Savannah: Low Country Sophistication


April 20-23, 2017

Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah became the British colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital. Savannah largely retains the original town plan of park-like squares prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe, a British general, Member of Parliament, philanthropist, and social reformer. Despite a disastrous fire in 1820, Savannah retains many important early houses in addition to those built during the recovery. The Low Country charm of this great historic city will welcome us with open arms!


ITINERARY  (subject to amendment)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

  • Welcoming Remarks and Opening Lecture,
    Cranmer Hall, St. John’s Episcopal Church
    Evidence and Questions: An Overview of Early Georgia Decorative Arts
    Dale Couch, Curator of Decorative Arts, Henry D. Green Center, Athens, GA
  • Opening Reception at the Green-Meldrim House, Savannah’s finest example of Gothic Revival architecture with refined original adornments in situ. Constructed as a residence for Charles Green, the home was designed by New York architect John S. Norris, who also planned the Custom House and the Andrew Low House, which we will visit on Saturday.

Friday, April 21

  • A City Built on Public Spaces: Savannah’s Urban Plan and Architectural Traditions
    Robin B. Williams, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Architectural History, Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Remember the Ladies: The Preservation Movement in Savannah 
    Jamie Credle, Director, Isaiah Davenport House Museum, Historic Savannah Foundation
  • Coffee Break
  • The Berrien House: The story of a Trellis, a Sprig, and a President
    David B. Kelley, Historic Preservation Consultant, Savannah; and Maryellen M. Higginbotham, Georgia State University
  • Following our morning lectures, we will travel to the historic district for lunch at the Olde Pink House, so named for the beautiful shade of “pink” stucco that covers its old brick. This Georgian mansion was built in 1771 for James Habersham Jr., one of Savannah’s most important early cotton factors and founding-family members.
  • Built in 1820 by Isaiah Davenport, a Rhode Island-born carpenter, for his family, the elegant Davenport House served as a tour de force of his aesthetic sense and technical skill. In 1955, the house was saved from destruction as the first effort of the local historic preservation movement. The collection suggests the furnishings of upwardly mobile Savannahians.
  • In danger of demolition as late as 2009, the Berrien House was recently restored to its former grandeur by a direct descendant of the original owner, Revolutionary War hero John Berrien. The Federal-style structure was also the home of his son, John Macpherson Berrien, a prominent antebellum attorney and politician. The house was a grand residence where the Berriens hosted George Washington, John Calhoun, and Henry Clay.
  • The 1819 Owens-Thomas House was designed by British architect William Jay. The sophisticated architectural detailing made it one of the most fashionable buildings in Savannah. Today, it is a museum boasting a collection primarily of Owens family furnishings and possessions, along with late-18th- and early-19th-century American and European objects and artwork.
  • Participants will also enjoy a walking tour of Savannah’s historic district with noted architectural historian Jonathan Stalcup.
  • Reception in the garden of the Owens-Thomas House
  • Fundraiser for the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program at the home of Helen Downing
    Details below.

Saturday, April 22

  • The Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lecture
    Coming Home: Selections from the Charles Green Collection
    Tania Sammons, Curator, Green Collection, Green-Meldrim House
  • Political and Religious Considerations of William Verelst’s The Common Council of Georgia Receiving the Indian Chiefs
    Kathleen Staples, Independent Scholar, Greenville, SC
  • Coffee Break
  • Worldly Goods for a Chosen People: The Material Culture of Savannah’s Early Jewish Community
    Daniel Ackermann, Curator of Collections, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, NC
  • We enjoy lunch at the Chatham Club, which offers an exquisite panoramic view of the Savannah River and downtown Historic District from the 14th floor of the DeSoto Hilton.
  • The design for the Italianate Andrew Low House was executed by New York architect John Norris in 1848 and incorporated the latest features in luxury and technology. In 1886, Juliette Gordon, of Girl Scouts fame, married Andrew’s son William and maintained a residence there until her death in 1927. The house features a collection of Low family pieces.
  • Although primarily known as one of the settings of the 1994 book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the Mercer House was originally built for Civil War General Hugh W. Mercer. Local preservationist and antiques dealer Jim Williams purchased the dwelling in 1969, and his private collection of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, Chinese Export porcelain, portraits, and drawings remains on view.
  • We visit the home and gallery of Savannah artist Morgan Kuhn, built in 1882 for the John Williams family and lovingly restored by Kuhn to preserve the original plaster, mantels, woodwork, and hardware, for which she received the 2007 Historic Savannah Foundation Preservation Award.

Sunday, April 23

  • Kiln Carnage: Earthenware Pottery Production at Colonial Purysburg, South Carolina
    Rita Elliott, Education Coordinator and Research Associate, and Daniel T. Elliott, President and Research Associate, LAMAR Institute
  • Georgia’s Bayeux Tapestry: A Masterpiece of Embroidered Histories
    Kathleen Staples, Independent Scholar, Greenville, SC
  • Coffee Service
  • The John H.A. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture
    Following the Ten Commandments: The Tablet Samplers of Mary Smallwood and Sarah Jones
    Jenny Garwood, Curatorial Associate, The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, NC
  • So what? Making Decorative Arts Relevant at Savannah Historic Sites
    Shannon Browning-Mills, Curator of History and Decorative Arts, Telfair Museum


Thursday Optional Tour: Private Collections in Chatham County

Thursday, April 20

9:00am – 5:00pm

Nestled on the private island Turner’s Rock in the Wilmington River, Mimi Cay’s Camellia Cottage blends English country house styling with a Low Country dwelling. Similarly, the grounds juxtapose a formal parterre garden on one side with a sweeping vista of the river on the other. Inside, Mrs. Cay has beautifully arranged natural history treasures among American and European fine and decorative arts.

Charlie Ellis’s Pogo Point at Turner’s Rock is reached through the woods and down the road from Mimi Cay. Filled with found objects both natural and manmade, Mr. Ellis, an artist and Savannah native, has turned his cottage into an ever-evolving work of folk art with many stories to tell, and Mr. Ellis shares them with passion and humor.

Built on the site of Bonaventure Plantation, birthplace of Commodore Josiah Tatnall, Bonaventure Cemetery opened in 1868. Like many 19th-century cemeteries, the 160-acre landscape was cultivated into a long-admired plush urban park that serves as the final resting place for many local luminaries.

Diana and Craig Barrow’s 1820s house and library at Wormsloe Plantation is located on the Isle of Hope. The plantation was first developed in 1736 and has remained in family hands ever since. Wormsloe is considered one of the most significant historical sites in the entire Low Country.

Remaining on the Isle of Hope, we will visit the landmarked Victorian cottage of Will Theus Quaile, a descendant of the talented 18th-century Low Country portraitist Jeremiah Theus and the daughter of the pioneering Savannah decorative arts historian and collector Will Theus.

Includes lunch and refreshments. Registration is limited.

Sunday Optional Tour: Private Collections in Savannah

Sunday, April 23

11:30am – 7:00pm

Our first stop is Delta Plantation, located on the Savannah River in South Carolina. Developed by Landon Cheves in 1829 as a rice plantation, the Cheves house was burned by Union troops in 1865. Mr. and Mrs. James Denham of Wilmington, DE, built a Colonial Revival home on the estate in 1926-27, which is modeled on Brandon Plantation on the James River in Virginia.

Originally built for Thomas Levy in the late 19th century, Virginia and John Duncan’s Monterey Square townhouse features wonderful original features and restored painted surfaces. The couple’s collection focuses on objects from Savannah and the Low Country. The Duncan’s basement shop features a vast collection of antique prints, maps, photographs, and books.

German immigrant Nicholas Cruger was the first owner of Reed and Meredith Dulany’s house on West Taylor Street. Constructed in 1852, the house was expanded in 1896 by Captain O’Connor who added Aesthetic movement details. Mr. and Mrs Dulany recently restored the house blending contemporary design with preservationist principles.

Fran and Hue Thomas’ house on East Gordon Street is a mid-19th-century row dwelling that overlooks Monterey Square. Our hosts carefully preserved marbleized painted finishes on interior walls. The couple has filled their charming home with 19th- and 20th-century fine and decorative arts.

Our day concludes at Hugh Golson’s house on West Duffy Street. A jewel in the crown of Savannah’s Victorian District, the home combines Queen Anne and Eastlake features and was built in 1890 as speculative infill in a growing neighborhood. Mr. Goldson’s collection focuses on the 1870s and 80s, featuring furniture made by Herter Brothers as well as Staffordshire and cut glass.

Includes lunch and a reception. Registration is limited.


Fundraiser for the Emerging Scholars Program at the Home of Helen Downing

Friday, April 21


Helen Downing collects American silver with an emphasis on pieces made in the Southeast. The Alabama native began collecting silver in New Orleans after discovering a box of tarnished flatware at a second-hand store. As she brought those blackened pieces of silver back to life, she developed a passion. Mrs. Downing and her late husband, Dr. Edward “Ned” Downing, extended their love of old things to Savannah, where the couple restored a mid-19th-century Italianate townhouse on Chippewa Square, now considered one of the finest homes in Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District.

Please join us for a wonderful evening of connoisseurship and conviviality as we toast our hostess’ hospitality and lend support to the Trust’s efforts to encourage the next generation of curators and academics through a growing series of grants, scholarships, and internships. In 2017, more than three dozen graduate students and young professionals will benefit from the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program.

Registration is limited.

  • The DeSoto Hilton Hotel
    Special Room Rates: $214
    The Trust has reserved a block of rooms for April 19-24. These rooms are available on a first-come first-served basis until March 19. Please make your reservations as soon as possible to ensure availability by calling 877-280-0751 and referencing the Decorative Arts Trust.
  • The hotel is a 20-minute ride from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV). If driving, valet parking is available for $25 per day.
Terms and Conditions

By registering for this symposium, I/we do hereby release The Decorative Arts Trust from any and all liability in connection with the trip, Savannah: Low Country Sophistication, for any loss, delay, injury, or damage to or in respect to any person or property however the cause for arising. It is understood that The Decorative Arts Trust has acted as agent for me/us in providing means of transportation or other services and The Decorative Arts Trust is not to be held responsible for any act, omission, or event during the time I am/we are participating in this program, and this evidences my/our understanding that The Decorative Arts Trust has not now, nor will have in the future, any liability to me/us due to any consequences arising out of said program or in connection with said program.

Cancellation and Refund:
All cancellations received prior to January 6 are subject to a full refund less a $50 administrative fee per person. Participants cancelling between January 6 and February 20 will receive a 50% refund. Refunds will not be made after February 20.


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