Five layers of paint, tar, plywood and carpet covered the
floors before restoration, which proved to be a blessing. Moldings, trim and
walls were similarly wrapped in layers, keeping the house in a cocoon-like state
for nearly 80 years, preserving its integrity and allowing for an authentic
restoration. Dr. Wall says many of Savannah's landmark
buildings were conserved in this way, and points out that Ron De Silva,
a former antique appraiser for Christie's, once remarked that Savannah's
economy was so devastated by the Civil War that it did not reach its
antebellum gross product level until 1949. According to Dr. Wall, Mr.
De Silva made a poignant statement quite offensive to many Savannahians that
it was not Savannahians' foresight that saved the city but rather that the city
was so devastated it could not afford to remodel.
That is, until seven prominent women spearheaded a campaign
to save Savannah's treasures after the historic city market and several
other precious landmarks fell victim to the wrecking ball. These tireless
community activists saved the famed Davenport House the night before
it was to be razed, and out of their efforts the Historic Savannah Foundation
From the moment Dr. Wall greets you at the front door of the
Stephen Williams House with his dapper bow tie, crisp white shirt
and gracious southern smile, you feel like a personally invited guest in
a private home. You enter through a central hallway that runs the entire
length of the house and is a mirror image at each end. The structure is,
according to Dr. Wall, the largest old wood double house of its kind.
The double parlors flanking the hall on either side are an exemplary
representation of the exquisite symmetry of Federal architecture. As you
cross over the door's threshold, your eyes are immediately drawn to an
antique Charleston Sheraton settee, which Jim Williams (best remembered as the
central character in John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)
declared to be the finest example of its kind.
The hallway is flanked on the left by a double parlor divided by
elaborate arches original to the house. The front parlor is visually
stunning with museum quality antiques, including a Chinese secretary
once owned by a cousin of Czar Nicholas II. Fabrics for windows and
upholstered furniture were carefully chosen by Mr. Lucas to give the
air of a proper British club. The overstuffed sofas are elegant but
comfortably plush. Guests are encouraged to curl up on them to chat
with friends, enjoy a refreshment or get lost in one of the many books
or magazines found on almost every table in the house. Dr. Wall has
assembled an impressive library on the history of the Confederacy and
specifically Savannah. Since the inn opened, many steel magnolias have
married in the front parlor and rented the remainder of the house for
receptions and weekend guests.
Walk through the arches to the music room and you will notice
original knife marks carved by slave laborers and journeymen, marks
the owner was most adamant to preserve. The focal point of the music
room is a 1929 Steinway piano and an elaborate crystal chandelier
whose mate is in the dining room. Both, Dr. Wall proudly points out,
are from a company that has similar examples in Buckingham Palace
and the White House.