Founded in 1733 as a refuge for poor and improvident people who could not “make it” in England, Georgia became the last and poorest American colony. Only a handful of 18th-century buildings has survived. But after the invention of the cotton gin on a plantation outside of Savannah in 1793, the transformation of Georgia and the South began. The port of Savannah prospered as never before. In 1817 the young, professionally trained, English-born architect William Jay began building opulent villas in the London Regency mode. Meanwhile, New England housewrights brought the refined Adam-Federal style to the capital, Milledgeville, and to middle Georgia. In the 1840’s, master carpenters, with the aid of pattern books, produced the finest Greek Revival mansions of the Old South in Athens, Washington, Macon, Roswell and Columbus.
Among the principal buildings described and illustrated are the James Vann House, Spring Place, an Indian chief’s frontier brick mansion; Thomas Spalding House, Sapelo Island, a gentleman amateur’s Palladian palace on a wilderness island; Richard Richardson House, Savannah, the first and greatest of William Jay’s famous Regency villas (a whole chapter is devoted to Jay in Georgia); the Governor’s Mansion at Milledgeville, a Greek Revival masterwork by Irish-born Charles B. Cluskey; and Charles Green Mansion, Savannah, the greatest Gothic house south of Virginia, designed by New Yorker John Norris for an English-born cotton merchant.
Many pages are devoted to memorable Savannah, with its 18th-century town plan, inspired by Renaissance military textbooks but expanded for 125 years as an unparalleled example of public planning, and its many treelined, brick-paved streets and stately row houses.