Named for the mythical patroness of America, Columbia Square features at its center not an expected portrait of that female warrior figure, but the original fountain from Noble Jones’s Wormsloe Plantation, placed there in 1970.
Columbia Square is primarily known as the home of the Isaiah Davenport House Museum (324 E. State St., 912/236-8097, www.davenporthousemuseum.org, Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–4 p.m., $8 adults, $5 children). The Davenport House museum is a delightful stop in and of itself because of its elegant simplicity, sweeping double staircase, and near-perfect representation of the Federalist style. But the Davenport House occupies an exalted place in Savannah history as well, because it was the fight to save it that began the preservation movement in Savannah.
In 1955 the Davenport House, then a tenement, was to be demolished for a parking lot. But Emma Adler and six other feisty Savannah women, angered by the recent destruction of Ellis Square, refused to go down quietly. Together they formed the Historic Savannah Foundation in order to raise the $22,500 needed to purchase the Davenport House.
By 1963, the Davenport House—built in 1820 for his own family by master builder Isaiah Davenport—was open to the public as a museum. Another major restoration from 2000 to 2003 brought the home back to its original early 1800s state as you enjoy it today.
Across the corner from the Davenport House is the Classical Revival masterpiece Kehoe House (123 Habersham St.), designed for local ironworks owner William Kehoe in 1892 by DeWitt Bruyn. Sadly, the proof of Kehoe’s self-described “weakness for cupolas” is no longer extant, the cupola having rotted away.
Once a funeral home and then an inn owned briefly for a time by football legend Joe Namath, the Kehoe House is now one of Savannah’s premier bed-and-breakfasts. It’s unique not only in its exuberantly Victorian architecture, but in its twin fireplaces and ubiquitous rococo ironwork, courtesy of the irrepressible Kehoe himself.
Warren and Washington Squares
Warren Square and its neighbor Washington Square formed the first extension of Oglethorpe’s original four, and still boast some of the oldest houses in the historic district. Both squares are lovely little garden spots, ideal for a picnic in the shade. Two houses near Washington Square were restored by the late Jim Williams of Midnight fame: The Hampton Lillibridge House (507 E. Saint Julian St.), which once hosted an Episcopal exorcism, and the Charles Oddingsells House (510 E. Saint Julian St.). Now a hotel, the Mulberry Inn on Washington Square was once a cotton warehouse and subsequently one of the nation’s first Coca-Cola bottling plants.
Named for Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, but bearing no monument to him whatsoever, Greene Square is of particular importance to local African American history.
At the corner of Houston (pronounced “House-ton”) and East State Streets is the 1810 Cunningham House, built for Henry Cunningham, former slave and founding pastor of the Second African Baptist Church (124 Houston St., 912/233-6163) on the west side of the square, in which General Sherman made his famous promise of “40 acres and a mule.”
In 1818, the residence at 542 East State St. was constructed for free blacks Charlotte and William Wall.
The property at 513 East York St. was built for the estate of Catherine DeVeaux, part of a prominent African American family.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition