Arriving at the historic Stephen Williams house for the Victorian Society’s Twelfth Night Celebration on January 6, I realize this is my first time attending an event for an educational organization dedicated to all things nineteenth century.
Greeting me at the door of the 128 West Liberty Street bed and breakfast is world traveler Sylvia Severance. Sailing the high seas with her husband Jake, Sylvia has long been a favorite for her name, her causes and her personality. Posing with Sylvia is Judge Tammy Stokes, Dr. Christina Davis, Tania Sammons and our host Dr. Albert Wall.
Taking a seat on an early 19th century settee, 79 year-old Dr. Wall divulges a fascinating personal history. “I was born here in Telfair Hospital and served in the US Navy where I was stationed on a hospital ship in Danang, Vietnam, then on a nuclear submarine in Holy Loch Scotland,” shared the Navy veteran.
Glancing around the ornately furnished sitting room, I ask the retired obstetrician about his hobbies. “I have a classic wooden 83-foot yacht that I sail to the Bahamas and Florida. I love the slow pace–the 1o mph life out on the water. Oh–I love collecting antique furniture, especially the late 18th and early 19th century,” adds Wall.
Stunned when he shares that he delivered over 500o babies, I leave the Southern gentleman talking with Sylvia and head into the elegant dining room to check The Dive Savannah’s Instagram-ready food. Giving me a fierce hug, Kristy Crill whispers, “How blessed are we to serve this fabulous group and to have both my girls with me tonight!”
Sure enough, newlywed Emily Schmidt and her sister Susannah are busy setting up platters of salmon, salads and sweets with Carie McKinley and Trip Vorel. Pausing to hug my culinary family, I commend them on their presentation and for their mission to help get homeless veterans off the streets.
With more Victorian Society members arriving, I weave my way over to have a mini posing session with Diane VanWagner, Lauran Lassetter and Lynn Hanson, admire John McGann’s kilt then chat with the always fascinating Cathy J. Sakas about her venture into the publishing world. “We started with five partners and published our own books and now have five authors in the pipeline. We have writers of children's books, memoirs, nature guides, poetry, adventure and spiritual journeys,” shares Cathy.
Next up is real-life fashionista Jane Radley. Dripping in jewels, the tall beauty stands for a hug and pic with Peggy Hegarty and Jan Vach. While reminiscing over the past when she called to invite me to the Savannah Newcomers group to photograph her famous comedian friend Jeanne Robertson, I was stunned to learn that Jeanne passed away last year.
After listening to Jane talk about the wholesome family performer, I catch up with the marvelous Jan Vach, get an invitation from Diane Ingram to attend the “Blooming with Art” event at the Landings on February 16, then snap a pic of mom and daughter, Robin and Caitlin Noll. After Robin–a former Savannah Newcomers president–fills me in on her continued volunteer work with the Savannah Historic Foundation, Caitlin chats about her film and television life in Los Angeles.
Making a lap to the back deck, I congratulated Judge Tammy Stokes on her swearing-in ceremony earlier this week and, as it always happens, my most fascinating person of the night is the last person I meet. Say hello to Telfair Museums Chief Curator Crawford Alexander Mann, III.
Looking a decade younger than his 42 years, the Yale graduate now at the oldest museum in the South has a remarkable pedigree that includes a stint at the Smithsonian as the Curator of Prints & Drawings. Loving his quote of “having a dream job to work for something so fundamental to our history,” I have mad respect for this young man and his obvious love of our past.
While on the lookout for former SVS president Ron Melander, I hear Tania Sammons welcoming everyone in the front parlor. Trotting inside, I take a seat and get a crash course on the Savannah Victorian Society. “As a chapter of the Victorian Society of America, we study and discuss architecture, fine and decorative arts, social and cultural history and preservation in the broadest terms. With partnerships formed with Savannah State University, The Learning Center and the Savannah History Museum. we hope to broaden our audience and promote scholarships for study programs,” shares the SVS president.
With 100 members hoping to have long conversations about everything from 19th century flowers, butchering, mixology and Savannah gothic churches to speakers from the Smithsonian and Harvard University, this mighty group of history lovers hopes that you will join them in their quest of understanding the past!