The Grand Homes on Victory Drive, Savannah

Victory Drive boulevard which runs through Savannah for almost twenty miles, from Ogeechee Road to Tybee Island.  The Drive with its large grass median planted with palmettos was created in 1919 as a Memorial Boulevard to honor those who died serving their Country in World War One.  There is a section sandwiched between Thomas Square (Savannah’s earliest streetcar suburb) to the north, and Ardsley Park (Savannah’s first automobile suburb) to the south, which is adorned with a superb collection of early twentieth century homes, ranging from comfortable colonials to lavish mansions.  Most of these homes actually predate the creation of Victory Boulevard, when similar albeit much shorter street that ran through this section, named Estill Avenue.  Estill Avenue already had a wide center median with plantings and mature live oaks draped with Spanish moss along the edges.  This was in fact used as the model for the look and feel of the rest of Victory Boulevard as they incorporated Estill Avenue with other streets into the creation of this larger thoroughfare.  People driving on this busy road today, commuting to work and back from their gated communities and secluded cul de sacs, might find it a bit odd that others would want to build these grand homes in such a high traffic, conspicuous location.  One should remember however, that these homes were built in the early years of the automobile, when cars not only went much slower as a general rule, but also were owned primarily by members of the upper and upper middle classes.  What better way to show you were keeping up with the Joneses than to have your grand home built on Savannahs grandest boulevard, to be observed enviably by anyone who could afford a car out on their Sunday Drive? 

The homes I have selected to highlight are found primarily in a short section of the drive, between Habersham and Paulson Streets, allowing someone to easily view them all by foot.  They represent a full panoply of historic revival styles, from  beaux arts classicism that would seem quite at home in Gilded Age Newport Rhode Island, to freewheeling colonial revival homes, wrapped with oh, so southern columned verandas (lest someone forget where they are).Interspersed are adaptations of Arts and Crafts manses, Brick Tudors and Provencal Villas, all coexisting happily.  Although traffic does whiz by quite fast at times, the houses are generally set far enough back from the street and framed with mature plantings, which helps maintain the neighborhood’s grand air of exclusivity.  Definitely worth checking out when in Savannah!

Brothers and Sisters: The New York City Homes of William Henry Vanderbilt’s Eight Fortunate Children

moonlit night on the edge of a storm