Historian, curator, and classic-car buff Tanya Bailey-Smith opened the Great Savannah Races Museum as an homage to the cultural significance of the Great Savannah Races of 1908, 1910, and 1911. Her facility doubles as a micromuseum and gift shop with media and fine-art items on display and a collection from the Automobile Club of America, whose members chose Savannah to host the first American Grand Prix.
Built in 1842, The Harper Fowlkes House incorporates many of the popular styles of the era, such as an exterior of Savannah gray brick stuccoed and scored to resemble stone blocks. Visitors can still see the craftsmen?s handiwork during educational tours of the three-story Greek Revival mansion, held four days a week. A curving stone staircase leads to the mansion?s front doorway, surrounded by a two-story porch whose roof rests on elegant columns. Inside, antique artwork abounds, such as a portrait of Colonel Habersham, who played a key role in the Revolutionary War by originating the backward tri-cornered hat. Other period antiques decorate the house, and an enclosed garden adds an outdoor element. Further antique details permeate the house, from ceilings bordered by original plaster crown moldings to six chandeliers that were originally gas-burning but have been retrofitted to host light bulbs.
In 1820, an upwardly mobile carpenter named Isaiah Davenport designed a 6,800-square-foot Federal-style home to live in with his wife, children, and slaves. After his death, Davenport’s wife turned the stately brick house into a boarding house, though it later devolved into a run-down tenement—until the Historic Savannah Foundation saved the landmark when it was threatened with demolition in 1955. The organization’s award-winning preservation, their very first effort, jumpstarted an organized preservation movement that spread across the entire port city.
Today, the Davenport House Museum’s rooms are filled with antique furniture from the 1820s, acquired after careful research relying on estate inventories and detailed artist renderings of long-ago games of musical chairs. These period-accurate tables and chairs join ceramics, textiles, and books to form the museum’s collection of about 500 historical items. Behind the home, where a carriage house, garden, and privy once stood, a garden designed by renowned landscape artist Penelope Hobhouse flourishes. After walking among its flowers, visitors can drop by the museum shop to pick up jams and jellies, books about Savannah, and reproductions of early 19th-century items.