What Is The Owens Thomas House?

January 12, 2024

George Welshman Owens was born on August 29, 1786, and died on March 2, 1856. He was born in Savannah and attended school in Harrow England. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he studied law in the office of Mr. Chitty. After studying in London, George returned to Savannah and passed the state bar. After practicing law for years, he was then elected as a Jackson Representative to the 24th United States Congress. He subsequently won reelection as a Democrat to the 25th Congress where he served from 1835 to 1839. After his congressional service, George returned to practicing law. When he died on March 2, 1856, he was buried in Laurel Grove cemetery.

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What is the Owens Thomas House?

The Owens Thomas house is a historic house turned museum, and is located in Savannah, Georgia. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Building on the house started in 1816, and was completed by 1819. English architect William Jay designed the home from plans drawn up before he came to America. Before becoming the Owens Thomas house, the home was known as The Richardson House after its owner Richard Richardson.  In 1830 politician George Welshman Owens purchased the home for $10,000, and lived there for several decades. Eventually, Geroge's granddaughter Margaret Thomas bequeathed the house to the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, thus becoming the Owens Thomas House. 

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During the 1990's, renovations discovered numerous slave quarters, which today are the oldest and best preserved in the south. These quarters are the focus of the tours. The ceilings are painted a haint blue, which, according to Gullah culture, are used to deter ghosts and other malevolent spirits. These quarters also are known for having the largest swatch of haint blue paint in all of North America.

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When touring the Owens Thomas House, you are able to see the collection of furnishing and decorative arts from the English Regency period. There are also personal effects from the Owens family that date back to 1790. Such as English Georgian and American Federal furniture, early Savannah textiles, and Chinese Export porcelain. As well as 18th and 19th century art.

In the courtyard there is a small parterre garden that was redesigned by Savannah landscape architect Clermont Huger Lee in 1954. The formal garden was designed in 1820 English-American style, and Lee supervised the maintenance of the garden for 14 years. 

Credit:UGArdener

William Jay was the architect for the Owens Thomas House. He was born on November 16, 1792, and died on April 17, 1837. His father William Jay Sr. was a stonemason, who later became a Congregationalist minister.  In 1807, William Jay started apprenticing under the architect and surveyor David Riddall Roper. Besides the Owens Thomas House, Jay also designed many notable buildings, starting in London. His designs for Surrey Chapel Almshouses were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1814. He also designed Dr. Fletcher's Albion Chapel in London. In December 1817 he moved to the United States, where he designed the Owens THomas House, the William Scarbrough House, Telfair Academy, and the original 1818 Savannah Theatre. He married Louise Coulson and had three children while living in Savannah. When the economy of Georgia collapsed in 1822, Jay took his family and moved back to England, where he worked mostly in Cheltenham. In 1983 he moved with his family to the island of Mauritius and found work as a civil engineer until his death at age 44.

Credit:UGArdener

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Conclusion: Haunting History

How cool is it to not only read about history, but get to see it firsthand? If you enjoyed taking a look at The Owens Thomas House, take a look at Elena Gilbert’s house here.

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Julie Bowes
Meet Julie, the creative Head of Content at Urban Splatter. Since her move from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 2017, she's been bringing the world of celebrity real estate to life through her engaging articles. Julie has honed her passion for storytelling into a thriving full-time career, producing innovative content ideas and contributing to multiple websites. With a self-published book and several novels to her name, she's continuously expanding her horizons in the freelance writing sphere.

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