Though there have been be numerous individual preservation efforts in Savannah, the saving of the Davenport House in 1955 was the catalyst for the organized preservation movement in the port city. When threated with demolition a group of individuals came together to prevent the house from being torn down and in so doing became the first effort of the Historic Savannah Foundation. The Davenport House was Savannah’s “line in the sand” indicating that no more houses of historical significance would be destroyed without “a fight.” What started as a “case celebre” has become a staple of the historic environment in Savannah, which has ushered in a two billion dollar tourist industry.
The house opened as a museum in 1963 and since that time has evolved with the growing professionalism of the museum field.
A landmark was the awarding of the a “Preserve American” Preservation Award in the Rose Garden of the White House for the 2000-2003 re-restoration of the house. President and Mrs. George W. Bush presented the award to a Davenport House/Historic Savannah Foundation representative for Private Preservation.
The house continues to be a model of good stewardship and an example for the historic preservation and museum fields.
Davenport House – Recipient of Governor’s Award in Humanities
On Tuesday, May 11, 2010 Savannah’s Davenport House Museum was one of twelve recipients recognized at the 25th Governor’s Award in the Humanities at a ceremony in the Old Georgia Railroad Depot in Atlanta. “The museum was honored for its fifty years plus journey to create an accurate, well-preserved, sustainable, vital and exciting place to learn history. This includes its reinterpretation efforts, the raising of an endowment, its education programs and the energized and growing community of volunteers, staff and supporters who feel a part of and share the fine house museum on a regular basis,” notes the DH director, Jamie Credle . “The Davenport House is in illustrious company as a recipient of the Governor’s Award,” continues Credle. Other coastal Georgia recipients this year are archeologist Rita Folse Elliott of Rincon and the McIntosh County Shouters of Bolden, who ended the award’s program with a benediction of call and response shouting and a ring dance bearing witness to the experiences of their enslaved forebears.
The listing for the award reads:
Since 1955, the Davenport House Museum of Savannah has served as a model for preservation, museum interpretive practices, and education programming. In addition, the campaign to save the Davenport House inspired the creation of the Historic Savannah Foundation, which has helped to sustain Savannah’s unique ethic of preservation which communities across Georgia and beyond have subsequently emulated. The Federal-style home of a merchant/craftsman, the Davenport House has been carefully restored and authentically interpreted. Its staff, docents, and other volunteers use the home as a stage for a variety of programs about life in 19th-Century Georgia which attract thousands of visitors annually. In addition, the House and its programming have inspired the raising of an endowment, to ensure that the structure and its programming will be offered to future generations.
DH Receives 2005 Preserve America Presidential Award
The Preserve America Presidential Awards are part of a White House initiative that highlights the efforts of President and Mrs. Bush to celebrate and preserve our nation’s cultural and Natural heritage assets. Each year two awards are given for heritage tourism and two for historic preservation.
The awards are given to organizations, businesses, government entities and individuals for:
- exemplary accomplishments in the sustainable use and preservation of cultural or natural heritage assets;
- demonstrated commitment to the protection and interpretation of America’s cultural or natural heritage assets; and
- integration of these assets into contemporary community life, combining innovative, creative and responsible approaches to showcasing historic local resources.
- The recipients are chosen through a national competition administered by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in cooperation with the Executive Office of the President and in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
This information was provided by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
The Davenport House Museum received one of the historic preservation awards for private preservation. The Preserve America Presidential Award is the highest national award honoring historic preservation achievment.