August 28, 2016 the Savannah Morning News published a special section about the architecture of Savannah. That provides perfect timing for us to reintroduce the Mills Bee Lane family and start our new web series by Rexanna Lester that will offer a behind-the-scenes look at a philanthropic family that helped save Savannah’s architectural history in the last half of the 20th century and a sneak peek at the new biography of Mills Lane IV.
The colorful Mills Bee Lane legacy in Savannah is legendary. It is also confusing. All four Mills B. Lanes grew up to become forces of nature.
The first arrived from Valdosta, formed the Citizens and Southern Bank in Savannah in 1906 and started construction on the grand red brick house at the corner of Gaston and Drayton a couple of years later. He also purchased Lebanon Plantation in 1916 and is the namesake of a city boulevard.
Raised in Savannah, Mills Lane, Jr. moved to Atlanta with his father’s bank and was responsible for underwriting the stadium that helped bring major league baseball to town. He and his wife, Anne, returned to Savannah to retire – restoring houses, creating the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum on River Street and bankrolling numerous civic projects such as gilding the dome of city hall.
In a strange family twist, the nephew of Mills Lane, Jr. was named Mills Lane III. He is the retired boxer and TV judge. He refereed the rematch between boxing champions Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in 1997, when Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear.
Preservationist, publisher and architecture scholar Mills Lane IV was the only son of Anne and Mills Lane, Jr.
There. The stage is set. Those are the players. Next up will be a look at Mills Lane, Jr.’s “Wonderful World.”
By Rexanna Keller Lester, who is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy. Parts of this essay first appeared in the publication for the Vernacular Architecture Forum Annual Meeting in March 2007 and in a column for the Savannah Morning News on June 3, 2006.