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Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters
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Why You Should Go
Open Thursdays – Mondays only. Mask required for entry.
Reservations are not required. Simply present your phone at the ticket counter. Last tour beings at 4:20 p.m.
Notice: This attraction fills up often-times. Please arrive early. If they are sold-out for the day and you have a 1-day pass, notify the Staff that you have Tour Pass, have them check you in today so you can return the next day. You are not guaranteed entry with Tour Pass.
Built as a beautiful Regency style mansion in 1819, the Owens-Thomas House, along with its adjacent gardens, carriage house, and slave quarters, allows visitors to explore the complicated relationships between the most and least powerful people in the city of Savannah in the early 19th century.
History of the Richardson-Owens-Thomas House
In November 1816, work began on the new home of banker, shipping merchant, and slave trader Richard Richardson and his wife, Frances. The home was designed by English architect (and relative to Richardson by marriage) William Jay, but was constructed by builder John Retan and the team of free and enslaved men in his charge. The site also included a two-sided privy and a building located on the east end of the lot, which was divided into a carriage house and slave quarters.
The Richardsons moved into the home with their six children and nine enslaved men, women, and children in January 1819. Unfortunately for the Richardsons, the next three years saw steady decreases in their prosperity, including the financial Panic of 1819, a yellow fever epidemic, a fire that destroyed half the city, and the death of Frances and two of the children. By 1822, Richardson decided to sell the house and move to Louisiana, where he had family and business interests. He had been shipping enslaved people, mostly children, from Savannah to New Orleans for years.
By 1824, the Bank of the United States owned the house, which they leased to Mary Maxwell as a boarding house. The Marquis de Lafayette was a guest of Mrs. Maxwell when he visited Savannah in March 1825 as part of his whirlwind tour of the United States for the 50th anniversary of the American Revolution.
In 1830, George Welshman Owens, then mayor of Savannah, purchased the property at auction for $10,000. Owens, who was also a lawyer, planter, and politician, moved in with his wife, Sarah, and their six children in 1833. Over the years, Owens kept nine to 15 enslaved people on the property and held almost 400 men, women, and children in bondage on his plantations.
The last Owens descendant to live in the home was George Owens’ granddaughter, Margaret Gray Thomas. When Thomas passed away in 1951 with no direct heirs, she willed the house to the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences to be run as a house museum in honor of her grandfather, George Owens, and her father, Dr. James Gray Thomas. The site opened to the public in 1954.
The south half of this building originally housed horses and carriages on the first floor with a hay loft on the floor above. Beginning in;November 2018, the first level of this building will house our Orientation Gallery. Exhibits in this space help put the story of the site into the larger context of local, regional, and national history. The site of the original hay loft now houses The Loft, a workspace for Telfair’s historical interpreters to study primary documents, examine archaeological artifacts, and research our sites’ history.
The north half of the building contains the original slave quarters for the site. This two-story structure was composed of three rooms on each level. Nine to 15 enslaved people, about half of whom were children, lived and worked on the site at any given time between 1819 and the end of the Civil War. Once the war ended, the space became servants’ quarters, housing many of the same people.
Now these these wonderfully preserved spaces offer new interactive exhibits to help visitors understand the day-to-day lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked in the space, as well as the most unique architectural feature of the house, the indoor plumbing.
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All Reviewsfrom 336 reviews
We did as much as we could with the one day tour pass, and should’ve gotten the two day pass. The tours were all amazing, and one of the tours was actually more expensive to purchase outside of the tour pass site, which made everything else included just an added bonus. The boat tour was amazing, the grit counter lunch was amazing, and the site was very easy to use, especially the included map and hours. Definitely am going to use again if I end up in Charleston.
Our first special trip on our special day since getting married 45 years ago! It could not have been any better! Our tours were perfect, the city is beautiful and the food delectable! We WILL be back, before another 45 years fly by! Great value, beautiful venues, historically knowledgeable and pleasant tour guides!! Thank you ALL!
I purchased a two day tour pass for my trip for Savannah and I would recommend it to anyone. Depending on how much you want to see and how much time you have, I would say the two-day pass is a better value than the one. Here's what I would recommend: the two day pass gives you three tours included. On the first day, use one of the tours for the Hop on Hop off trolley tour. The pass will give you admission to everything on that tour, so you can get off, see the museum or house or whatever, then get back on the trolley after each stop. Its an entire day. Then, that night take the ghost tour as your second included tour. You will see alot of Savannah at night, get all the good ghost stories performed for you by good actors, and you will get inside the Telfair at night, which is very spooky. Then, the following day take your third free tour. If you're active, you can rent e-bikes, or if you want more mellow, there's walking tours, or the steam boat ride down the Savannah River. If you do the Steam Boat, I would plan other activities in that area, shopping or dinner, because the River Walk is beautiful and there are a lot of stores, there's also the Maritime Museum and the Pirate House is close. We did a carriage ride for one of our tours and enjoyed that thoroughly. All in all, Savannah is a treasure trove of beauty and history, and the pass allows you to see it all, for one price, using your phone so the ticket is always handy. Best of all you save a ton of money. I calculated we saved $80, and we didn't even do alot of the museums. People were paying $75 per family for one tour, and we did three tours for $300, plus three museums, and that was less than half of what you could have done, but my kids didn't care about the historical homes, so we missed out. I recommend it!!
My family visited Charleston along with another family. Using the tour pass allowed us to have a thorough and enjoyable experience! We chose the 3 day option and did/saw a lot of things we might not have otherwise. I highly recommend it!
The Tour Pass was fabulous! Customer service was available and very helpful every time I needed them. Also there were attractions and tours on the pass that we never would have found without the pass. We saved over $150.00 with our 4 day pass. Great value...I strongly recommend purchasing the Tour Pass.
Excellent customer service, easy to use, worth the money
Buying this pass gave us a another reason look for ways to pack our visit with more things to see and do! There were tours and places to visit both inside the “Old Town” and in the immediate area, and things to enjoy in both great weather and inclement weather.
Our visit to Savannah was stress free due to the use of the Savannah Tour Pass. It allowed us to plan our itinerary for the places we wanted to see, prior to our arrival in the City. We took advantage of purchasing a three day Tour Pass, which provided us with three featured tours and unlimited walk ins of tours that were not on the featured list. We enjoyed the Historic Savannah Civil War tour, the Historic Homes tour, the Telfair Academy and Jepson Center, the Pinpoint Museum, the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, the Savannah History Museum and so much more. The Tour Pass also provided us with a coupon, per person, for a free ice pop at the Savannah Ice Pop Shop. We found that purchasing one Tour Pass saved us money on the price of individual ticket purchases for all of the other attractions that we visited. It was a grand way of visiting a city we had never been in.
Really loved the convenience and excellent choices fthis tour pass offers. We felt we really had a great deal. We are the type that would bypass attractions that charged entrance fees. With this pass we were able to enjoy many attractions we would have passed over guilt free.
The Charleston Tour pass greatly enhanced our visit. We were easily able to reserve spots at the featured tours and when we arrived we just showed our ce ll phone. Could not have been easier. Also at the walk in sites it was just as easy.I highly recommend this pass, not only to save some money but to also save time at all the sites. The map feature also helped us to find our way around.
We purchased the 3-day pass and saved about $100 per individual. We did a number of things we wouldn't have normally done and were pleasantly surprised. The speedboat adventure tour was a big hit with my husband, and something we would have not of thought of to do on our own. We had no problem using the app. Highly recommend!