When guests travel to Savannah, they see the lush greenery, the flowers and the lovely historical buildings downtown. What they don’t see is the hard work and dedication that goes into not only the maintenance of those buildings, but also the preservation efforts in restoring them to historically accurate settings.
The Davenport House is one of those buildings, and in 1955 a group of people came together to buy the building and restore it, said director Jamie Credle. She added there were lots of different personalities involved and lots of hard work, including getting power behind the preservation movement.
“Without question,” she added, “one of the drivers regards quality of life that we live in a restored community, and a community that cares about its restored buildings.”
That restoration will be on display bright and early at 8 a.m. every Saturday in April during the Early Bird’s Preservation Walking Tour of the Landmark Historic District’s East Side.
Credle said the 2.1-mile walk will start at the Davenport House, returning for coffee and snacks afterward.
“When visitors come and see this beautiful city, I don’t know if they realize the work that it has taken to save what they have come to see,” she said.
The walk is a way to remember where it started, taking a look at present day and looking back at accomplishments of the preservation and restoration actions. Credle said the preservation effort started with the city’s original plan.
“We have a very old preservation ethic here,” she said. “There were people before 1955 who were interested in preservation, but what makes the Davenport House preservation different is that it was a grassroots preservation effort for civic betterment, as opposed to restoring houses and selling them for income.
“I got involved with the preservation movement because I am a museum person,” Credle said. Living in a rural county growing up and seeing museums in her community inspired her. Credle is originally from Windsor, N.C.
“I had no idea having a house as a museum was unusual,” she said, adding that for the last 30 years, she she has worked in house museums.
“I came to Savannah because it is a great place to live,” she said. “People care about their past as well as their future, and it is really wonderful that we have lots of people who care about our preservation story, for the past, present and future of our community.
“We are a cornerstone of the quality of life, and we try remind people of that.”
Credle’s passion for preservation shines through. She said people move to certain cities because they care about their community and neighbors.
“I find that is great about Savannah,” she said. “They care about people and their culture, and we are part of all of that matrix that makes Savannah a nice place to live.”
The Davenport House story from the 1950s reflects how regular people can get involved and make a difference.
“It was a tenement building about to be torn down when regular folks got together to save it,” she said.
“It really goes to show you that you really can make a difference when you get together a group of people and make your voices heard,” Credle said. “You also need money, and that is what our group did; they got together and raised money. They became a beacon for preservation throughout the last 60 or so years.”
IF YOU GO
What: Early Bird’s Preservation Walking Tour of the Landmark Historic District’s East Side
When: 8 a.m. April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29
Where: Davenport House Museum, 324 E. State St.
Info: davenporthousemuseum.org, 912-236-8097