William Scarbrough House
Savannah Historic District
William Scarbrough House houses the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. However, the house itself is a historic mansion known for its historic and architectural value.
Designed by renowned English architect of that time, William Jay, it is an example of the Greek revival architecture of that era. The architect built the home for William Scarbrough, the president of the Savannah Steamship Company, and one of the owners of the steamship, Savannah. The house was one of the earliest examples of the Greek Revival style of architecture in the South. Classical ornament and cast iron characterize the house. The mansion was completed in 1819. It features a magnificent stairway at the entrance.
Scarbrough lost the house in 1820, after suffering financial hardship. But within a few years the home was back in the hands daughter, Charlotte Scarbrough Taylor.
The Scarbrough House served as a boys’ orphanage from 1870 to 1876. Later, it became the first public school in Savannah. It was one of the first in the south that allowed African-American students to attend. The West Broad Street School ran for about eighty years, until it closed in 1962. The house remained unoccupied for a number of years thereafter. The Historic Savannah Foundation purchased and renovated it. Telfair Museums later took over the house in 1990. Later on it underwent further rehabilitation for use as a maritime-themed museum. Consequently, in 1994, the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum acquired the house.
Today, the significant architectural and historical value of the Scarbrough House is recognized. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1974. Two years later the house opened to the public. Presently, the House houses the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, which features an impressive collection of nautical artifacts, paintings, and scale models of famous ships significant in Savannah’s maritime history, including a re-creation of the historic steamship, Savannah, together with models of other famous ships like the Titanic. It also houses collections of maritime sketches and ships in bottles. Every day, educational tours are conducted.
The gardens of the Scarbrough House have a history all their own. They are among the largest in the Savannah Historic District. They were renovated and expanded within the last twenty years. The garden behind the house, which is landscaped in the style of a 19th-century parlor garden, contains native, historically accurate plantings. The other garden, the north garden, is designed in a modern style. The public is welcome to visit the garden without the museum admission.
Special events, exhibits, and concerts are occasionally held at the Ships of the Sea Museum. There is a gift shop featuring a large selection of books and gifts on the maritime theme of the museum.
The William Scarbrough House is on the list of National Historic Landmarks in Georgia and is on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Chatham County, Georgia.
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