Building History: 1791-1856

Early Years

Major John Berrien acquired two house lots on East Broughton Street  for his new home in 1791. He constructed a house on the eastern portion and maintained gardens on the west. The parlor floor of the house featured a parlor and dining room, and the floor above included an upstairs drawing room (ballroom) and withdrawing room.

Originally, across the street was the East Common. A view from Lincoln Street today conveys how the house would have appeared in eary days.

View of the Berrien House from Lincoln Street, the West Boundary of the East Common (photo courtesy of Andrew Berrien Jones)
Ballroom (photo courtesy of Andrew Berrien Jones)
Ballroom Wainscot (photo courtesy of David Kelley)

The ballroom is perhaps the largest and finest 18th century room in Savannah. Its wainscot is on par with that of the finest houses of Charleston and other coastal centers. The wainscot features a fretwork dado above panels decorated with ovolo trim.

Savannah Fire of 1796 (Note: north is down) (Library of Congress)

The Fire of 1796

In November of 1796, Savannah suffered a great fire. As the map shows, the houses facing the East Common (to the left), including the Berrien House, were spared.

Copy of Berrien House Sprig, manufactured by Adelphi Paper Hangings
The Chintz Room, courtesy of George Washington's Mount Vernon

Berrien Sprig Wallpaper ca. 1797

One of the earliest patterns of wallpaper found in the Berrien House is a pattern of delicate white flower sprigs against a powder blue background.

Named "Berrien House Sprig," a copy of the pattern by Adelphi Paper Hangings now adorns the Chintz Room at Mount Vernon. The curators at Mount Vernon shifted the background color to match wallpaper fragments found in the room during restoration.

Cornerstone of the Old City Exchange in Savannah 1799, with the Name of William Stephens, Grand Master

Chain of Ownership

Major John lived in the house until 1797, when he moved to Louisville to become the state treasurer. He sold the property through intermediaries to William Stephens of Beaulieu Plantation. Stephens served as mayor and as the head of all the Georgia Masonic lodges. He died in the house in 1822, allowing John Macpherson Berrien to buy it back into the family. Berrien, when not in Washington DC or at his planatations,  occupied the house until his death there in 1856. His son-in-law Francis Bartow inherited the house and sold it to William Lake in 1859. Francis Bartow is referenced below in "Notable Persons."