is a work of art in itself. Family genealogy suggests headstones are replacements for earlier markers, dating to around 1900. The fence was likely installed at that time, as well.

The Dunhams were prominent citizens of the area and many remained even after Sunbury’s decline. Reverend Jacob Dunham, who died in 1832, spent ten years as a missionary for the Sunbury Baptist Association, ministering mostly to slaves.

Thomas H. Dunham [1840-12 October 1870] Though Dunham was a later burial, his willow and headstone tympanum was likely a nod to the earlier settlers, whose stones were commonly marked in this fashion.

Eliza Ann Richardson [1820-23 October 1831] Eliza Ann was the daughter of Edmond & Elizabeth Richardson. Her slate headstone features a willow and urn tympanum.

This plot is the final resting place of the Law & Fleming families and their relatives.

Reverend Josiah S. Law [1808-4 October 1853]

Reverend Samuel Spry Law [1774-4 February 1837] Spry’s mother, whose maiden name was also Spry, successfully defended her home from the British during the Revolutionary War. Law received his most formal education while living with the family of a French Marquis on Sapelo Island. He was married three times, first to Mary Anderson, then to Rebecca G.  Hughes, and finally to Temperance Wood.

In 1811, Reverend Law was a captain of the local militia. He became a Baptist in 1815. In his final years, he preached to poor whites and slaves in rural sections of Liberty County.

Mrs. Temperance  Wood Law [1780-16 October 1857] Last consort of Reverend S. S. Law. (Per genealogy, her name is apparently misspelled on her headstone).

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Sunbury GA

Carey Hilliard’s, Savannah

If you know anything about Savannah, you’re likely familiar with this sign and the iconic local food chain it represents. The story goes that Carey Hilliard hitchhiked from Jesup to Savannah in the 1950s and failed at his first attempt in the restaurant business. He persevered and made another go at in 1960 and the rest is history. Five locations would follow the original on Skidaway Road and the chain even expanded to Charleston in 1979. Carey and his wife Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1982 but the fare they made famous remains a popular local favorite.

This photo was made at the Waters Avenue location.

2 Comments

Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

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

Leave a comment

Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Ossabaw Island GA