Historic Savannah Foundation

Davenport House Museum with HSF Tour Bus, ca. 1966

Visit the full Historic Savannah Foundation website.

View The History of Historic Savannah Foundation video. (2012)

Historic Savannah Foundation is a private, non-profit historic preservation organization supported by a dedicated membership of over 900. The mission of the Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) is to preserve and protect Savannah’s heritage through advocacy, education and community involvement. HSF was established in 1955 to save the 1820 Isaiah Davenport House from demolition. From this initial project, it launched a Revolving Fund that has helped save more than 350 buildings. HSF has a staff of eight, an annual budget of $1 million, and a variety of outreach programs that support our mission and educate the public about the benefits of historic preservation.

Brief History: How It Began

Post World War II was not kind to many of this country’s urban cores, and Savannah was no different. As the automobile came into mass use and suburban sprawl became the public norm, our historic downtown withered. By the 1950s Savannah’s remarkable inventory of 19th century buildings and its renowned Oglethorpe Plan had fallen into neglect and decay. Hundreds of buildings were demolished or turned into slum tenements and three squares were demolished for a highway. Most new buildings failed to relate harmoniously to older buildings in terms of height, massing, scale and materials. Planning for the automobile took precedence over planning the human, and resulted in disinvestment and blight.

The ensuing public outcry gave rise to a need for a preservation advocacy group; the Davenport House was saved; Historic Savannah Foundation was born.

HSF believes that historic preservation is economic development and is the best kind since:

1. It is labor intensive which means it creates jobs;
2. It is ‘green’ because it recycles materials rather than send them to the landfill.
3. It is good public policy because it secures property values and helps reduce crime. Money spent and generated on preservation stays in the local economy.

The nearly 7 million annual visitors who come to Savannah do so because they want to experience an authentic, pedestrian-scaled, historic city. Maintaining that delicate balance of preservation and progress is what HSF strives to do.

What it does: Programs

Revolving Fund
Started in 1959, HSF’s Revolving Fund is nationally recognized for saving more than 350 historic buildings in Savannah. HSF raises or borrows money to purchase endangered historic resources, stabilizes and secures them, attaches protective covenants, then sells them to sensitive buyers. Any proceeds are plowed back into the Fund and are recycled to save other endangered historic buildings.

MASHH (Mayor’s Alliance to Save Historic Houses)
MASHH is an HSF initiative dedicated to saving endangered historic buildings, reducing blight, improving public safety, promoting economic development, supporting better land use/zoning, and fostering better community relations. Thanks to a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and matching gifts from key local donors, HSF and the City of Savannah collaborate on monitoring and developing preservation solutions (technical assistance, marketing, architectural assistance, lending, etc.) to save historic properties.

Historic Preservation Easements (non-possessory interests in real property for another purpose — in this case the protection of the envelope of an historic property) enable HSF to protect properties against adverse changes by acquiring a partial ownership interest in the property.

Easement donations can provide income, gift, estate, state, and/or federal tax advantages to the donor. HSF holds, monitors, and enforces some 350 easements and covenants.

Advocacy and Education
Representing a diverse and passionate constituency, HSF is the voice of preservation in Savannah and in Chatham County. It hosts education events, workshops, lectures and social events–all with an eye toward deepening the appreciation for and the understanding of why sensitive planning policies are important to promote and enforce.

Special Events
HSF’s special events serve as effective fundraising opportunities that support HSF’s operations and educational/outreach opportunities to familiarize HSF to the community. Sponsorship contributions are used to help underwrite the cost associated with these popular events, which are attended by hundreds of people.

– Race for Preservation 10k/5k (February)
– Preservation Festival (May) – The Davenport House and HSF share this event.
– Preservation Month lectures and events (May)
– HSF Gala (October)
– Annual Meeting (Fall)

Historic Savannah Foundation
321 E. York Street
Savannah, GA 31401
912/233-7706 Fax