Owens-Thomas House

Close-up of the entrance to the Owens-Thomas House on Savannah's Oglethorpe Square.

Open daily. Adult admission $20 (includes entrance to the Jepson Center and Telfair Academy). No pets.

See below: full visitor information

See also: overview of Savannah’s historic house museums

Savannah has many historic house museums, but the Owens-Thomas House on Oglethorpe Square is one of its highlights. Architecturally outstanding, the house is one of Savannah’s most completely preserved historic homes, with intact slave quarters and English-style gardens.

The Owens-Thomas House dates from the 1810s, built for wealthy cotton merchant and banker Richard Richardson and his family. It was the first Savannah commission of the noted English architect William Jay; it is also considered to be his most accomplished design.

Construction of the house was completed in 1819, but tragedy soon struck: by 1822, Richardson’s wife Frances and two of their children were dead, and Richardson had lost their former home, ruined by a combination of the great Savannah fire of 1820 and his investment in the economically unsuccessful SS Savannah.

George Welshman Owens bought the house from Richardson’s creditors in 1830, it having served as a boarding house in the intervening years. Owens was a Georgia native. His father, Owen Owens, as George’s middle name suggested, had emigrated to America from Wales in the early 1780s.

Besides inheriting substantial property from his father, including a St Catherine’s Island plantation and 87 slaves, George Owens worked as a lawyer and politician, serving several terms as alderman and one as mayor of Savannah, and also holding several state-level posts.

Owens and his family used the new house on Oglethorpe Square as their winter residence, spending their summers in the north or in one of Owens’s several other properties in Georgia.

Owens died in 1856. His estate was divided between his widow (she receiving the house) and his six surviving children. The house later came into the possession of Owens’s granddaughter Margaret Thomas, who left the property to the Telfair Academy to be used as a museum.

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What To See & Do

Guided tours The Owens-Thomas House can only be seen on guided tours, which begin at 15 minute intervals throughout the day. This is one of Savannah’s most popular house museums, and tours can get crowded at peak periods. Try an early, weekday visit if you would prefer to have fewer people in your tour group.

Tours take around 40-60 minutes, beginning in the slave quarters and visiting each floor of the main house. The upstairs part of the slave quarters, and the gardens, can be visited at your leisure. The museum store occupies what was originally the house’s stables.

Gardens A small garden lies between the house and its service buildings. Originally a functional area with a well, privies, and perhaps a kitchen garden, this space was redesigned in the 1950s, in a formal style inspired by the English parterre garden.

Architecture The Owens-Thomas House is an outstanding example of Regency architecture, commonly regarded as the greatest work of Savannah’s most talented antebellum architect, the Englishman William Jay. The house was Jay’s first commission in Savannah, obtained through his relation by marriage to Richardson’s wife, Frances Bolton. He produced the designs from England, sending them over to Savannah in advance of his own arrival in the city.

Somewhat unusually, the house (overlain with stucco) is built of tabby, a local building material made of lime and oyster shells. Though tabby was often used for building houses and other structures in the Georgia and South Carolina region, brick and stone were usually preferred for structures on the Owens-Thomas House’s scale.

The house has several other notable features. One of its claims to fame is as one of the first private homes in the United States to benefit from indoor flushing toilets. The house’s plumbing system is shown by means of cut-aways in the walls and floor.

The upstairs bridge – connecting the front and rear parts of the house – is another feature of particular note, though it is believed to be a later addition, not an original component of Jay’s design.

In the slave quarters, you can see one of several surviving examples in Savannah of “haint blue” paint. Walls, window frames and other surfaces were commonly painted this color across the South, a spiritual practice the object of which was to keep haints (ghosts or spirits in the Gullah dialect) out of the house.

A range of blue or blue-green pigments, made from indigo and buttermilk, are referred to as haint blue, the preferred hue varying by region. The color of the paint was intended to resemble water, which haints, according to the Gullah belief system, are unable to cross.

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Visitor Information

The following is correct at the time of writing. Please verify details before planning your trip. For additional information call 912-790-8800 or visit the official website.

Opening hours Open daily: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm; Sunday-Monday, 12pm-5pm. Guided tours depart every 15 minutes. The last tour begins at 4:30 pm. Closed on most major holidays, plus St Patrick’s Day.

Admission Adults $20, seniors (65+)/military $18, children/students (13-30) $15, younger children (0-12) free. Admission to the Owens-Thomas House also includes admission to Telfair Museums’ other sites: the Jepson Center and the Telfair Academy.

Pets Service animals only. Dogs and other pets are not allowed at the Owens-Thomas House.

Photography policy Hand-held, flash-free photography is allowed in the gardens, but no photography is permitted anywhere else inside the house.

Getting There

Address 124 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 31401
GPS coordinates N 32.077414, W -081.089527

The Owens-Thomas House is on the east side of Oglethorpe Square, in the center of Savannah’s Historic District. See on map

Parking On-site parking is not available at the Owens-Thomas House, but street parking will usually be available within a few blocks. The city-owned State Street Parking Garage is right next to the house, across Oglethorpe Square. More about parking in Savannah

Public transport The nearest stop on Savannah’s free downtown shuttle is at Broughton and Abercorn Streets, two blocks north of the Owens-Thomas House. Several paid city bus services stop on Oglethorpe Square or nearby. Get public transport directions or read more about public transit in Savannah.

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