The Owens-Thomas house was designed by English architect William Jay and was originally built for Richard Richardson, a prominent cotton merchant and banker in Savannah. William was the brother-in-law of Richard’s wife and eventually traveled to Savannah to oversee the home’s construction. Cisterns were placed throughout the home making it the first home in the country to have running water and indoor plumbing. The home was completed in 1819; however, the Richardson’s lost the home three years later due to financial trouble. The house was then sold to Mary Maxwell who turned the building into an inn.
The inn saw numerous prominent and influential guests including Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who was an American Revolutionary War hero. According to legend, Lafayette came to the house to address the Chatham Artillery, a unit similar to the National Guard at the time.
In 1830, former Savannah Mayor and United States Congressman George Welshman Owens bought the property. Mr. Owens maintained it, and kept it in his family until 1951 when his granddaughter, Margaret Thomas, donated the house to the the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences shortly before she passed away. Her only requests were the house become a museum and be named after her father and grandfather. In 1976, the Owens-Thomas House was recognized as a National Historic Landmark, and the following year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Carriage House was the original slave quarters in which the ceilings were painted blue to resemble water. It was believed that ghosts called haints could not travel over water, and the slaves thought painting the ceiling blue would trick the ghosts into thinking it was water.
Today the Owens-Thomas house is considered to be one of the premier examples of English Regency architecture in the United States. It is available for tours each day of the week.
Strange things happen at the Owens-Thomas House even though it is now a museum. Check it out in our app to find out more about the haunted dining room and the ‘Lady in Gray’ who supposedly still lives there.