Davenport House Museum

Savannah, Georgia | C.1820

Photo Credit: Nazly Kasim

Built when the United States was a young country, The Isaiah Davenport House Museum provides a glimpse into a very different time. The house is one of the oldest brick structures in Savannah, but it’s complete story was untold until recently.

Master builder Isaiah Davenport built the Federal-style dwelling in 1820 to advertise his skills and house his growing family and the enslaved people who worked in his home and in his business. The two-and-a-half story house sits directly on the street and totals 6,800 square feet (631.7 m sq). The first floor contained public spaces, the second floor had bedrooms, and the basement level held the kitchen, work spaces, and sleeping quarters for the enslaved peoples.

Yellow fever ravaged Savannah in the early 19th century, and Isaiah died of it in 1827. Afterwards, his wife, Sarah, converted the home into a boarding house.  She lived there until 1840, then selling it to the Baynard family who owned it for the next 109 years.

By the mid 20th century, the house had become a tenement and fallen into disrepair. It was nearly demolished, but a group of local women joined forces to purchase it in 1955. This was the first act of what became the Historic Savannah Foundation, which has since saved hundreds of buildings. 

Though it has been a museum for over 50 years, it is only recently that a more comprehensive history of the house has become public. Building on slivers of information discovered in the 1990s, graduate student Kelly Westfield conducted a massive research project, published in 2017, revealing the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked there. 

Her research prompted the museum to overhaul their interpretive signage and tour guide training program. Today, the museum offers a more complete picture of life in early 19th century America, telling the story of all the inhabitants of the Davenport house.

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