The Davenport House in historic Savannah, Georgia is the restored 1820s home of Isaiah Davenport. The home marks the beginning of Savannah’s historic preservation movement as the first home to be restored by the Historic Savannah Foundation. The historically accurate home serves as a museum and is filled with over 500 objects. The collection in the home is based on inventories taken by tax collectors in 1820, when the home was built, and again in 1827, when Mr. Davenport died. All items in the home are representative of this 7-year period.
The collection includes furniture, light fixtures, kitchen items, ceramics, textiles, and books. The home’s backyard was the site of two archeological digs, in 1974 and 2014, which unearthed the original foundations of the home’s carriage house and found a previously unknown privy. Items found on the digs may be viewed at the museum and include animal bones, ceramics, glass, and architectural elements.
History: Isaiah Davenport was a master builder from New England who moved to Savannah to grow his construction business. During his lifetime, he was a member of the Savannah Mechanic’s Association, a city alderman, and a city constable and served on several city council committees. His work in the Savannah area included the construction of Tybee Island’s Martello Tower, built to protect Savannah’s riverway from attack. Davenport and his brother were employed by the city to enclose several prominent town squares. He built the federal-style Davenport House on Columbia Square in 1820 to showcase his talents as a builder, but also as a home for his growing family and his slaves. Mr. Davenport died in 1827 at the early age of 43 from yellow fever. After his death, his wife converted the home to a boarding house, and it operated as such until 1840, when the home was sold to the Baynard family, who owned the property for the next 109 years.
In the 1930s the home was close to condemnation and had been neglected for years. Even so, New Deal surveyors recognized the house for its historical significance and spared it from demolition. In 1955, the Historic Savannah Foundation was formed by a group of citizens, who joined forces to purchase and restore the home. The foundation operated out of the home and in 1963, the restored first floor was opened to the public as a museum. Years later, the second and third floors were also restored and opened for public viewing. In the 1990s, the foundation made a large effort to restore the home to museum standards. This included updates to period wallpaper as well as the import of furniture that reflected what would have been in the home in 1827, the year of Mr. Davenport’s death. The foundation has since gone on to restore several other historic homes in Savannah and its Revolving Loan Fund has an international reputation. The fund buys and sells historic properties and has saved over 350 buildings to date. The Davenport House Museum won the Preserve America Presidential Award in 2005 and the Georgia Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 2010 for its excellence in preservation. The foundation considers itself at the forefront of what is now a billion-dollar tourist industry in Savannah, Georgia.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Tours of the museum are offered daily, multiple times per day. The museum provides supplemental curriculum guides for schools, scout groups, and others, and educational materials for adults are also available to complement the docent-led tours. Customized tours are available for groups of 10-40 and may include refreshments. Custom tours are centered around a historical subject and past tours have included Yellow Fever in Savannah, Alcohol Consumption in the early 19th Century, and Urban Slavery in Savannah as seen in a 19th Century Mechanic’s Household. The museum is host to several events, many of which serve to raise funds for the Historic Savannah Foundation. Past events have included Jazz in the Garden and the Davenport Soiree.
What’s Nearby: The Kennedy Pharmacy sits at the rear of the Davenport House property. This restored 1890s commercial building was donated to the Historic Savannah Foundation in 1999. The 900-square-foot open space on the first floor may be rented for meetings and events. The Davenport House takes part in the Pioneers in Preservation pass, which offers admission to the Davenport House, the Andrew Low House, and the Ships of the Sea Museum for one price.
324 E. State Street Savannah, GA 31401, Phone: 912-236-8097