Mills Lane IV wholeheartedly entered the family discussions of Savannah restorations and renovations with his pied-à-terre at 14 Price Street in Washington Ward. His parents, Anne and Mills B. Lane, Jr., had purchased the half block of Price Street between Bay Lane and Bryan Street and completed the restorations in 1967.
Mills IV was in the U.S. Navy stationed in Charleston as he consulted mainly with his mother about the dozen restorations in Washington Ward and those in other parts of downtown Savannah. Though his parents were still based in Atlanta, they frequently traveled to Savannah for bank and family business.
Through letters Anne would meticulously keep Mills IV updated on restoration details and what he could expect to see and needed to decide on his next trip to town. In the age of cell phones, it is amusing to read paragraphs of descriptions about where the phone jacks needed to be installed in each room.
The Lanes worked with premiere landscape designer Clermont Lee and prominent architect John LeBey on their favorite restorations. In August 1967 Anne wrote to her son about 14 Price St.: “You will be disappointed to see no change – but Clermont is working on the garden plans and John is beginning work on the balcony and front door shelter. They should both be ready to discuss things and start work on your first weekend in Savannah.”
In addition to the Joseph Sullivan House built in 1866 at 14 Price St., Anne and Mills Jr. restored the D.D. Williams House that had been built in 1816 at 12 Price St., and they recreated the William Williams House that had been built at 16 Price St. to adhere to its original 1809 appearance.
Also in 1967 around the corner at 508 E. Bryan St. the elder Lanes restored the Margaret Prindible House that had been built in 1892. The restored 508-512 E. Bryan properties have become Savannah’s “Rainbow Row.”
The Lanes had also purchased the north side of the block of East Saint Julian from Price Street to Houston and completed their restorations in 1966. The Anne Pitman House had been built in 1842 at 504 E. Saint Julian St.
The Charles Oddingsells House was built from 1798-99 at 510 E. Saint Julian St. for the lawyer and Revolutionary War veteran. Porches and other appendages had been added during the years. The Lanes removed the additions and rebuilt the front stoop with wooden steps.
The Daniel Philbrick House had been built in 1849 at 512-516 E. Saint Julian St. and the Lanes completed their restoration circa 1966. Next door at 23 Houston St. in 1964-65 the Lanes had reconstructed the Joachim Hartstene House that had been built in 1803.
On the southwest corner of Washington Square the Laurence Dunn House had been built at 31 Houston St. in 1875, and the Lanes also restored it in 1964-65.
Washington Square was created in 1790 and named for the U.S. president who visited Savannah in 1791. The area had been part of the original Trustees Garden, the agricultural experiment of Savannah’s founders. Many of the those experimental plantings are now being grown in the north garden of Scarbrough House, home to Ships of the Sea Museum created by Mills Lane IV.
Washington Square is also a good place to think about the start of a new year. In the first half of the 20th century the square was the site of a giant bonfire each New Year’s Eve.
Rexanna Keller Lester is working on a book about Mills Bee Lane IV and his preservation legacy.
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