Historic Columbia Square

Columbia Square and Columbia Ward were laid out in 1799 on Habersham Street. This square has architecturally and historically interesting homes. The name derived from the post-Revolutionary patriotic fervor that was sweeping the infant country at the time.

As with so many of the squares on the eastern side of the historic center of Savannah, Columbia Square had been seriously neglected by the mid-twentieth century, when the preservation movement got underway.

Probably the most important home to be saved on Columbia Square was the Davenport House, at 324 East State Street. Isaiah Davenport, an early master builder, had the home built after purchasing the lot in 1812. Davenport bequeathed the home to his family and it remained in their possession until 1840. The home was then sold to William Baynard and it remained in that family until 1955. It was scheduled for destruction, but when it was learned that this early home was to be demolished, one woman, Anna Hunter, gathered her women friends who were similarly interested and they raised the money to purchase the home and save it. This was the defining moment for the preservationist movement in Savannah, because this led to the formation of the Historic Savannah Foundation. The home is now headquarters for the foundation and is one of several museum homes in Savannah.

Getting back to Columbia Square, the fountain in the center once stood on the Wormsloe Plantation outside the city limits. This was the ancestral home of the Jones and DeRenne families. The acquisition and restoration of the Davenport house kicked off a rush of preservation activity on the square and in the 1970s, Eudora and Wainwright Roebling renovated the square itself, adding this beautiful fountain from the plantation.

Kitty corner from the Davenport House, on the north side of the Columbia Square, sits the Kehoe House. This lovely Queen Anne brick mansion, which was built for William Kehoe, who founded the Kehoe Ironworks, has since been converted to an inn. All of the exterior trim – all the moldings, cladding, rails were made of cast iron, though to look at it, one would never guess this. The home was built in 1893. William Kehoe figured in another of the homes on this square – the one located at 130 Habersham Street, which was built in 1855.

Several homes on Columbia Square and the surrounding streets originally sat on other lots in the city. 416 – 418 East State Street was originally located on Broughton Lane. This home was originally owned and probably developed by Henry Willink, who built a number of homes in the area. 420 East State Street was moved from Green Street to its present site…saved again by the Historic Savannah Foundation. It was a Davenport project, believed to have been built between 1799 and 1810. 321 East York Street dates from 1818 and was moved to its present location from Elbert Square, which was destroyed to make way for a freeway off-ramp. What makes this home significant is that it was built for Abraham Sheftall, one of the earliest families to settle in Savannah. They had come with a group of German-speaking, Jewish families in 1733, on the second ship to land in Savannah. This family continues living in Savannah to this day.

From Columbia Square back to Savannah Squares

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