Driven women saved Davenport House. By the 1950s it had become a derelict in a bad part of town, so The Magnificent Seven founded Historic Savannah Foundation, rescued Davenport House from demolition, and began a historic preservation movement that has safeguarded more than 350 buildings and made this coastal Georgia city a must-see destination.
Davenport House is a perfect realization of Federal-style, also called Georgian, done by a carpenter with absolutely no architectural training, Isiah Davenport. Born in Rhode Island in 1784, Isiah moved to Savannah in 1807 0r 08 and married a South Carolina girl, Sarah Rosamund Clark. Their first 3 children died young. Their 4th, born in 1814 and named for his Father, lived to be 53. By 1820 master-builder Isiah and busy Sarah had 4 living sons, and he began the construction of Davenport House for obvious reasons. It’s truly an elegant house with an English basement, which is a popular Savannah tradition, enviable outdoor and indoor staircases, and perfect architectural balance.
In 1824 Isiah and Sarah’s only daughter who made it to adulthood, Cornelia Augusta, was born. Their 10th and last child, Dudley, arrived in 1827 one month after Isiah died from yellow fever. Sarah turned her home into a boarding house for obvious reasons and hung on until Cornelia, a real beauty (pictured above) married well. She and Henry Rootes Jackson, a local lawyer and politician, had 4 children. However, Cornelia died at age 29 just after she delivered a stillborn 5th child.
In addition to tours Davenport House now sponsors a number of programs and special events, like teas and weddings. Ruth & I were lucky to get in on a very special re-creation of the day in 1824 when the Marquis de Lafayette, whose full name was Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, came to dinner. At age 19, this Frenchman went to Philadelphia and offered to serve in the American Revolution probably because his father had been killed by a British soldier. He became an aide-de-camp to George Washington, who treated him like a son. In his late 60s Lafayette was invited to help celebrate the U.S.’s 50th Jubilee and accepted. He stayed for 13 months and visited all 24 States. After dining at Davenport, Lafayette was treated to 13 formal and 19 informal toasts. After he left for Mrs. Maxwell’s Boarding House for obvious reasons, those remaining did 21 more toasts.
Like Lafayette, you can visit authentically restored Davenport House, “Where Savannah’s Preservation Began”. Afterwards, you will certainly agree that it deserved the Preserve America Presidential Award given to it during the George W. Bush Administration for obvious reasons.