Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum

Open Tuesday-Sunday. Adult admission $9.

See below: full visitor information

See also: overview of museums in Savannah

The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum explores Savannah’s maritime history through displays of nautical artifacts, paintings and scale models of famous ships.

The museum is housed, appropriately, in the Scarbrough House, former home of William Scarbrough (1776-1838). Scarbrough was an important figure in Savannah’s maritime history, one of the backers of the historic SS Savannah, the first ship to cross the Atlantic under partial steam power.

The failure of the Savannah, commercially unviable despite the success of its historic trans-Atlantic voyage, bankrupted Scarbrough. He had lived in his new house for only two years.

The house passed through various hands until its purchase for an orphanage in 1870. After only a few years more it was sold again, to George Wymberley Jones De Renne, and in the late 1870s the Scarbrough House was loaned to the Board of Education.

The house then entered the longest phase in its history, as the first public school in Savannah for African-American children. The West Broad Street School, as it was known, was in use for roughly eight decades, finally closing in 1962.

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What To See & Do

Exhibits The museum, which is set up for self-guided tours, displays models of ships significant in Savannah’s maritime history, including a crecreation of the historic steamship Savannah, along with models of other famous ships such as the Titanic. It also houses collections of maritime paintings and ships in bottles.

Architecture Scarbrough House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by the noted English architect William Jay. Construction was completed around the end of 1818, just in time to allow Scarbrough to offer the use of his new residence to visiting president James Monroe in May of 1819.

The house is built in the Greek Revival style, one of the earliest examples of this architectural style in the South. William Jay’s stay in Savannah was brief, but long enough for him to leave a legacy as one of the most talented architects of antebellum Savannah. He moved to Charleston shortly after the Scarbrough House was completed, soon after that returning to his native England.

The house underwent substantial changes during its period as a school building, most notably the addition of a stylistically-inconsistent third story. In the 1970s, the Historic Savannah Foundation restored the property, removing the third floor during the course of its renovations.

Gardens The gardens of Scarbrough House are amongst the largest in Savannah’s historic center. Renovated in the 1980s and expanded in the 90s, the grounds are in two parts: the gardens behind the house are landscaped in the style of a 19th-century parlor garden, employing native, historically-accurate plantings. The prizewinning north garden – admittance to which is free to the public daily, without museum admission – is designed in a modern style.

Online materials The museum’s website has several informative online exhibits featuring history and old images and photographs on topics including the slave ship Wanderer, the West Broad Street School, maritime activities of the Girl Scouts, and historic postcards of the Savannah River.

Special events Special exhibits and concerts, plus other events, are occasionally held at the Ships of the Sea Museum. See details of upcoming events

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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 912-232-1511 or visit the official website.

Opening hours Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Last admission is at 4:15pm. The museum is closed on most major holidays, plus St Patrick’s Day.

Admission Adults $9, seniors/children/students/military $7, young children (0-5) free. A family ticket (admission for two parents plus their children under age 18) is $21.

A discount Pioneers in Preservation Pass is also available, which allows entrance to the Davenport House and the Andrew Low House in addition to the Ships of the Sea Museum for $21 per person. See details

Getting There

Address 41 Martin Luther King, Jr Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31401 GPS coordinates N 32.081108, W -081.097196

The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum is located on the western border of Savannah’s Historic District. Parking is available in the museum’s lot off Orange Street. See on map

Public transport The Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum is readily accessible by bus. Savannah’s free downtown shuttle does not stop right at the museum, but has a stop four blocks away, on Ellis Square. More about free and paid public transit

The museum is also very convenient to get to by paid public transport, as Savannah’s main bus station, the Joe Murray Rivers, Jr Intermodal Transit Center, at which most bus routes terminate, is only four blocks away. Get public transport directions