Visitors to the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters are guided through one of the finest examples of Regency architecture in America as well as the original slave quarters designed to house the enslaved men, women, and children who maintained it. The tour includes an exploration of the lives and complicated relationships of the most and least powerful people in 19th century Savannah—such as the wealthy Owens family who owned the property for 121 years and the many enslaved people who labored to support and maintain the household.
The house, designed by architect William Jay and completed in 1819, was purchased in 1830 by George Welshman Owens, a wealthy planter, lawyer, and politician. Owens moved in with his wife, Sarah, six children, and nine slaves. By 1840, 14 enslaved people resided on the property—including Emma and Kate, the enslaved nannies tasked with raising the Owens’ children; Diane, the enslaved cook, who worked to provide meals for everyone in the home; and Fanny, an enslaved child.
In 1951, George Owens’ granddaughter, Margaret Gray Thomas, donated the family home to Telfair Museums to become the first house museum in the city. Now a National Historic Landmark, the property boasts a carefully curated mansion with a formal parterre garden and an original carriage house, which includes the only intact urban slave quarters open to the public in Savannah. The Owens-Thomas House slave quarters is complete with the nation’s largest expanse of slave-applied haint blue paint, made from indigo and thought to ward off evil spirits.
The tour also provides an exploration of the home’s remarkable features, including Savannah’s earliest system of indoor plumbing, an indoor bridge, and the balcony from which the Marquis de Lafayette is said to have addressed a crowd of locals in 1825, as well as insight about how each room was used in that time and by whom.
Tours of the Owens-Thomas House site are given daily at twenty-minute intervals. The last tour begins at 4:20 pm.