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St. Vincent’s annual Tour of Homes & Tea helps with upkeep of 1845 convent

  • An example of some of the historic homes shown off in a past St. Vincent’s Academy Tour of Homes & Tea.
 

St. Vincent’s annual Tour of Homes & Tea helps with upkeep of 1845 convent

18 Oct 2017

The young women of St. Vincent’s Academy are hosting a fundraiser, and all you have to do to help is visit some of the most beautiful homes in Savannah and then, perhaps, enjoy an Earl Grey and a cucumber sandwich afterward. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

With so much to offer, it is no surprise that since its inaugural affair in 2004, St. Vincent’s annual Historic Tour of Homes & Tea has widely been considered one of the city’s most beloved tours. This year’s event is Oct. 21.

Seven amazing homes, featuring a mixture of historic architecture and modern downtown style, will be open to visitors looking to be awed by the elegance and splendor of Savannah living. At the end of the tour, visitors can enjoy a traditional tea in the courtyard of St. Vincent’s with fresh baked pastries, light sandwiches and other traditional delicacies.

The highlight of the tour is the Convent of St. Vincent’s Academy. Established in 1845 by Father Jeremiah Francis O’Neill and six Sisters of Mercy, and built by Charles Cluskey, the convent is an extraordinary example of Ecclesiastical style incorporating elements of Greek revival. It is even listed on the Historic American Buildings Survey.

“There are not many buildings listed on that and it’s a tough list to make,” says Loretto Lominack of St. Vincent’s Alumnae Affairs and Academic Advising. “This is an architectural gem.”

The convent boasts stained glass windows and needlework dating back to the 1800s, a lush grotto that sits under the spires of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and even a few architectural mysteries. “Old buildings don’t give up all their secrets,” says Lominack.

Visitors who explore the halls, parlor and chapel of the convent will be enamored by the rich tradition that seems to permeate every wall. Heritage Hall, for example, is lined with photos featuring students and nuns from years past.

“The girls have a great laugh at the outfits people used to wear, like skirts for the basketball team,” says Lominack.

All of the proceeds go to maintaining the 1845 convent. As expected with such an old building, there is constant need for restoration. Exterior painting, leak patching, roof repair and termite damage are among the many issues that need to be regularly addressed.

“If you made a list, it would be two pages long,” says Lominack. Last year’s tour was canceled because of Hurricane Matthew, so efforts are doubled to raise funds for the preservation of the building.

Lominack graduated from SVA in 1964 and is a sixth-generation attendee in her family. She can attest to the value of preserving the building and the school’s legacy.

“We have so many teachers here who graduated from St. Vincent’s,” says Lominack. “What you take from this place is so important to you and because you got so much, you want to give back to it.”

St. Vincent’s has endured for so long because of its dedication to nurturing strong educated women. The founding Sisters set a high bar for strong-willed determination when they not only taught students and ran an orphanage, but also secretly educated the children of slaves against the behest of Father O’Neill.

“You don’t tell a Sister of Mercy not to do something because she is just going to do it anyway,” says Lominack.

“If you ask the girls, ‘What’s the best thing about St. Vincent’s?’ they’ll say, there are no boys, to begin with, and then they’ll say, we’re all sisters; not like sisters with habits, but sisters to each other,” Lominack reflects. “We have each other’s backs, we love each other and we take care of each other … and that’s cool.”

IF YOU GO

What: St. Vincent’s annual Historic Tour of Homes & Tea

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 21

Where: St. Vincent’s Academy, 207 E. Liberty St.

Cost: $45

Info: svatourofhomes.net

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