The Stephen Williams House, located in the heart of Savannah's historic district,
is a brilliant new jewel in the city's crown. Dr. Albert Wall acquired the
property in 2001 and, after a meticulous restoration, opened the house as
a five star, five-room inn that garnered the Historic Savannah Foundation's
Preservation Award in 2003. A former director of the obstetrics and gynecological
education program at Savannah's Memorial Hospital, Dr. Wall is currently
a part time consultant in high-risk teenage pregnancyfor the Curtis V. Cooper
Urban Health Center. He is also the full time owner and manager of the inn.
An aficionado of Savannah's history, Dr. Wall is a devoted steward of this
important example of architecture in the Federal style and he has breathed
new life into a prominent, though previously neglected, corner of Savannah.
Dr. Wall is an extraordinary storyteller, eager to share his prodigious knowledge
of Savannah with interested guests. His narratives recall personal tales
and small details that create a virtual reality inside the listener's head.
Listening to Dr. Wall, the long and illustrious history of The Stephen Williams
House comes alive. Stephen Williams built the house entirely of Georgia longleaf
heart pine in 1834. Its first occupant, William Thorne Williams, was a six-term
mayor who used the house as a social center for official functions during that
time. Solomon Cohen, a prominent merchant and Postmaster of the Confederacy,
bought the house in the 1850's and passed it down to his daughter, Miriam,
following her marriage to James Troup Dent, grandson of a Georgia governor.
The Dents' primary residence was Hofwyl Plantation in McIntosh County, Georgia,
while the Stephen Williams House functioned as their city dwelling.
The highly decorative, labor intensive Victorian style
was in vogue in the 1870's, prompting the Dents to replace the house's original
heart pine parlor floors with narrower pine boards, signifying the wealth of
owners who could afford to remodel. The Historic Savannah Foundation considered
this renovation to be historically important and it was, therefore, preserved
in the restoration. However, the original floors are retained in the rest of
the house, including the guest suites.
The Stephen Williams House was owned by descendants of the
Dent family until the 1930s when, after it was sold, it descended into
neglect as a boarding house, tenement and, finally, a nine-unit apartment house.
A seasoned hand at historic preservation (this is his seventh project), Dr. Wall
bought the house and embarked on restoration with the assistance of the Historic
Savannah Foundation and Mr. Brandon Lucas, a talented interior designer in Savannah
and Atlanta. They removed walls in certain places to determine the original framework
of the house-four by four pine logs-and painstakingly catalogued
which moldings, window frames and detail work were historically
correct. When authentic windows and doorframes could not be identi-
fled, this team of experts patterned the designs after the splendid Isaiah
Davenport House, perhaps the most famous Federal house in Savannah.