The classically designed house sits on the SW lot on Lafayette Square in the beautiful port city of Savannah. The square was named after a Revolutionary War hero and the trust lot was the former site of the old jail.
Home of Andrew Low (1849 - 1886) Home of Juliette Gordon Low (1886 - 1927) Founder of the Girl Scouts Owned & operated by: The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in State of Georgia.
In 1847 the wealthy cotton factor Andrew Low chose John Norris to design a house on the lot for his young family. Norris was an architect to whom the city's leading citizens turned for the design of their residences and business establishments. Along with the architects William Jay and Charles B. Cluskey, John Norris formed a trio which left major imprints upon 19th century Savannah Georgia.
Savannah with about 14,000 inhabitants was a prosperous, growing community when Andrew Low moved into his grand new house in 1849. A sort of golden age began for Savannah Georgia in the years leading up to the War Between the States. As the ships of A. Low & Co. plied the ocean routes between Savannah and Liverpool loaded with bales of cotton worth millions of dollars. Andrew Low was acknowledged as the richest man in the city.
Andrew Low at age 35 could look back upon eighteen successful years in Savannah. Coming to the city from his native Scotland at age sixteen he worked in his uncle's cotton firm as a factor or merchant. He later became a partner and assumed direction of the Savannah operation. In 1843, Andrew married Sarah Cecil Hunter and by the end of 1847, they had two daughters and a son.
While the house was under construction Andrew Low's wife, his four year old son, and his uncle died. The uncle willed his entire estate to Andrew, so it was a somber but wealthy Andrew Low II and two young daughters who moved into the fine house at the close of 1849.
Five years later, "bright, gay, beautiful" Mary Cowper Stiles, daughter of William Henry Stiles, United States Minister to Austria, stepped through the classical entrance as the bride of Andrew Low. In time, three little girls and a son and heir, William Mackay Low, brought new life and activity into the house.
Many splendid entertainments took place in the parlors. William Makepeace Thackeray was twice a guest in the house while on lecture tours in the United States in 1853 and 1856. The desk at which he wrote when he was the Low’s guest may be seen in one of the bedrooms.
Andrew Low’s most famous guest was General Robert E. Lee, whose friendship dated back to West Point, where he roomed with Mary Low's uncle, Jack Mackay, of Savannah Georgia. Lee was a frequent guest at the Mackay's Savannah home while posted at Fort Pulaski.
Lee had also courted Mary Low's mother, Eliza Mackay. Upon Miss Mackay's marriage to William Henry Stiles, Lee gave her a gold brooch set with seed pearls and garnets. Thirty years later, Lee was godfather to Mary and Andrew Low's daughter, Jessie and on his last visit to Savannah Georgia in April 1870 General Lee was Andrew Low's house guest for a week.
The city was under military occupation, so no public ceremony could be held. Citizens came to the door asking to "shake the General's hand" and a reception was held in the double parlors in his honor attended by the Mayor, the Aldermen, and many prominent citizens.
Eliza Stiles wrote of the New Year's Eve reception in 1866 stating that the girls "dressed the house with flowers" (probably camellias) and "30 gentlemen called." For large entertainments the sliding doors between the parlors were opened and the furniture pushed against the walls or removed.
The Low's fondness for dogs is reflected in the needlepoint fire screen in the family parlor. The pattern depicts the likenesses of two of the many dogs owned by the Lows. The frame of the fire screen was saved from the home of Mary Low's grandfather, Joseph Stiles, which was torched by Sherman's troops as they marched toward the city.
In 1886 William Mackay Low inherited his father's vast estate in both England and America. Six months after the death of William's father, he married Juliette Gordon who later founded the Girl Scouts of America. Daisy, as she was known, visited her future husband's father in England and became great friends with William's sisters. It was over there in England that she and William fell in love. The couple spent much of their time in England using the Savannah Georgia house mainly as a winter residence. After William's death in 1905, Juliette went back and forth to England many times. The mansion remained in the Low family until the death of Juliette Gordon Low in 1927. A year later the house was bought by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia to be used as its state headquarters. It has been open to the public as a museum since 1952.
The Andrew Low House has a special place in the hearts of many Girl Scouts because it was the home of Juliette Gordon Low after she married Andrew Low’s son, William Mackey Low in 1886. The young Lows spent a great deal of their time in England since William had been educated in that country.
The young couple enjoyed many social activities with their English friends. Willie Low was a close friend of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Juliette had been presented twice at court to Queen Victoria. After William died in 1905, Juliette became friends with General Sir Robert Baden-Powell (later Lord Baden-Powell) the founder of the Boy Scouts in England.
It was through this friendship that Daisy met Baden-Powell’s sister, Miss Agnes Baden-Powell who had been persuaded by her brother to form a society of Girl Guides. Daisy was quite active with a troop of Girl Guides in England and returned to the States in 1912 with the idea of forming a similar group composed of girls in the United States of America. That year in Savannah Daisy started two troops of Girl Guides and allowed them to hold their meetings in her carriage house. This group eventually became known as the Girl Scouts of America and upon her death Juliette willed the carriage house to the Girl Scouts of Savannah. Juliette died in the Low house in 1927.
Antiques & Furnishings
John Norris designed a three story stucco-over-brick building in the Italianate style. The sandstone trim of the entrance is guarded by a pair of cast iron lions; the first story is set below street level surrounded by a dry moat.
The family dining room, kitchen, pantry, laundry room, and servants’ room were placed on this floor. Upstairs on the principal floor were spacious parlors, dining room, library and a butler's pantry. The top floor had five bedrooms and a bathing room. Wide halls extended the length of each floor and a stairway with a mahogany railing and a newel post joined the parlor and bedroom floors. In the attic beneath a low pitched roof is a 500 gallon cistern holding water for piping to bathing room and kitchen. Cast iron balconies and shuttered piazzas provided admirable places for enjoying fine weather and cooling breezes.
The classical entrance with massive doors outlined by wooden bosses opens into a hall forty feet in length. The interior doors are grained to resemble Honduran mahogany and framed with pilasters capped by lotus and acanthus leaf carved capitals.
The hardware is silver plated. In the hall, a floor cloth faux painted to resemble blocks of green marble. is laid on the diagonal and outlined with a gold border in Greek key design. On the ceiling above are elaborate plaster cornices, anthemion carved brackets and oval shaped medallions sheltering recessed passion flowers, from which hang oil lamps with etched globes reflecting classical elegance on a domestic scale.
The furnishings in the hall include a pair of mahogany pier tables with black marble tops, upon which stand a pair of double burner Argand lamps bearing the manufacturer's plaque (1846). Above a mahogany sofa in green and gold hair cloth hangs a large convex mirror in a gold leaf frame topped by an eagle and flanked by candle arms. Opposite the sofa is a mahogany tall case clock reflecting the classical lines of the Biedermeier style furniture popular in Europe in the 1840s.
The parlors are furnished with handsome mahogany and rosewood furniture by Duncan Phyfe and Joseph Meeks. In the formal front parlor stands a rare, upright pianoforte manufactured in London by Broadwood; the rosewood case is inlaid with elaborate brass and the strings are concealed behind a gold silk taffeta "sunburst." Grecian couches and chairs are upholstered in documented crimson and gold silk lampus.
The pattern in the fabric is a reflection of the grid and rosette patterns in the cast iron railings of balconies as seen through the windows. The rosette motif was used in many forms during the Classical period. A variation appears in the documentary pattern of the Brussels weave carpet (uncut loops) in the parlors.
In the dining room the table is set with French porcelain while the sideboard is arranged with the finest silver. A bountiful variety of foods available in pre-war Savannah Georgia arrived via dumb waiter from the kitchen to the butler's pantry. Famous guests visited the Lows, including English author and lecturer, William Makepeace Thackeray who wrote of, "the excellent table set by my host" and "I am staying in the most comfortable quarters in the United States of America, in the house of my friend, the cotton factor, Andrew Low."
The library is presented as the traditional male refuge, dominated by massive secretary and bookcase containing a variety of titles that an astute businessman and genial host might have owned. Over the mantle is a painting of William Mackay Low astride a favorite hunter painted by James Linwood Palmer.
Four bedrooms are furnished with massive mahogany beds and great armoires which provide storage space for clothing and linens. In the Lows' bedroom an Eli Terry clock has an eglomise panel. On the mahogany sewing table with pleated cloth work bag is a chinoiserie lacquered lady's work box with ivory fittings. Elegant dressing tables are placed in front of the windows as dictated for better admittance of the light.
Grandmother Eliza Stiles' bedroom has a rare wash/dressing stand possibly by Issac Vose. The Wedgwood Peony pattern bowl and pitcher set includes numerous pieces for the well-appointed bedroom of the era. The rosewood writing desk used by Thackeray stands in the northeast bedroom where the view from the window "looks down upon the hourglass garden," he described. The garden is outlined with clay tiles in the basket weave and rosette pattern. The bed with the sunburst in its tester frame belonged to Juliette Gordon.
The fifth bedroom which was used by the children contains painted furniture, referred to as "cottage furniture", straw matting and mosquito nets on the beds. A multi-piece doll's dish set and several dolls including one doll with wax features purchased in Paris (1856) are among the toys played with by some children of that period.
Tours, Admission, Contact - Address & Website
Tour times and days are:
The Andrew Low House Museum has tours daily, except Thursdays, led by professional docent tour guides every half hour. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 AM until 4:30 PM - Sunday 12 Noon until 4:30 PM - Last Tour of the day begins at 4 PM - Closed Thursdays and Major Holidays. Call for admission prices.
Phone: 912-233-6854 - Please call ahead to reserve a tour for groups of 10 or more. Address: 329 Abercorn Street, Savannah Georgia 31401 - Andrew Low House Website