Scarbrough House Relaunched

Eventually Mills Lane IV decided that Scarbrough House was the place for the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum and took on the restoration project.

New entrance to the museum from the enlarged garden. Design details
were based on those of the front portico.

Columned atrium as restored by Mills Lane IV.

In the 1990s he set out on the detective work with architects Harvie Jones from Alabama and John Deering from Savannah. They were grateful for the structural work done by the Historic Savannah Foundation in the 1970s, but Mills wanted “a simple hipped roof found on other [William] Jay buildings and a central skylight and dome painted sky-blue, based on Jay’s original design for the [1819] Alexander Telfair House before it was converted into an art museum in the 1880s.”

Blacksmith John Boyd copied gas lamps for the front entrance that Jay had designed for the Bank of the United States in Savannah, Deering said. The bank building had been demolished in 1924.

In 1998 Mills wrote about his choices in the book Wm. Scarbrough’s House: History and Restoration, again showing his meticulous attention to detail.

“The interior of Scarbrough House was repaired and furnished with bits of early 19th century decoration to provide an elegant setting for Ships of the Sea Museum’s collection of ship models and maritime artifacts. A painted floorcloth in the entrance hall was adapted from a design in John Goldicutt’s Specimens of Ancient Decoration at Pompeii (London, 1825). Carpets in the three principal rooms on the first floor were woven from archival designs of the period by an English mill that has been operating since the 1790s. Carved decorative cornices for wooden Venetian blinds were reproduced from an original found in the attic of another William Jay-designed house in Savannah, the 1817-18 Richard Richardson House [Owens-Thomas House]. Mahogany chairs with horsehair-covered seats were copied from an original made in Boston about 1810.”

Savannah furniture maker Gregory Guenther built two consoles from a design published in Thomas Hope’s Household Furniture and Interior Decoration (London, 1807). Guenther said Mills wanted them in keeping with the Egyptian revival motif.

A white cast-iron Ionic temple, which stood for several decades from the late 19th century in Wright Square as the official U.S. Government weather station, was a focal point for the 1990s enlarged garden.

“The indomitable Scarbrough House has survived devastating neglect and abuse and insult – probably left incomplete by its first owner Scarbrough and his architect Jay, enlarged by [Godfrey] Barnsley, vacant in the 1860s, mutilated by indifferent children for nearly ninety years, vacant again in the 1960s and early 1990s. The house also survived two high-minded restorations in the 1970s and late 1990s that added much new conjectural work,” Mills wrote. “Perhaps the pursuit of absolute authenticity is an illusory and misguided goal, and an impossible one in this instance.”

Next: Mills had dreams for the area surrounding Scarbrough House, but not everything was welcomed enthusiastically by the Historic Board of Review.

Rexanna Keller Lester is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy.

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