Part of what makes Savannah a historic gem is its unique amalgam of gorgeous parks, cobblestone streets and preserved historic buildings. The latter of those attributes owes a great deal of its current state of existence to the Historic Savannah Foundation.
Founded in 1955, the HSF has spent decades purchasing and stabilizing historic homes throughout Savannah through the use of a revolving fund. To date, they have saved 370 buildings from demolition.
“We own the Davenport House,” HSF Director of Development Meghan Lowe said. “That’s our flagship museum. The saving of the Davenport House kind of started Historic Savannah Foundation. Then we have a revolving fund. We purchase old properties, stabilize them and re-sell them to a preservation-minded owner. That money goes back into the revolving fund so we can purchase other buildings.
“We have a full-time historic properties coordinator that goes out and looks at different buildings, purchases them and makes sure the building are up to code. We sell them and put a protective easement on the property; that way the property maintains its historic integrity. That’s the program that really saves the building."
Lowe adds, "From a human interest perspective, every single one of these buildings has a story connected to it.”
May is a special month for the HSF. In 1973, the National Trust for Historic Preservation introduced the Preservation Month initiative, to be celebrated each May. Each year, local preservation groups, as well as business and civic organizations throughout the country, plan events to promote local heritage.
Historically, the HSF has hosted an annual festival in May. This year, they shifted the focus to three key events for the month.
“Preserving and stewarding the gift we have been given in historic Savannah is a daily commitment, but May is a time to really bring attention to what we do in this community,” HSF President and CEO Daniel Carey said.
The HSF will open the month May 4 with a Wine Tasting and Historic Homes Tour. Four homes have been chosen for the self-guided tour and paired with wines and appetizers. Highlighting the Thomas Square District, the tour will work its way down East 36th Street.
On May 11, HSF will host its annual Preservation Awards Luncheon at the Savannah Golf Club. Each year, the organization hands out awards to local businesses and individuals that exemplify the foundation’s mission. In the past, The Artillery, Tybee Post Theater and Telfair Academy have been honored. They will also present the Nichola Parker Coe Volunteer of the Year Award and the Lee and Emma Adler Award for Advocacy.
At the end of the month, the HSF’s 13th Colony, a young professionals group, will host a preservation-minded event at the Starland Dairy. The hub of the burgeoning Starland District, the dairy is about to undergo a radical transformation in the next few years into a mixed-used space.
Although it has been unoccupied for some time, the dairy has occasionally played host to various events, including a recent set of concerts hosted by neighbor Graveface Records & Curiosities.
“Our mission is to save buildings, places and stories that define Savannah’s past, present and future,” Lowe said. “So any time we see a building that is being saved instead of under demolition, we try to honor that. That’s what we do with our preservation awards. We look at these projects that revitalize, come to life and repurpose into a different manner, instead of knocking it down. People are preserving the history of the buildings. The dairy fits perfectly with that mission.”