Decking Historic Halls
When I first learned of The Downtown Neighborhood Association’s 39th Annual Savannah Holiday Tour of Homes, I immediately new I wanted to participate. The best way to experience Savannah Events and Happenings is to help out behind the scenes, so it was a no brainer that I would Volunteer for the tour. I am fascinated with Savannah’s Historic District Homes which is also why I LOVE being the Local Concierge for Savannah Dream Vacations because I get the opportunity to see the inside of these restored homes as well as actually get to STAY in them.
Since this is the first time that I have participated in the Holiday Tour of Homes, I thought I would do a little research to see what I was getting myself into, so let’s all catch up to speed together shall we?
The Savannah Historic Landmark District is a two mile square foot section of Savannah which boasts thousands of amazing homes and architecturally significant buildings that are rich in Southern Tradition and Heritage. Despite centuries of war, demolition and deterioration; General Oglethorpe’s Innovative City Plan has survived to become a thriving travel destination visited by millions of people each year. As a matter of fact, Savannah has beaten out cities such as Charleston, SC, Boston, MA and New York City, NY for the Travel + Leisure Award for Best Architecture and Cool Buildings, so it is no surprise that local residents take such pride in preserving the elements that make the Hostess City such a great place to live and visit.
Savannah’s Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) was organized in the 1970s by a group of downtown residents who cover 1.jpgwanted to protect and preserve Savannah’s Architectural Heritage and to enhance the quality of life for residents in the Historic Landmark District. Each year, the DNA’s holds its Annual Holiday Tour of Homes and Spring Tour of Homes in order to celebrate this unique heritage and raise money for the continued preservation and enhancement of the community.
The Annual Holiday Tour of Homes is a self-guided walking tour where guests are able to walk through selected private residences and buildings located in Savannah’s Historic Landmark District. Each home varies in size, style and period and visitors can walk, drive or ride on the Old Town Trolley to each of the homes in whichever order they choose.
Everyone who buys a ticket to the tour receives a Tour Card which lists the address of each home as well as an official Guidebook, complete with information on each home and a map of the route.
My duty for the day was to be a Docent (pronounced DOE-CENT,) meaning I would greet visitors at my assigned home and tell them about its details and accents. Each house has a head Docent to coordinate the other members and I was fortunate to have the most AWESOME Head Docent EVER, John Buckovich and his wife Veronica. I immediately knew I liked Jon and Veronica when they generously invited our group to their house for breakfast before the tour, (It also doesn’t hurt that they are transplants from Virginia, as am I.)
We all know that I am NEVER one to turn down a chance to visit a Historic Savannah Home, or a Free Breakfast for that matter, so I happily accepted the invitation.
Our group was assigned to an immaculate Four-Story home located on the corner of Gaston and Barnard Streets which was built in 1854 for Israel Dasher. This home was returned back to a single family house in 1960 and was one of the first private restoration projects to occur during Savannah’s early preservation movement.
Talk about Decking the Halls! I can’t imagine how much time, effort, and MONEY went into decorating this home for the Holidays. Every inch was adorned with Holiday Cheer and cute surprises around every corner. My favorite feature of this home is the beautiful adjacent courtyard complete with Reflecting Pool and Citrus Orchard.
YUP, that is what I said REFLECTING POOL and CITRUS ORCHARD – talk about living it up! Unfortunately, the Savannah Weather for the tour was rainy for most of the afternoon but it didn’t put a damper on anyone’s spirits. Everyone we met was excited to be on the tour and all of them were having a great time, just a little wetter for the wear!
It was such a pleasure to work with John and my new friends Todd and Mariela, who I now lovingly refer to as the Gaston Gang! Thanks for making the day fly by!
The Annual Holiday Tour of homes also features a special Tour of Inns which takes place on Sunday but I had a prior commitment and I knew I would only be able to visit ONE of the Inns. It wasn’t really a hard decision which Inn I would choose to visit because our Savannah Dream Vacations office is located across the street from the Catherine Ward House Inn and I have been chomping at the bit to get a peek inside and NOW was my chance.
I walked up the steps to the Lovely Victorian Style Home where I was greeted by the Inn’s Owner, Leslie Larson, who welcomed me with a smile and an “of course you can come in and take a look.” I entered the Inn’s Front Parlor which was decorated so beautifully that it reminded me of a Christmas Card. I also met the Inn’s Manager, Sonja, who offered me some home made Egg Nog and invited me to sit by the fire.
Catherine Ward House front.jpgLeslie gave me a private tour and told me a bit about the rich history of the Catherine Ward House Inn. The home was originally built in 1886 by Captain James Ward for his second wife, Catherine. They lived in the home together until James’ death in 1891 and Catherine continued to live in the home until she eventually passed in 1929. The house was sold many more times over the years and was eventually turned into rental units in the early 1960s. In the 1980s, a young man by the name of Jim Williams, (who you might remember from a little book named “The Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”) took an interest in the preservation of this amazing building and in 1983, he encouraged the Historic Savannah Foundation to purchase the house.
The foundation renovated the home which was complete in 1986. The home was then purchased from the foundation in 1998 and underwent yet another massive renovation in order to transform its rooms into a Romantic Bed & Breakfast Inn. Leslie purchased the Inn in 2005 and has lived there ever since. ***Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Trivia – one of the last scenes in the movie is a shot of E. Waldburg Street and the Catherine Ward House, How COOL!
After my tour, the girls and I chatted the day away like we were old friends It was so comfortable and relaxing, which may have been due to Sonja’s POTENT Egg Nog. I made the right choice by choosing the Catherine Ward House for my personal Tour of INN and It was a terrific end to my Holiday Tour of Homes Weekend. Great to meet you Ladies and I will be back soon!
If you missed the 39th Annual Holiday Tour of Homes don’t worry, the Downtown Neighborhood Association will be holding their Spring Tour of Homes in March. For more information, visit the DNA Website and if you are ever in the neighborhood, stop by the Catherine Ward House Inn to see Leslie and Sonja and they will give you the VIP treatment!