Great Estates: Davenport House in Savannah, Georgia
February 11, 2010 | Completed around 1820, Davenport House, located in the historic port city of Savannah, evinces the post-Revolutionary American taste for contemporary European design. Isaiah Davenport, a master carpenter by trade, looked to the classicizing mode that had become prevalent in residential architecture throughout England and Europe when he constructed Davenport House for his growing family. Today, visitors can experience the excitement of the period by visiting this southern treasure, which is one of many homes to be explored in Savannah's downtown historic district.
After being saved from the wrecking ball in 1955, Davenport House's sophisticated exterior cast iron work and interior charms—including imported marble fireplace mantels and elaborate ornamental plasterwork—were all restored to their past glory. The restoration was the inaugural undertaking of the Historic Savannah Foundation, and the project precipitated a slew of preservation and restoration efforts throughout the city. Thanks to the hard work of the foundation's seven founding mothers—who raised $22,500 for Davenport House in 1954, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places—over three hundred buildings were saved.
Among the more than five hundred objects appropriate to the period in the Davenport collection can be found Empire and Federal style furniture, authentic reproduction wall and window treatments, antique ceramics, metalwork, and lighting. In one instance, a recently acquired engraving by Tanner, Vallance, Kearny & Co., and Wm. Allen of the British troops surrendering their arms to Washington after the defeat at Yorktown, Virginia, seems an exact match to a print listed on an 1829 invoice of Davenport's property.
Throughout the month of February on Friday and Saturday evenings, Davenport House hosts "Potable Gold: Savannah's Madeira Tradition," a series of tastings that lets participants sample two types of Madeira while learning about the wine's unique role in shaping the city's early economic and social climate. Also, on Valentine's Day (this Sunday from 5 to 7 pm), for a nominal fee, couples can get married in the museum's courtyard garden. Reservations are strongly suggested, though a judge will be on hand to officiate the ceremonies, which are being offered every ten minutes.
Davenport House is located at 324 East State Street on Columbia Square in Savannah's downtown historic district. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10am-4pm, and Sunday, 1-4pm, except on major holidays. Thirty-minute tours begin every half hour starting at 10am. Admission: $8 adults, $5 children over 6, and $7.20 seniors, AAA cardholders, active military, and members of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information, call (912) 236-8097, or visit www.davenporthousemuseum.org.