The Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia is considered by architectural historians to be one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in America. Inspired by classical antiquity, this style of architecture takes its name from England’s King George IV, who ruled as Prince Regent from 1811 to 1820.
The house was designed by the young English architect William Jay (1792-1837), one of the first professionally-trained architects practicing in the United States. The elegant residence was built from 1816-1819 for cotton merchant and banker Richard Richardson and his wife Francis Bolton. Mr. Richardson’s brother-in-law was married to Ann Jay, the architect’s sister.
Three years after the house’s completion, Richardson suffered financial losses and sold his house, which later came under possession of the Bank of the United States. For eight years, Mrs. Mary Maxwell ran an elegant lodging house in the structure. Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette was a guest of the city in 1825 and stayed at the home. On March 19, he is believed to have addressed a throng of enthusiastic Savannahians from the unusual cast-iron veranda on the south facade.
In 1830, planter, congressman, lawyer, and mayor of Savannah, George Welshman Owens, purchased the property for $10,000. It remained in the Owens family until 1951 when Miss Margaret Thomas, George Owens’ granddaughter, bequeathed it to the Telfair Museum of Art.
A National Historic Landmark, the stately former residence is now a historic house museum. It boasts a decorative arts collection comprised primarily of Owens family furnishings, along with American and European objects dating from 1750-1830. The site also includes a beautiful English-inspired parterre garden and an original carriage house—which contains one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South.
[From the website]
I had the fortune to visit the House last fall – I am just getting to posting these pictures! Unfortunately, no pictures are permitted inside the house, so I only have several exterior and garden shots. The Museum publishes an illustrated guidebook which does contain interior views. If you want to get an idea of what Regency life in America was like during Austen’s lifetime, I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.
- Owens-Thomas House website
- Historic American Building Survey at the Library of Congress – includes architectural drawings and photographs
- Owens-Thomas House on Wikipedia
When I lived in Athens, Georgia I used to visit Savanna frequently. If only I had the appreciation then that I do now of Georgian architecture, I would have walked through the historic district with more awareness. What a lovely gem of a house.
Yes Vic, I too think of all the things I breezed by without proper appreciation! This is a lovely house and the restoration work is a tribute to it – all of Savannah with the various stately squares is reminisent of London’s West End, isn’t it?
Thanks for stopping by…
I have the distinct pleasure to work in another of William Jay’s creations, the William Scarbrough House (1819) on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in Savannah. While not restored to the condition of a house museum, the architectural details are most comparable. If you are ever in Savannah again, I do hope you stop by.
Hello Mr. Hughes. I actually live part-time in Bluffton and have been to the Scarborough House a few times to visit the Ships of the Sea Museum housed there – it is a beautiful home and with such history – there is a new book on William Jay and his work in Savannah and I keep meaning to get it – thank you for the reminder! I shall stop in again and say hello to you. Here’s the link to the house for anyone else reading this: https://www.shipsofthesea.org/
Thank you for visiting the blog!
So glad you have had the opportunity to visit us! Its a wonderful place to “work”! I have been a reenactor for many years, and Always swore I would never do this period, but I was asked to do an Impression of Moses Rogers, Master of the Steam Ship SAVANNAH, and now its one of my favorite periods to do. Great Blog, keep up the good work!