Thursday, September 3, 2009

2009 Places in Peril: John Berrien House

The Story: The federal style Berrien House in Savannah was built circa 1800 for Revolutionary War officer Major John Berrien. After his death in 1815, John Berrien’s son, John McPherson Berrien, used the house as his principle 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.

The Threat: The Berrien House has been vacant for more than twenty years. Through the years the site has faced strong development pressures and several demolition permits have been sought and denied. Lack of maintenance and failed rehabilitation efforts have left the severely deteriorated building at risk of demolition by neglect. A mortgage foreclosure has left the house in the ownership of a bank which is evaluating the economic feasibility of the building’s rehabilitation.

The Solution: Historic Savannah Foundation holds a preservation easement on the house and has invested $70,000 in roofing and structural repairs. The Foundation also established a task force to seek strategies for the rehabilitation of this important building.

Update: The Trust is working with the house's owner, Queensboroough National Bank and Historic Savannah Foundation to evaluate rehabilitation options for this late 18th Century Savannah landmark.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry to hear about this. I have been doing genealogy for about seven years now, focusing upon early Georgia political families. It has been a great lesson in history. As Southern people, we need to realize that these people were our John Adamses and Thomas Jeffersons and - had history been a little different - these early Georgians would still be recognized for the men they were. Would we allow Monticello to decay and be demolished? So much was lost in the War. For us to lose such landmarks through neglect is a tragedy. Additionally, people very near but outside my direct line named one son John McPherson Berrien McDonald. Perhaps I need to see this house soon, while I can.