The Georgia Trust

2009 PLACES IN PERIL: John Berrien House

Story/significance:  The Federal style Berrien House in Savannah was built circa 1800 for Revolutionary War officer Major John Berrien. After Berrien’s death in 1815, his son, John McPherson Berrien, used the house as his principal residence throughout his life while serving as a United States Senator, United States Attorney General, and the first president of the Georgia Historical Society. The 3 ½ story wood frame building has a gabled roof, six dormer windows, beaded wooden clapboard, and fine Greek Revival detailing dating to the 1850's. The house is located on Savannah’s main commercial street and was raised on a high foundation in the early 20th-century to allow for retail space on the ground level.

Challenge/threat: The building has experienced considerable deterioration and has been threatened by condemnation by the city.  The owner is interested and willing to work toward the property’s preservation, but the current economic downturn has delayed the owner’s ability to invest in the project. 

Progress:  The Georgia Trust and the Historic Savannah Foundation performed an assessment of the building’s historic fabric that evaluated the rehabilitation potential of this Savannah landmark.    

Impacts/outcomes:  The Berrien House influences its portion Broughton Street, a large commercial area in Downtown Savannah.  The revitalization of the building would serve as a catalyst for the corridor’s commercial viability as well that of the surrounding neighborhood. 

Next Steps:  The Georgia Trust continues to work with the property owner, Queensbough National Bank, and the Historic Savannah Foundation in planning and implementing a sensitive rehabilitation for the structure.

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