Off the Expensive Path
I’ve lived in Savannah for three years now and I’m still astounded by the little hidden marvels I’m liable to find in this sprawling Southern city....
GORDON ROW: The Gordon Row was built in two phases between 1852 and 1854. In the first phase, the 3 or 4 houses on each end of the block were built and in the second phase the middle portion was built. There are a total of 15 houses in the row.
The houses were built in the Federalist (US) or Regency Style (UK). This style went out of fashion about 1810. Each house is four stories high and contains about 3,300 square feet. The Federalist Style emphasizes square, classical features, plain decorations and duality or mirror image rooms.
The Row was speculatively built; meaning that the homes were built as a lot then sold rather than individually designed for the owners. As a result, each of the 15 houses was nearly identical.
When built originally, the cost per house was between $3,500 and $4,000. The market was country planters, or farmers, who wanted a house in town for their visits to Savannah.
When originally built, the kitchens were on the ground level. The house was only two rooms deep with matching, or mirroring, windows facing the front and the back porch.
After the War Between the States, also known as the War of Northern Aggression, the first floor was made into a separate apartment and the kitchen moved to its present location.
Documentation of ownership for the 117 house first appears in 1867 in the name of a Jewish lady. This neighborhood was popular with Jews as the synagogues were near. Judging by the names on the deeds, it seems that for the balance of the 19th century, the house was owned by various women in the same Jewish family.
Around 1900, a local doctor purchased the house and it became his home and office. He purchased the adjacent building, 119, and joined houses to expand the property for his growing family.
In the 1950′s, the 117 house was owned by the infamous Jim Williams of the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The house was then converted into a Soho Style warehouse loft by removing the residential architectural features.
Robert McAlister, the current owner, acquired the house in 1974 and began the first of several restorations. Initially his private home, he founded the Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn in 1978 to help pay for the renovation costs.