Telfair Museums – Part 2
This place has a great deal of history to it as can be seen in the name alone. Passing through several families before eventually becoming the museum we see today; this large building and the story of its inhabitants are both full of tragedy. On the tours you can hear the full back story of what happened here and see for yourself the many items left behind to prove to the eyes what the mind may not believe.
Owens-Thomas House And Slave Quarters
Banker Richard Richardson and his family were the first to inhabit this house back in 1819, with him were nine slaves that included men women and children. Though the family was clearly prosperous thanks to their grand house, healthy children and the people they had bought, the following years did not treat them kindly. While the head of the house was still a functional part of the slave trade, transporting masses of unpaid workers from savannah to other territories another blight hit the town in the form of yellow fever. This disease spread throughout the south and notably hit Savannah hard as can be seen by the buildings that were converted into makeshift hospitals. Moving away after the loss of his wife, the house then was passed to Mary Maxwell and then was bought later on by Mayor George Welshman Owens. Owens held slaves in the building with him and also had hundreds work tirelessly on his plantations. His granddaughter Margaret Gray Thomas was the last to own the house before willing it as a museum upon her death.
Today this house contains some lovely art and has some admirable furnishings throughout its many rooms. The decorative arts include sculptures, ornate fireplaces and wooden cabinets. Outside the gardens offer a quaint green space covered in stone and brought to life by frequently trimmed trees and hedges. But none of these are the main reasons that people visit, the inhumane living conditions of black people can unmistakably be seen first hand here, this morbid yet important curiosity draws many to the site all year round.
The slave quarters lie in the north of the building and are separated into two floors. Here between nine and fifteen enslaved people, many of which were just children lived out their lives in an inescapable routine of work. The areas they inhabited are wonderfully preserved here which gives visitors a unique and clear perspective of the live that these people were forced into. The first thing that will hit you is the stark contrast between the huge, light and decorative rooms that occupy the rest of the home and the squalid, dank, bare and cramped living spaces the slaves were constrained to. You can also see the Butlers pantry here where the butlers in bondage in between servicing those who kept them here, would have to take great of the family’s valuables such as silverware and china, despite their own lives not being seen as having any value. The artifacts that remain here serve as interactive exhibits where guests can truly get into the headspace of what it was like to live here against their will.