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4 Outstanding Historic Houses To Explore In Savannah

Last updated on February 29th, 2024 at 10:59 am

When I think of Savannah, I picture antebellum houses, beautiful live oaks, trailing Spanish Moss (which isn’t actually Spanish or a moss!) and the historic city squares dating back to the time Savannah was founded and laid out in 1733.

Savannah has benefitted from a strong historic preservation movement led by the Historic Savannah Foundation. As such, the city has one of the best historic districts in the USA. I knew I definitely wanted to explore some of the historic properties during my time in Savannah but with such riches, it’s hard to know where to start when visiting this beautiful city.

Clocking up my 10,000 steps a day, I did manage to see quite a bit. Here are my 4 outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah Georgia.

The Mercer Williams House Museum

If you have read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” then you will be familiar with the Mercer-Williams House. If you haven’t, let me get you up to speed.

The house was built for General Hugh Mercer, grandfather of songwriter Johnny Mercer. Construction began in 1860 but was interrupted by the Civil War. The house was eventually finished in 1868, however it was sold by General Mercer before then so, notwithstanding its name, no Mercer ever lived in the house.

The house was bought by Jim Williams in 1968 after it had been vacant for a decade. Williams, seen as one of Savannah’s earliest restorationists, restored the house (and many others it has to be said).

In 1981, it was the scene of the shooting, by Jim Williams, of Danny Hansford. The house gained notoriety and popularity following the publication of the novel and the release of a movie.

Image of the Mercer-Williams House, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

Today, the house contains an eclectic assortment of art and furniture collected by Jim Williams. Although access is only permitted to the ground floor, there is still much to see.

Across from the house and garden is the carriage house where Jim Williams ran his antiques business. Today, the carriage house contains the Mercer House Carriage Shop where you can purchase various items including tour tickets, linens and books.

Visiting Information and Tips

Mercer-Williams House is certainly one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah. Here are my tips for visiting:

  1. Tickets and entry are located behind the house at the Mercer House Carriage Shop at 430 Whitaker Street.
  2. Ticket prices start at $13.50 (concessions available) and guided tours are on a first come, first served basis. Plan your day accordingly.
  3. There is no self-guided tour option.
  4. Tours take 35 minutes and run every 20-40 minutes.
  5. The house is open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm (first tour at 10.30am and last tour at 4.10pm) and Sunday 11.30am -5pm (first tour at 12 noon and last tour at 4pm).
  6. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted once inside but do take photos of the exterior from the road
  7. Don’t forget to take a break in nearby Monterey Square.

Always check the official site for up to date visitor information.

The Mercer-Williams House is located at 429 Bull Street, Monterey Square.

The Owens Thomas House & Slave Quarters

Built in 1819, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters was purchased by lawyer George Welshman Owens in 1830. Owens lived in the house with his family and up to 14 enslaved people. In 1951 the house was bequeathed as a house museum by George’s last descendant. 

Image of the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters in Savannah, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore.

The property is regarded as one of the best examples of English Regency architecture in the USA and contains the only urban slave quarters open to the public in Savannah. Between the carriage house housing the slave quarters and the main house is a lovely Parterre Garden which would have started life as a work yard. 

Image of the garden at the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

On display in the main house are both the public and private spaces of the family who lived here and the work spaces in the basement where the enslaved toiled.

There is also a poignant memorial in the slave quarters to those who had lived and worked at the house in the form of a wall showing their names.

Poignant image of the memorial wall with the names of enslaved people within the Owens-Thomas House, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

Visiting Information & Tips

Definitely one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, here are my tips for visiting:

  1. Tickets are on a first come first served basis. Ticket price ($25 – concessions available) includes entrance to 2 further museums, the Jepson Center and Telfair Academy. Tickets are valid for 1 week from date of purchase
  2. Guided tours are available between 10am to 3pm. Self guided audio tours are available between 3.30pm to 4.15pm. Plan your day accordingly.
  3. For audio tours, ensure your phone is charged and can read QR codes. Take earphones with you.
  4. Allow 45-60 minutes for a tour

Always check the official site for up to date visitor information.

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is located at 124 Abercorn Street on the north east corner of Oglethorpe Square.

The Sorrel Weed House Museum

Built for wealthy shipping merchant Francis Sorrel, the Sorrel-Weed House Museum is notable not just for being one of the largest houses in Savannah but for its architectural style (Greek Revival and Regency) too. In addition, it is reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah!

Image of the Sorrel-Weed House, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

The house is the scene of two infamous suicides. The first was that of Francis Sorrel’s second wife Matilda (incidentally, the sister of his first wife!). Matilda jumped to her death on discovering that her husband was having an affair with Molly, one of his slaves. The second was that of Molly herself who was found hanged in an apparent suicide. It is said that the ghosts of both women haunt the house today!

The house is located on Madison Square, the scene of an American Revolutionary War battle known as the Siege of Savannah. The remains of those who died were not exhumed before Madison Square was developed. As a result, many people report the presence of a dark energy in the house and in Madison Square itself.

The house also has a connection to the Civil War – it was the boyhood home of Confederate General Moxley Sorrel and was visited by General Robert E. Lee.

Visitors can select whether to join a history and architecture tour, a ghost tour or, if you’re really brave, an after hours paranormal investigation. Suffice to say I settled on a history and architecture tour!

Tours of the house include both the lower levels of the house where enslaved people worked and the upper floors that formed the public and private areas for the family.

Visiting Information & Tips

Another of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, here are my tips for visiting:

  1. A ticket for the history and architecture tour cost $13 (under 7s are free). Tours last about 1 hour.
  2. Prices are higher and tour times longer for the ghost Tour ($30) and paranormal activity tours (starting at $60).
  3. If the thought of a ghost tour freaks you out, then consider joining an evening walking tour taking you past the house – I joined this one operated by Genteel & Bard.

Always check the official site for up to date visitor information.

The Sorrel-Weed House Museum is located at 6 W Harris Street, Madison Square.

Image of the signage detailing the Sorrel-Weed House, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

The Olde Pink House

This house is a little different. Yes, it is one of the historic homes in Savannah and a National Historic Landmark but….it’s also a restaurant!

Dating from 1771, the house was originally known as Habersham House and was, apparently, the site for various secret meetings which helped secure the independence of the 13 American colonies from England. In 1811 it became Planters Bank, the first bank in Georgia.

The house changed hands many times following the Civil War and in the mid 20th century it was bought by Jim Williams (of Mercer-Williams house fame!) and restored. A further restoration project took place in 1970 during which time twin fireplaces were discovered in the basement – they were the original cooking kitchen in the 18th century.

Visiting Information & Tips

One of the best houses in Savannah, here are my tips for visiting:

  1. The house contains both a restaurant and a bar. If you want to dine in the restaurant (and you should, the food is lovely!) then book online in advance to avoid disappointment.
  2. Lunch is served Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 2.30pm. Dinner is served Sunday to Thursday 5pm – 10.30pm and Friday & Saturday 5pm – 11pm.
  3. The staff invited me to have a look around after I had finished lunch – it’s a large property with much to see so don’t be shy about asking!

Check the official site for further information, including current menus.

The Old Pink House is located at 23 Abercorn Street, Reynolds Square.

Image from inside the Olde Pink House, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia and home to one of Savannah's best restaurants!

Final Thoughts

Whether you are interested in architecture, urban slavery or haunted happenings, you are bound to find an historic house museum in Savannah that ticks the box. These are just 4 of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, but in my opinion, these are ones you should definitely add to your itinerary!

Depending on how much time you have in Savannah, you may also want to visit the following historic house museums:

  • Harper Fowlkes House – purchased by art dealer and preservationist Alida Harper Fowlkes and filled with antiques
  • Andrew Low House – childhood home of William Mackay Low husband to Juliette Gordon-Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Davenport House Museum – one of Savannah’s first house museums and created in order to save it from being demolished and turned into a car park!
  • Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Museum – childhood home of American novelist Mary Flannery O’Connor
  • Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace Museum – birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Built in a Federal style.
  • Green Meldrim House – an interesting history including as Union Army General Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War and from where he wrote a letter gifting Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas present! Regarded as one of the finest examples of gothic revival architecture in the south.

In planning your trip to Savannah, do read my posts 11 of the Best Things to do in Savannah and Explore Bonaventure Cemetery for more advice, tips and inspiration.

Image of the signage outside the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, one of the outstanding historic houses to explore in Savannah, Georgia

Disclaimer: Information was correct at the time of writing but do check before visiting.

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