Isaiah Davenport House Museum, Historic Savannah Foundation (HSF) and SCAD recently partnered to restore one of Broughton Street's last wooden storefronts. The Kennedy Pharmacy was built in 1890 and served as the neighborhood drugstore and apothecary.
Through the 1940s, at least, it remained a drugstore. As recently as about 10 years ago, it served as a tax preparation office.
The property, which sits behind the Davenport House, was donated anonymously to the HSF in 1999 and the trustees began creating a workable plan for its restoration. In 2007 the endowment directors voted to begin the restoration project. Dale Critz, Sr., the president of the Davenport House Committee at the time, "was aware of the good work SCAD Historic Preservation Department had done with the Lucas and the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home.
He sought out Jim Abraham, professor of Historic Preservation at SCAD, and the partnership began," Jamie Credle, Director of the Davenport House and HSF, recalls.
The project has taken a little over a year, with students working each quarter on the various phases. Under Abraham's supervision, they did everything from pulling up old floor boards, repairing plaster, stripping and restoring mantle pieces, installing fixtures, and choosing paint colors.
Several students became so attached to the project that they took the class a second quarter, wanting to complete the work they began. Abraham remembers students telling him to "not do too much" while they were gone for the long holiday break.
Peter Sullivan is one of more than 80 students who gained practical knowledge working at the Kenndy Pharmacy. "The experience gave me a direction to head in after graduation. Since the historic preservation field is so diverse, it was nice to see specifically what the processes are start to finish on a building," he says.
"The partnership between Davenport House/HSF and SCAD's Historic Preservation Department has been mutually beneficial," Credle adds. "The work that has been done is first-rate and it has given new preservationists a terrific opportunity to work on something real and something that needed to be done."
Even though the labor was provided by the students, there are still significant costs involved in restoring an old building. In addition to initial budget approval by the HSF and funding raised in the community, the project received a $50,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation, a granting organization that focuses on unique sites, especially those related to "farming, industrial development, and transportation."
Other sites in Georgia that have been awarded their grants include the Lightkeeper's Cottage on Tybee and the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.
The project is the latest in dozens that have partnered SCAD and the Savannah community. "This work is a part of our community outreach program in which we endeavor to perform work that will enhance the social and cultural aspects of Savannah," Abraham says, "as well as participate in assisting in saving and restoring the physical beauty of our historic structures, and the city as a whole.
The students and faculty are passionate about this work. And, without the steadfast support and encouragement from President Paula S. Wallace, the administration, faculty and staff, these projects would not be possible."
The restored building can now once again be an anchor for the east end of Broughton Street and will be showcased on May 3rd during the SCAD-hosted Preservation Week. This open house will serve as the first official public viewing and kick off a week of lectures that are all free and open to the public.
And the building's calendar is already filling up. The open floor plan downstairs will be primarily used for HSF functions, but it has already been slated for use by several other organizations. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and SCAD's Metals and Jewelry Trunk Show have reserved the space.
Mari Carswell from the Blue Ocean Film Festival was captivated by the restored Kennedy Pharmacy as well.
"The authenticity of Savannah is what attracted us, so we wanted to have all the activity for BLUE Ocean Film Festival in Downtown Savannah," she says.
In addition to being located in the downtown theatre district, "the Kennedy Pharmacy is a great venue for small gatherings as part of our larger event," she says, "and will help us create a sense of place for our festival that will be memorable for those people who come from around the world."
HSF and Abraham made sure that the space wasn't just an attractive building, but that it was functional. Carswell adds, "The floor plan is open, giving us the opportunity to multipurpose it over our four day event. It is charming, versatile, has a stellar location and is already wired for technology. They have done a wonderful job of restoring one more Savannah treasure!"
The Kennedy Pharmacy also sports a lovely, airy upstairs apartment. At 1200 square feet, it has three original fireplaces and mantles, refinished wood floors, and transom windows throughout.
Not too much is known about the former residents of the apartment space. Robert Kennedy, the pharmacist, did reside there during his ownership of the store downstairs.
Abraham and the students were visited by an older man who lived there in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Ted Haviland was about 6 years old when they moved in and lived there with his parents for about 4 years.
He remembered the unusual half-bath, the corner where his father installed a (now missing) small wood stove, where they put the Christmas tree and listening to the pharmacist with the German accent answer the phone downstairs. The hope is that such a revitalization project will bring more stories like Mr. Haviland's to light.
As part of the final project, the students were asked to write an sample apartment ad and description of what kind of tenant they would look for. Their painstaking efforts are disclosed by their hopes for a resident who will "have respect for the walls", "will appreciate the historical qualities of the building and respect the paint colors", and "utilize the picture rail." In the end, they determined that the most likely candidate would be a fellow historic preservation student who would want to live in such a special building.
Preservation student Tiffany Miller notes, "After every day's work, I felt like I was bringing a part of the building with me -- from gaining the knowledge of the structure to the history of wall marks to the plaster dust that fell upon my head. Now that the Kennedy Pharmacy Restoration is finished, the effort and compassion that was put forth is revealed."
The Kennedy Pharmacy is at 323 E. Broughton Street (corner of Habersham) and will be open Sunday, May 3 at 3 p.m.
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