Updated July 19, 2020.
The first time I went to Savannah, I made the mistake of going with a friend who didn’t want to pay for anything! Now, I am a self-proclaimed penny pincher. I have been known to buy “damaged” goods at the grocery store in bulk. I will walk an hour to avoid a $20 taxi or Uber ride. I eat two large meals instead of three regular-sized meals. But when I travel, I’m willing to pay for experiences and things that I can’t do anywhere else!
So this time around, I did as much as I possibly could! Some things were FREE, but other things were worth the small charge to take the tour. I love supporting historic preservation in the cities I visit because I feel so strongly that it’s important to know our history. It’s made us all who we are, and there is so much we can learn from those who came before us. Savannaians have put so much effort and care into preserving their city and its architecture. So when in Savannah, plan to explore as much of the history as you can!
Location: 429 Bull Street
Admission: $13.38 (credit cards accepted)
Time: 40 minutes
- While this is called the Mercer House, no Mercer ever lived here—not even Johnny Mercer! The man who started its construction in 1860 was General Hugh W. Mercer.
- The house was not completed until 1868, by then under new ownership.
- The Shriners used the house as their temple in the 1920s.
- Jim Williams, of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame, saved the home from demolition and completely restored the house, by hand in 1969. (The house was also used in filming the movie.)
- Mr. Williams actually bought and restored dozens of historic buildings in and around Savannah during his lifetime.
- The restoration, artwork, and Mr. Williams’s collection of artifacts are all fascinating and impressive. Do not miss an opportunity to ask your guide questions! My favorites were the candlesticks given by Martha Washington to her great-granddaughter Mary Custis and her new husband Robert E. Lee, the hand-mixed paint on the walls (I know, dorky, but I loved it!), and the room of oddities. You just have to see it to believe it!
Note: The house is still occupied by a relative of Jim Williams, so only the first floor is available for the tour.
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Savannah
Location: 325 Bull Street
Time: 15-20 minutes
- This whole church was built in just one year, 1853.
- It’s one of only three churches still standing from before the Civil War.
- The stained glass windows, each with a story.
- The organ in the back and its angels.
- Our tour guide played the organ for us!
Location: 230 Barnard Street
Admission: $12.84 (credit cards accepted)
Time: 45 minutes
- The house was built in 1848, and it is indeed a grand antebellum home; just check out those columns!
- A woman by the name of Alida Harper bought this and eight other houses in Savannah to restore them in the 1930s and ’40s.
- She used these as investment properties and took in boarders. One of whom, Hunter Folwkes, she married! He only lived 18 months after their wedding, but they lived in this house, and she continued to live here until she died in 1985.
- The interior was featured in the movie The Conspirator as Mary Surratt’s boarding house!
- It is currently owned by the Society of the Cincinnati, which is a hereditary historical society for descendants of officers from the American Revolution.
Location: 324 E. State Street
Admission: $9.00 (credit cards accepted)
Time: 40-45 minutes (maybe less for a typical tour; I asked a lot of questions!)
- My tour guide, Linda, was the best! We had the most wonderful time chatting about history, since I was the only one on the tour at the time.
- It’s the Federalist style home of Isaiah and Sarah Davenport, completed in 1821.
- Isaiah Davenport was a builder, and his home was also his office; as such, his home also served as a portfolio of his work. The architectural details, like the moulding and free-standing staircase visible from the entry, were created to impress, and they still do today!
- One of the most fascinating pieces on display, to me anyway, was Isaiah’s sewing kit. He often traveled for work, and needed to do his own mending on the road! I didn’t know men felt any need to learn how to sew in the 19th century!
Location: 29 Abercorn Street
Admission: FREE, but a meal here is strongly encouraged!
Time: 15-20 minutes, plus meal time
- This is the only Colonial-era home, built in 1771, to survive the 1779 Savannah fire.
- It was originally built for the Habersham family, and while the land was given to Mr. Habersham by the English Crown, he used his home for secret meetings to help the Colonies gain their independence!
- Why is it pink? The bricks for the house were made of that famous red Georgia clay, and the red bled through the white plaster over them, and it came out pink!
- In 1811 the building became the Planter’s Bank, which was the first bank in the state of Georgia. You can dine inside the vaults today!
- It is currently a restaurant, and I can definitely vouch in favor of their Low Country cuisine!
- It may also be haunted by Mrs. Habersham; she might lock women in the downstairs restroom!
Pro tip: Make your reservation at least a month early if you want to eat inside the vaults downstairs!
Read on: What to Eat in Savannah
Location: 124 Abercorn Street
Admission: $21.40 (credit cards accepted; price includes admission to the Telfair Academy and the Jepsen Center)
Time: 1 hour
- This house was the first in the country to have flush toilets and running water, dating from 1819!
- There is a bridge inside the house and connects the front and back of the second floor. I’ve never seen anything like that inside a house!
- They have one of the most beautiful gardens in Savannah right out back.
- The Marquis de Lafayette stayed here on his 1824 tour of the United States to celebrate 50 years of American independence!
- They have done impressive and extensive research on the slaves who lived and worked here, and it shows in every aspect of the tour.
- This is the best place in town to see authentic “haint paint” that is 200 years old! It’s made with indigo for the color, and it was meant to keep “haints” away. “Haint” is the Gullah word for “haunt.”
Location: 121 Barnard Street
Admission: $21.40 (credit cards accepted; price includes admission to the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters and the Jepsen Center)
Time: 30 minutes, self-guided
- First and foremost, the famous “Bird Girl” from the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is here!
- This mansion was built, ironically enough, on the site of a former Royal Governor’s House!
- Exhibits include sculptures, paintings, antique furnishings, period rooms, and even a period in-house kitchen.
- Don’t skip the Mansion to Museum ongoing exhibition all about how this former home became the grand museum you see today.
Location: 209 W. Julian Street
Admission: $14.98 (credit cards accepted)
Time: 45-60 minutes
- The costumed interpreters in the museum are dapper, adorable, and hilarious! They really do know a lot about the history of prohibition in America, and I learned a lot from them!
- Carry A. Nation. Yes, that was her real name, and yes, she really did go around hatcheting illegal drinking establishments!
- Billy Sunday: pro baseball player, preacher, Prohibition enthusiast.
- I really enjoyed seeing all the artifacts. You can see everything from unique flasks to a woolen lady’s bathing suit, from a Tommy gun to an authentic $1000 bill possibly used as part of a pay off involving the Mob!
- There is a speakeasy inside—password required!
- Fun facts: Prohibition passed before women gained the right to vote later that same year; and Prohibition put a lot of people out of work!
Pro tip: This is one of the best museums I’ve visited in my travels, due to its unique nature, controversial topic, and enthusiastic employees! I spent about an hour here and could have spent much more time! Don’t skip it!
Location: 14 W. Macon Street
Admission: $10 (cash only)
Time: 1 hour
- You can sit on the furniture in the parlor! Because this is the Parish House for St. John’s Episcopal Church next door, people still use this house on a weekly basis. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when my tour guide said I could sit on the furniture in some of the rooms! Have you ever been to any historic homes where you could sit on the furniture? It’s rare!
- This house is possibly better-known as Sherman’s Headquarters during the Civil War.
- The house was built as a honeymoon gift to Charles Green’s wife Lucy.
- It’s quite different from the rest of the homes in Savannah: it’s in the Gothic style!
- There are loads of interesting gadgets and hacks about this house. Ask your tour guide about the counter-weighted pocket doors, the turns in the stairwell, and the gas jets that actually helped cool the house!
Read on: 10 Things to Do in Savannah
Note: I only had two days to see and do as much as possible, so this is not an exhaustive list! When I go back to Savannah in the future, I plan to add to this post. So stay tuned!
Another Note: Hours vary quite a bit by season, and are subject to change at any time. I have not included hours for each property, but I have included a direct link to each property so you can check the hours for the dates you plan to be in town!
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