Historic Houses Walking Tour, Savannah (Self Guided)

Many of the most famous historic houses in Georgia are here in Savannah. They provide great examples of breathtaking architecture that spans two centuries. Take this tour and view all the secrets and beauty of the Neo-Gothic, English Regency, and Victorian mansions that help make Savannah such an interesting and vibrant city today!
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Historic Houses Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historic Houses Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Savannah (See other walking tours in Savannah)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km
Author: hollyg
1
Mercer-Williams House

1) Mercer-Williams House (must see)

The Mercer-Williams House was built for Civil War General Hugh. W. Mercer. Ironically, nobody from the Mercer family would ever live there. The finishing of the building was delayed because of the Civil War, leaving it incomplete until 1869. General Mercer chose to sell the home to a man named John Wilder, who finally saw it completed.

Despite the Mercer-Williams House's historical connections, it's probably more famous as the house in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". In 1969, Jim Williams purchased the house and began renovating it. He was involved with a man named Danny Hansford. Later, he would be accused of shooting Hansford in the study of the home. Though Williams was acquitted, the case took four trials. Six months later, he suddenly died of pneumonia in nearly the same spot where Hansford's body had been found.

There are rumors that the Mercer-Williams House may be cursed – before Hansford's death, as retold in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", the house had already been the scene of two deaths. In 1913 a previous owner tripped over the second-floor banister, fractured his hip, and suffered a concussion, dying three days later. In 1969, a boy chasing pigeons on the roof fell over the edge and impaled himself on the iron fence below. This has made the Mercer-Williams House an attraction for ghost hunters and history buffs alike.

Why You Should Visit:
Okay, so you only get to see the garden and the first floor, but the house is so interesting and the guides are so committed to telling the stories that it's a worthwhile tour.
Obviously, if you've read the book or seen the movie of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", then this tour will definitely pique your interest.

Tip:
Try to check the neighborhood out at night, as the garden/park in the center of the block is eerily beautiful and well-lit.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10:30am-4:10pm; Sun: 12-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home

2) Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home (must see)

Fans of Southern literature are no doubt familiar with the work of Flannery O'Connor. Before her early death from systemic lupus at age 39, O'Connor wrote two novels ("Wise Blood" and "The Violent Bear It Away") and thirty-two short stories, primarily written in a Southern Gothic style, and usually involving grotesque characters and questions of morals. Many of her works also covered sensitive contemporary issues, like the Holocaust and racial integration.

O'Connor's childhood home was built in 1856, as a very modest, one-story Greek revival home. It remained that way until 1938. Since then, it has undergone major renovations, to both the interior and exterior. The living room has been refurbished to restore the beauty of the heart of pine flooring, florid furniture, and delicate lace curtains from O'Connor's time. In 1993, a walled garden was added to the back yard, where O'Connor taught a trained chicken to walk backwards. Her appearance with the chicken was her first taste of publicity, and she called it the highlight of her life.

Today, the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home is operated as a historic house museum and literary center for Savannah. It is free to be viewed by the public and hosts several literary activities throughout the year from autumn to spring.

Why You Should Visit:
The home is filled with memorabilia from O'Connor's past and there are books about and by Flannery for sale.
The tour provides many interesting facts about the events and environment that shaped her unique personality.

Tip:
Try to catch a lecture or reading and enjoy the home in the context of literature. The best visit would be to catch the annual Birthday Parade & street fair – everybody dresses up! ​

Opening Hours:
Daily (exc. Thu): 1-4pm
3
Andrew Low House

3) Andrew Low House (must see)

This is one of three buildings famous for its association with the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low. The others are the Wayne-Gordon House, the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, and the carriage house for the Andrew Low House, which served as the first Girl Scout headquarters.

The Andrew Low House itself was built circa 1846 for Andrew Low, a Scottish immigrant to Savannah. Low began working for his uncle's cotton operation and eventually rose to become its director. William Makepeace Thackeray visited the home on several occasions, and described it as “the most comfortable quarters I have ever had in the United States.” In 1870, General Robert E. Lee stayed in the Andrew Low House, and General Joseph E. Johnson, General Andrew Lawton, and General J.F. Gilmer were dinner guests.

In 1886, Andrew Low's son married Juliette Gordon, who would later become the founder of the Girl Scouts after being widowed. The Scouts held their meetings in Low's carriage house. When Juliette died in 1927, she bequeathed the carriage house to the organization. Later, in 1928, the Andrew Low House was purchased by Colonial Dames in Georgia, painstakingly restored over a period of over twenty years, and opened to the public in 1952.

Why You Should Visit:
The tour guides are very informative and the period furnishings and window coverings add to the experience.
This is one of the few houses that allow taking pictures inside – if you go after hours as part of a 'ghost tour'.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–4pm; Sun: 1–4pm
4
Green-Meldrim House

4) Green-Meldrim House (must see)

Savannah's Green-Meldrim House is one of many historic houses in the city. Built circa 1853 for cotton merchant Charles Green, the Gothic revival style mansion is notable for being beautifully restored and for playing a key part in Civil War history. Originally, it was the most expensive 19th-century house in Savannah. Much of its original interior survives, including the marble mantles, black walnut woodwork on the first floor, crown moldings, chandeliers, and gilded-frame mirrors imported from Austria. Unfortunately, none of the original furniture from the early days of the Green-Meldrim House has survived to this day.

The house was used as a headquarters for Union troops after being captured by General Sherman in 1864. In December of that year, Sherman sat down in the Green-Meldrim House to write his telegram to President Abraham Lincoln, where he expressed his desire to present the city of Savannah to him as a Christmas present. After the War, in 1892, Judge Peter Meldrim purchased the house. Decades later, in 1943, his heirs sold it to a neighboring church. Today, the house is maintained as a historical museum and is used as a setting for wedding receptions and other events.

Why You Should Visit:
What makes this delightful mansion, with its large and ornate rooms, so worth visiting is the charm and expertise of the 'docents' - the guides whose knowledge is encyclopedic.
The history of General Sherman's stay and his relationship with the owner of the house alone are worth the trip through the house. The tri-fold front doors are another standout.

Tip:
In addition to the Green-Meldrim House, you may visit St. John's Church (open each weekday, 11am-1pm) with guided tours available.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu, Fri: 10am–4pm, Sat: 10am–1pm (last tour begins 30 mins before closing time)
5
Sorrel-Weed House

5) Sorrel-Weed House

The Sorrel-Weed House is one of Savannah's historical treasures. It was one of the first two homes in all of Georgia to be created a state landmark.

The building itself is a combination of Greek revival and Regency architecture, designed by architect Charles Clusky in 1835. It was designed for Francis Sorrel, shipping merchant and father of one of the youngest Confederate Army Generals, General Gilbert Moxley Sorrel. The house is full of antiques from the 1800s, and much of its original architectural details have been painstakingly restored and preserved.

Even if you aren't a history buff, the Sorrel-Weed House is worth a visit. It has the reputation for being one of the most haunted buildings in Georgia, and has been the site for amateur and professional paranormal investigations. People report hearing the sounds of a party, including music, laughter, and talking going on at night downstairs, and the sounds of a wartime marching band.

Aside from hauntings and historical happenings, the Sorrel-Weed House has also been featured in movies and TV, like Forrest Gump and a special episode of Ghost Hunters. No matter where your interests lie, the Sorrel-Weed House is a must-see site for any tour of Savannah's historic homes.
6
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

6) Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace (must see)

Juliette Gordon Low is best known as the woman who first organized the Girl Scouts in 1912, after meeting war hero Robert Baden-Powell. Always an energetic, happy woman, Low was known for jumping headfirst into new hobbies and interests. After her historic meeting with Baden-Powell, where she learned about the Girl Guides in England, Low returned inspired to bring the girl's scouting movement to Savannah, Georgia, and America beyond.

The building itself is a blend of Regency and Victorian designs. Like many other Savannah houses from the 1800s, it has a basic floor plan known as a “Savannah box.” In this particular house, the basic floor plan was expanded upon to create a grander house. The house is considered a National Historic Landmark, both for its age and excellent preservation, and for being the site of Juliette Gordon Low's birth. It had several different owners until it was purchased by the Girl Scouts of America in 1953. Its last private owner was an older woman who had had difficulty maintaining the house. After its purchase, the property was extensively restored and turned into an educational center and historical museum, as it remains to this day. Restoration efforts continue, to help restore and maintain the beauty of the old building.

Why You Should Visit:
Nice tour, reasonably priced, and there are many interesting things about the house and the lives of the people that lived there, not just Juliette.
The gift shop offers a nice variety of Girl Scout memorabilia along with local souvenirs, and you get to go into the gardens without paying.

Tip:
You have to book a tour; there is no self-guided option. They rarely book same day tours, however, so best to go online and get advance tickets.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5pm
7
Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

7) Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters (must see)

The Owens-Thomas house is, like the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Jepson Center for the Arts, a museum building operated by the Telfair Museums. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, as one of the nation's finest examples of English Regency architecture.

The building itself was designed by William Jay, an English architect who was among the first professionally-trained architects working in the U.S. The residence was finished in 1819 for Richard Richardson and his family, who earned their money as cotton merchants and bankers. Unfortunately, their prosperity was short-lived: three years after the house was completed, the Richardsons lost their fortune and the house was sold. After being sold, it became a lodging house that saw several famous visitors, including the Marquis de Lafayette, until it was purchased again in 1830 by the mayor of Savannah. In 1951, the former mayor's granddaughter donated the building to the Telfair Museum.

The house has remained in excellent condition. Many of the exhibits feature the Owens family's former belongings, as well as antiques and curiosities dating back to the 1750s. The carriage house is the original carriage house that came with the residence. Inside, visitors can see one of the earliest urban slave quarters in existence. One notable feature of the house's construction is the use of Bath stone. This was to give it a sophisticated appeal that made it on par with the houses in Bath, England.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful home and furnishings, plus very knowledgeable tour guides; the history, culture, and social components are very well summarized/transmitted.
The juxtaposition between the slave quarters and the home is truly staggering and you leave with a better understanding of urban slavery.
You can get a pass to also see the Jepson Art Center and the Telfair Musem of Art for one price of around $20 in the space of a week.

Tip:
Tours go off every 15 minutes – try to go with a small group!

Opening Hours:
Sun, Mon: 12-5pm; Tue-Sat: 10am-5pm
8
Davenport House

8) Davenport House (must see)

The Isaiah Davenport House was built in 1820 by master builder Isaiah Davenport. This Federal-style building was just as much a showcase of Davenport's talents as it was a family home, particularly in a time period where many of Savannah's homes were built by amateur architects, not professionals like Davenport.

The house remained a private family residence until 7 years after its construction when Isaiah Davenport died of yellow fever. After his death, his wife converted the family home to a boarding house, until selling it to the Baynard family in 1840. The Baynard family retained ownership of the home for over a hundred years afterward, even as the neighborhood around it deteriorated into a seedy, high crime area. When the home was slated to be demolished in 1955, several Savannah citizens got together to purchase the home. This group eventually became the Historic Savannah Foundation, and the Davenport House became the organization's first headquarters.

Since the mid-1990s, the Davenport House has undergone a restoration process to restore the interior and inventory to reflect the home at the time of Davenport's death. The result is a uniquely authentic historical experience for visitors to the home.

Why You Should Visit:
Although not as opulent as some other houses one can visit in Savannah, the 40-min tour – which starts with a brief video, very well done – is quite appealing.
The restoration is wonderful and it will be even better when the next phase is completed. The condition of the house is fabulous.

Tip:
Enjoy the beauty of the garden after your tour but make sure to enjoy the gift shop as well, since profits go for the continual improvement of this beautiful home.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–4pm; Sun: 1–4pm
9
Olde Pink House Restaurant

9) Olde Pink House Restaurant

If you want to have a lunch or dinner in Savannah, you can't find a better place to dine at than the Olde Pink House Restaurant. It's considered a local treasure. With antiques, ancestral paintings and fireplaces, guests can enjoy the formidable Southern cuisine in style.

Walking Tours in Savannah, Georgia

Create Your Own Walk in Savannah

Create Your Own Walk in Savannah

Creating your own self-guided walk in Savannah is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Savannah may not be the whole of Sweet Georgia, but no Georgia is complete without Savannah. This coastal city, named after the Savannah River upon which it stands, is the epitome of the South, renowned for its antebellum architecture. The historic part of the city is filled with cobblestoned squares and manicured parks, such as Forsyth Park, and holds one of the main local landmarks, the...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
Religious Sights Walking Tour

Religious Sights Walking Tour

Remarkable and conspicuous Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Unitarian and Methodist Churches dot the cityscape of Savannah and are interesting places to visit. You you may even have the chance to take part in parish services that are held weekly. Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful architecture of Savannah's religious buildings and the peace that a church service...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 km
Museums and Art Galleries Self-guided Tour

Museums and Art Galleries Self-guided Tour

Savannah is filled with southern charm and has a delightful combination of natural and man-made beauty. Explore some of these treasures by visiting some of Savannah's impressive museums. Check out the following self-guided tour for some of the most interesting museums and art galleries Savannah has to offer!

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Family Entertainment Self-Guided Tour

Family Entertainment Self-Guided Tour

If you are looking for a nice walking tour for your entire family, there are many interesting places for a family to visit in Savannah. Together you can visit the perfect mixture of beautiful parks, historic monuments, galleries and other interesting and informative places. And, of course, the tour includes a couple of nice surprises for your children!

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
River Street Shopping Self-Guided Tour

River Street Shopping Self-Guided Tour

The story of Savannah's River Street begins in 1733 with General James Edward Oglethorpe, who landed on the bank of the Savannah River and founded the American colony of Georgia. Today cobble-stoned River Street serves as a wonderful place that caters to a variety of interests. Marketplaces, stores, galleries... This walking tour will let you enjoy watching the ships and boats in the harbor...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 km
African-American Heritage Self-Guided Tour

African-American Heritage Self-Guided Tour

The majority of the population in Savannah is African-American. They make up approximately 60 percent of the residents of the city. And, of course, their importance in Savannah's history is enormous. They have left a great heritage in culture, politics and art. Don't miss the chance to visit such significant places as the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum and St. Phillips Monumental...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 km

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Savannah for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Savannah has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money visiting Savannah's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as Savannah Old Town Trolley Pass or Savannah Old Town “Do It All” Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Savannah's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving your precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Savannah hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: The DeSoto, Perry Lane Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Savannah, Hamilton Turner Inn.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Savannah, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Savannah typically costs somewhere between US$20 and US$50 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off trolley to enjoy sightseeing of Savannah in comfort listening to a live on-board commentary from a local guide, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the route as often as you like. The tickets are valid for one (24 hours) or two (48 hours) days.

- Spend another three hours in a most tasteful way on a food & culture walk in Savannah to explore this southern city's culinary scene led by an expert guide. Along with a chance to sample some regional favorites and delectable treats at local restaurants and specialty food stores, you will also acquaint yourself with Savannah's history, architecture and culture. A truly enriching experience!

- Embark on an hour-and-a-half sightseeing boat cruise down the “lifeblood” of Savannah – the eponymous river – to hear tales and historic facts about the city's port from a knowledgeable captain, to enjoy the view of Savannah’s historic riverfront and skyline, to savor the snacks and beverages lavishly provided on board, and more.

- Embark on a one-hour self-balancing Segway tour of Savannah for a chance to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise could have done by walking.

- Summon your guts and sense of adventure to dig deep into the ghastly history of Savannah, America's most haunted city, spanning 300 years and packed with ghosts, pirates and other scary things. This fun and informative frightseeing tour is set to bring light to some of the darkest corners of the city whilst exploring some of its fascinating haunted pubs and bars.

- Take a leisurely walk back to the days of the Civil War on a guided tour of the Savannah Historic District to see where the South’s most prominent generals and dignitaries once lived, listen to the interesting stories and hear facts about the city's role in the war, its military tactics and the civilian hardships endured during those years.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in Savannah, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Jekyll Island or Bluffton. For as little as circa US$35 to US$100 per person you will get a chance to discover one of Georgia’s most popular barrier islands, visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and learn about the efforts made to preserve the endangered terrapin, see the Savannah Wildlife refuge, do some sightseeing and shopping in the heart of Bluffton’s Historic District, acquaint yourself with a riverfront community renowned for their eclectic blend of arts, culture and natural beauty, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Savannah and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle to the destination of your choice and back again.