The heir to the Telfair family fortune bequeathed her home and its opulent furnishings to the Georgia Historical Society in 1875.
She laid the groundwork for the first public art museum in the South and became the first woman to found a museum in the United States. In 1886, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences opened to the public for the first time. Today, its spacious halls house three impressively grand nineteenth-century spaces containing American and European paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and works on paper. Says PR Manager Jason Kendall, “We take tremendous pride in the fact that we’ve been presenting diverse and original programming for more than 130 years.”
Just a stone’s throw away is the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters.
One of the nation’s finest examples of English Regency architecture, the home is filled with details that paint a vivid picture of its residents’ priorities and provide a rare glimpse into their thinking. In the 1840s, one of Savannah’s wealthiest and most prominent families lived here, alongside 13 enslaved men and women and a child whose name we know was Fanny. Across the orderly grounds is one of the oldest and best preserved urban slave quarters in the South, which tells a story of its own. “This is truly one of the most compelling historical sites in the country,” says Kendall. Here, visitors are challenged to consider history from two very distinct points of view: to imagine the dynamic between nineteenth-century Savannah’s most powerful residents and its least, and to better understand the complex narrative of urban slavery by engaging in nuanced thinking about the fabric of the American South.
Just a seven-minute walk down beautiful York Street is the Jepson Center.
Its towering glass walls, shimmering white marble and pops of color reflect the beauty and promise of the present. “The Jepson features a rotating cast of world-class exhibitions that cover everything from modern art to photography,” says Kendall. When you visit, be sure to step into the delightfully nerdy gift shop. And don’t miss the made-from-scratch cuisine at the in-house café, Joe’s at the Jepson, rated Savannah’s #1 Restaurant on TripAdvisor!
These are the Telfair Museums. A single ticket grants entrance to all three, and allows for a full week to visit them all. The Telfair Museums also present more than 250 free programs each year. This includes Free Family Weekends, free tours and workshops for students, seniors, therapeutic patients and veterans. “Our longtime mission,” says Kendall, “is to provide art for all. We want to engage everyone in our community, regardless of background, income, neighborhood or need. Our number one goal is to change lives.”
Telfair Museums has taken the Savannah Safe Pledge.
They ask that visitors wear a mask or face covering on site and maintain six feet of distance to others. Please follow posted signage indicating traffic flow and occupancy and frequently wash and/or sanitize hands. The Telfair Museums are open from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday and are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Come with an open mind and leave inspired!
By Dani Ray
207 W. York St.