The Green-Meldrim House

The Green-Meldrim House, located on Madison Square, is a very historically significant house in Savannah. Today, the Green-Meldrim House is open to historic house tours

The Green-Meldrim House is a historic landmark and architectural wonder. Nestled in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, this grandiose century-old building was once the residence of Mr. Charles Green, an incredibly wealthy cotton merchant.

Often referred to as one of the most beautiful homes in the city, the large estate is brimming with old-world luxury and charm. Today, this palatial residence is visited by tourists from all over the world who seek to indulge in the antique opulence of the South.

History of the Home

The Green-Meldrim House is located on Macon Street, overlooking the beautiful Madison Square. The 19th-century home was fully restored to its former glory in the 1940s and has since been preserved as an important part of North American history.

Charles Green, the home’s first owner, was born and raised in England. In 1833, while in his twenties, he migrated to Savannah and began to work in the cotton industry.

Although he arrived penniless to the Georgia shore, he eventually became one of the richest men in Savannah. Green’s fortune was so astonishing, he was able to construct what was likely the most expensive home at the time; costing a whopping 93,000 dollars.

The exact year when the home was built is yet to be determined but it is believed to have been constructed between 1853 and 1861. Green ordered the construction of the home as a gift to his second wife Lucinda Ireland Hunton, whom he married in 1850 after his first wife passed away from consumption.

Before Charles and Lucinda’s union, they established conditions, one of them being that he was to build his new bride a grand family estate that would be proudly passed down for generations.

New York architect John Norris - who is responsible for designing many of the 19th-century buildings that still stand in Savannah, was commissioned to build this incredible family home.

Among the many buildings attributed to John Norris in the city are the Custom House, the Massie Common School House, and the Andrew Low House. Norris, who specialized in mostly Italianate, Regency, and Greek Revival architecture, stepped out of his box when designing this Gothic Revival masterpiece.

Historical Significance

A portrait of William Tecumsem Sherman, who stayed at the Green Meldrim House during the occupation of Savannah.
General William Tecumseh Sherman

Beauty aside, the home is best known for serving as Union General William Sherman’s Headquarters during the Civil War.

After receiving explicit approval from President Abraham Lincoln, the Union proceeded with their March to the Sea, a military campaign conducted throughout Georgia in which property was burned and destroyed.

General Sherman and his army arrived in Savannah on December 10, 1864, with the intent to occupy the Confederate seaport. Upon their arrival, Charles Green offered his home to be used as Union Headquarters.

Whether Green did this out of the kindness of his heart or to save his lavish home from being incinerated is unknown. Nevertheless, due to the generosity that Charles Green showed General Sherman, the city of Savannah was spared from the destruction it would have likely faced.

The famous telegram Sherman sent to Abraham Lincoln in which he offered the city of Savannah, along with guns, and cotton as a “Christmas gift” to the President, was composed in this house.

Because of the home’s exquisite design and direct links to the American Civil War, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Change of Ownership

After Charles Green passed away in 1881, his son Edward Green inherited the family home. Due to unfortunate financial struggles, Edward Green sold the estate to prominent judge Peter Meldrim in 1892.

The house remained in the Meldrim family until 1943 when it was sold to the adjacent St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Such a grand dwelling required a lot of maintenance that some of the previous owners were unable to afford. According to Church records, the home was in bad shape when it was acquired. Thankfully, the Church had the means to conduct the expensive restoration.

The Church still owns the Green-Meldrim House, using part of the house as a Rectory, while other parts are used for meetings and tours.

Aesthetic Features

Being that this was an incredibly expensive build, it is no surprise that both the interior and exterior were designed to include custom luxury items.

The home’s impeccable layout can be spotted from a distance, starting with its beautiful encircling garden.

Although the landscaping is not authentic to what we would see in a mid-19th-century home, the perfectly manicured garden still harmonizes with the structure, merging the past with the contemporary. The garden features a bed of bright green grass, while neatly trimmed hedges, shrubs, and large trees adorn the premises.

The clay tile-paved walkway leads up to a shabby four-step stoop with gas lamps on both sides. After all, this was one of the first gas-lit houses in Savannah.

The porch is enclosed by an intricate, black, cast-iron fence, columns, and arches. The main entrance has a black iron portico and a set of solid wood double doors that emulate the design elements found in traditional Gothic architecture.

The exterior also features stuccoed brick and centered oriel windows. The roof is finished off with a crenelated parapet, reminiscent of a medieval fortress.

Once inside, one is immediately greeted with stunning plaster crown moldings, expertly carved walnut furnishings and silver-plated hardware.

Austrian gilded floor-to-ceiling mirrors, marble mantles, and crystal chandeliers embellish the parlors and main halls of the house. The home is furnished with burgundy-toned Victorian sofas and armchairs.

There is also a free-standing, curved marble staircase and a skylight that complete the awe-inspiring look of the interior.

Visiting the Green-Meldrim House?

The St. John’s Episcopal Church currently conducts guided walk-in tours of the mansion and the adjacent historical church building.

Being that the home is owned by the Church, it is closed during Christmas, Holy Week, and Easter. Reservations are not needed to tour the home and walk-ins are welcome.

Although tours are conducted in English, they offer informational brochures in Spanish, German, and French, making this a great activity for foreign tourists.

While in Savannah, stop by this magnificent location for a look into the city’s exciting and opulent past.

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