Admission Adults $12.50, children $8
Address 429 Bull Street
Full visitor info below
Of all Savannah’s historic houses, the story of the Mercer-Williams House is undoubtedly the most widely known. The house, and its former owner Jim Williams, were at the center of the 1980s scandal – as famously depicted in John Berendt’s bestselling nonfiction book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and the later Clint Eastwood film of the same name – surrounding the murder of a local young man, Danny Hansford (portrayed as Billy Hanson in the film).
Besides his role in the murder and subsequent trials and through them his indirect influence on Savannah’s tourist industry, Jim Williams’s work for the preservation of Savannah’s historic buildings and landscape was probably, however, his most important and lasting legacy.
In a career spanning 33 years, Williams bought and restored more than fifty historic buildings in Savannah, saving them from further decay or even demolition. One of those was the Mercer House, on Monterey Square, in which Williams made his own home.
Guided tours The Mercer-Williams House can only be seen on guided tours, which depart at regular intervals throughout the day. If you are visiting at the busier times, it is a good idea to book ahead of time, as buying tickets in person on the day may result in a long wait for an available slot.
Although the house is on three floors (basement, ground and upper), only the ground floor is open to public tours; the remainder of the house is still used as a private residence by members of the Williams family.
Tours take around 40 minutes, meeting in the carriage house shop behind the main house. They focus on the architecture of the building, the artwork and antiques collected by Jim Williams, and his legacy as a historical preservationist.
Although it is the story of Jim Williams, and particularly his exploits as documented in the well-known Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, that bring many visitors to the house, docents are in general reluctant to acknowledge the events around which the book is based. Photographs from the filming of the movie of the book are for the most part the sole concession to visitors’ interest in the story depicted in Midnight.
History In contrast to its later years, the early history of the house was largely unremarkable. John S Norris designed the home in 1860, for Hugh Weedon Mercer. War interfered with its construction, however, and it was not completed until 1868, by which time Mercer had sold it to John Wilder.
Over the next century, the building was used as a residence, besides various other purposes – including, for several years, as a Shriners’ temple – finally falling vacant around the middle of the 20th century.
Jim Williams bought the house in 1969, one of his several dozen restoration projects across Savannah. Over a period of two years, Williams restored the house, redesigning the interiors according to his own tastes and interests and using it as his primary residence. He also converted the rear carriage house to serve as the shop for his antiques business.
Artworks and furnishings The main attraction of the Mercer-Williams House (besides wishing to visit the house featured in The Book) is the collection of beautiful art and antiques, drawn from around the world, which Jim Williams collected as part of his business as an antiques dealer and restorer. Though a great number of Williams’s original pieces have long since been sold, many antiques, tapestries, china and artworks remain.
The following is correct at the time of writing. Please verify details before planning your trip. For additional information call 912-236-6352 or 877-430-6352 (toll-free) or visit the official website.
Opening hours Open daily for guided tours. Monday-Saturday, 10:30am-4:10pm and Sunday, 12pm-4pm.
Admission Adults $12.50, children $8.
Pets Service animals only. Dogs and other pets are not allowed at the Mercer-Williams House.
Photography policy Photography is not permitted.
Address 429 Bull Street, Savannah, GA 31401
GPS coordinates N 32.071343, W -081.095528
The Mercer-Williams House is at the intersection of Bull and East Gordon Streets. It fronts on Monterey Square (the last of Bull Street’s squares before Forsyth Park), near the center of Savannah’s Historic District. See on map
Parking There is no on-site parking, but street parking is available nearby (free on weekends). More information about parking in Savannah
Public transport The house is less conveniently served by Savannah’s free downtown shuttle than many of the city’s other attractions, with no stops nearer than about 10 blocks away. Several paid Chatham Area Transit bus services have stops within about 4 blocks or so. Get public transport directions or more details about Savannah’s public transit and free shuttle service.