Historic Savannah Foundation is pleased to announce our work toward continuing our preservation efforts of the nationally recognized Davenport House Museum, a property that HSF saved from the wrecking ball in 1955 and has maintained as a museum, open to the public, since 1963. This year the Davenport House Museum celebrates its 60th year of operation as well as the opening of its Urban Enslaved Exhibit. As part of the restoration process to convert the Davenport House Gift Shop and offices into the Urban Enslaved exhibit, the decades of internal basement additions were peeled back. During this process, it was discovered that the basement walls required some attention and restoration. Several areas of mortar had decayed to a degree that required extensive repair and replacement, known as repointing.
With the need for repointing, HSF’s Director of Preservation and Historic Properties, Ryan Jarles, wanted to make sure that the process was done in a way that best matched the historic mortar and that the process was undertaken safely. With his recommendation, HSF moved forward with a historic mortar analysis. HSF called upon our friends who work diligently at Fort Pulaski National Monument on a never-ending project of constant repointing across the entirety of the massive masonry structure; who better to ask for help? Fort Pulaski National Monument generously offered their assistance in extracting mortar samples from several locations throughout the basement to send to a lab for mortar analysis. The lab chosen was Highbridge Materials Consulting, Inc. Highbridge has provided mortar analysis for the National Park Service, military fortifications, college campuses, religious institutions, government buildings, and more.
After their thorough testing of the mortar samples extracted by the NPS crew, Highbridge provided us with a detailed report indicating the appropriate mixture for our repointing mortar. With the recommendation from Highbridge, HSF worked closely with Brooks Construction and local masons to identify the materials required for creating the recommended mortar mix and moving forward with repointing in the most appropriate locations.
A team of experienced masons performed the repointing, while HSF’s Director of Preservation and several other experts monitored the process The work was conducted with the assistance of our architectural partner Felder & Associates, and structural engineering partner Tharpe Engineering Group. The successful completion of this preservation work is a proud achievement for our organization, and we strive to continue as the top historic preservation leader, not just in Savannah, but also beyond.
After finishing the repointing and other preservation work throughout the basement, we have successfully restored it to a period-appropriate space that is now capable of housing the Davenport House Museum’s Urban Enslaved Exhibit. Doug Mund, with dmdg2, a local design agency that specializes in museum planning, exhibit planning, and exhibit design, has worked with HSF for eight years, bringing to life its exhibits, and working as the facility planner and designer of The Davenport House shop and the timeline housed in the Preservation Center. The Urban Enslaved exhibit was officially recognized with a ribbon cutting on November 9th, 2023, and after its opening to the public on November 13, 2013, is now included as part of the tour of the Davenport House Museum. We invite you to visit the exhibit and see the beautifully restored basement walls yourself!