The face of Warren Ward took shape in the 1800s, but a major facelift in the 1960s brought a new energy and glow.
“Warren Square has a well-worn rather woebegotten look about it,” Kathy Palmer wrote in The Savannah Evening Press on Sept 21, 1961, “…the park is wrinkled with sandy paths which slice through in all directions. Its grass grows sparsely inside a high wire fence that partially surrounds it. The park’s beauty lies in about a half dozen oaks and several palms which scatter their shade about the square.”
Savannah’s Park and Tree Department gave permission to Mills B. Lane Jr., president of Citizens and Southern National Bank to renovate the square, Palmer wrote, and continued with Joseph Harrison, executive vice president of the bank, describing plans that included low redwood and pipe fences, similar to the cypress ones of the 1800s and adding shrubbery and flowers. The planners looked to Williamsburg, Va., as a model.
Anne and Mills Lane, Jr. had moved several houses from the area of the planned civic center to new home sites in Warren Ward, so they had a vested interested in improving the square.
Two of the houses were tied to John Eppinger, a bricklayer from the German community of Ebenezer in Effingham County, Ga. who became a United States Marshall. The saga of one of the houses appeared in the previous blog.
The Lanes moved the second, the Dunlap-Eppinger House built in 1809 at 219 Jefferson St., to 425 E. Bay St. in the late 1960s. Anne Lane told Annie Rockwell, who worked with her later, that there were some cold Sunday suppers when the power lines were taken down so the houses could move along the streets.
The Lanes renovated this Eppinger House from 1969-71, retired to it after returning from Atlanta, and lived there until their deaths.
The Lanes worked with architect John LeBey on the restoration of the Federal-era house. Much of the original fabric of the house remains intact. Mantelpieces in the double parlors are framed by pairs of colonettes. Two chimneys of Savannah gray brick serve six fireplaces on three floors. The Lanes added a new kitchen and a side service entrance hall with a flower sink and powder room. They installed an elevator that runs from the basement with its laundry rooms, wine cellar, two bathrooms and servants’ apartments to the first and second floors. A sunroom overlooks the garden created by landscape designer Clermont Lee. LeBey designed a two-car garage, and a greenhouse was also added to the property.
The Lanes’ son, Mills IV, had planned a second move for the house to Congress Street on Washington Square where he thought it better fit the neighborhood. His death in 2001 preceded his mother’s in 2003, so the house was not moved and is run as an inn.
While they were still living in Atlanta in 1961, the Lanes restored the Margaret Pendergast House built in 1868 at 420 East St. Julian St. This was the first Savannah house they restored and lived in as they retreated to Savannah and planned other restorations. They changed the stoop and added a side porch. Mills IV later wanted to restore the stoop to its original design but decided it was too complicated.
Before the era of strict regulations about what could be demolished, Anne and Mills, Jr., tore down the house at 426 East St. Julian and moved the Henry Willink House onto the lot. The white cottage was originally built at 231 Price St. and they restored it in 1963-64.
The William Pope House was originally built in 1826 at 419 E. St. Julian St. When the Lanes purchased it, they decided with their architect that they could not salvage it, so they deconstructed it and rebuilt in 1963-64 using measured drawings and some of the original fabric of the house.
Anne and Mills, Jr. continued their work in the Warren Ward with three more houses: the Thomas Magee House built in 1892 at 421-425 E. St. Julian St. was restored in 1962, the Mary Driscoll House built in 1898 at 418 E. Bryan St. was restored in 1965, and the Elizabeth Heery House built in 1857 at 17 Price St. was restored in 1964-65.
The Heery House at one time housed a grocery, and Mills, Jr. considered it as a location for his maritime museum that he eventually put on River Street.
Mills IV moved his father’s collection from River Street to the Scarbrough House on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Houses and collections have been sailing and rolling around Savannah for generations.
Rexanna Keller Lester is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy.
For more on architecture and the history of the South, click on the “Books” tab at the top of the page.