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Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

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Attractions Details

📌 Address

124 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA

Opening Hours

10:00 AM - 4:15 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

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expert
Colm
Local tour guide
"Visit the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters in Savannah during a weekday to avoid the crowds and truly immerse yourself in the history, and don't miss the hidden garden at the back of the property, it's a serene spot often overlooked by visitors."

What is Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters?

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is a historic house museum in Savannah, Georgia, that stands as a poignant reminder of America's complex history. This regal residence, located at 124 Abercorn Street on the northeast corner of Oglethorpe Square, is one of the finest examples of English Regency architecture in the United States. It's not just a testament to opulence and art but also tells an untold story of those who lived and toiled under the yoke of slavery.

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As you wander through the house and the adjacent slave quarters, you’ll discover a narrative that spans two centuries. It beautifully intertwines the history of its elite residents and the enslaved people who maintained the household. When I show people around, they are often struck by the stark contrast between the grandeur of the main house and the simplicity of the slave quarters.

History of Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

The story of the Owens-Thomas House begins in the early 19th century when it was designed by architect William Jay for Richard Richardson and his wife, Frances Bolton. Completed in 1819, this house has seen different owners and purposes throughout its history. It became the home of George Welshman Owens, a lawyer, planter, and politician, in 1830, and his family owned the property until 1951. The house changed hands when Margaret Thomas, George Owens' granddaughter, bequeathed it to the Telfair Museum of Art.

Something that not everyone knows is that during its early years, the house also served as a temporary lodging for the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution. He addressed the citizens of Savannah from the ornate cast-iron balcony. Another fascinating fact involves the ingenious plumbing system installed in the house, which was ahead of its time, complete with indoor plumbing and a rainwater cistern.

What most visitors are particularly moved by is the restored slave quarters, which is one of the earliest and most intact urban slave dwellings in the South. The restoration efforts have been meticulous, ensuring that the narrative of the enslaved who lived and worked there is respectfully presented. This sobering part of the history provides an essential counterpart to the grandeur of the main residence and serves as a reminder of the lives of those who were not free to enjoy it.

Why is Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters Important?

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is important for several reasons. Firstly, it's an architectural treasure which showcases the adaptation of European architectural styles in the building traditions of the American South. The house's design, materials, and craftsmanship are indicative of the wealth amassed in Savannah during the early 19th century and reflect the social standings of its elite owners.

The crucial element, which I feel deeply about, is the house's role in telling the story of slavery, which is often overlooked in American historical narratives. By preserving and interpreting the slave quarters, the site provides a balanced and heart-wrenching view into the everyday lives of enslaved African Americans in an urban setting. It's vital for us to remember and bear witness to this part of our history, to recognize the resilience and humanity of those who lived under slavery.

It also serves as an educational resource for scholars, students, and visitors alike, often igniting conversations about history, race, and heritage. The house's legacy is not static; ongoing research continues to unearth more about the lives intertwined with this historic edifice. It has become a place of reflection and learning, drawing in those who seek to understand the full spectrum of Savannah's past.

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Things to Do & See at Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

There's no shortage of sights and activities at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters. One of the highlights includes the guided tour, where guides like myself delve into the rich history of the house, sharing stories that you wouldn't find in the usual history books. You'll be able to explore the home's elegant rooms, furnished with period antiques and artworks, gaining insights into the lifestyle of its former inhabitants.

Visitors can also take a closer look at the innovative service systems, such as the rainwater cistern and the impressively intact preservation of the slave quarters. You can see the actual spaces where slaves lived and listen to their stories, bringing their presence into the reality of today. Many people are astonished by the bridge room, a third-floor space that stands as a symbol of archaeological discovery within the museum.

For the art enthusiasts, the house presents a collection of decorative arts and rotating exhibitions that add depth to the experience. Special events and lectures are often held within its walls, providing a deeper context and understanding of historical themes. Walking through the beautiful Oglethorpe Square, the surrounding garden and carriage house contributes to a comprehensive journey through time, which offers both education and somber reflection.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters?

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is a historic house museum in Savannah, Georgia, offering insight into the complicated history of the region, including the experiences of the people who were enslaved there.

Where is the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters located?

The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters is located at 124 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401, in the historic district of Savannah.

What can visitors learn at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters?

Visitors can learn about the antebellum South, the architectural significance of the property, the lives of the wealthy Owens-Thomas family, as well as the stories of the enslaved individuals who lived and worked on the property.

Are there guided tours available at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters?

Yes, guided tours are available and are an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of the history and significance of the house and slave quarters, as knowledgeable guides provide detailed narratives and answer questions.

How can tickets be purchased for the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters?

Tickets can typically be purchased online on the official museum's website or at the visitor center. It's advisable to check the current purchasing options and whether advanced booking is required.

Attractions Details

📌 Address

124 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401, USA

Opening Hours

10:00 AM - 4:15 PM

💸 Entrance Fee

Free

Find it on google maps