The current house of 222 E Gwinnett Street was built in 1884 for Virginia Lloyd Drane on Lot 69 of Stephens Ward in the current historic district of Savannah, Georgia. At the time of construction, the lot was valued at $760 and the two-story Victorian upon completion was valued at $4000 according to the petition to build in the City Council Minutes. Although the house was placed in Virginia Drane’s name for insurance purposes, her husband Henry Martyn Drane is the sole occupant mentioned in the directory of 1886.
The Drane family
The Drane family moved to Savannah from Macon, GA around 1884 prior to construction to the home. At the time, Henry M. Drane worked for the Macon & Boston Railroad as a general freight passenger and ticket agent. Prior, the family lived in Wilmington, N.C. where Mr. Drane's father served as a minister to St. James Episcopal Church.
Mr. Henry M. Drane's career was that of the railroad even after joining the confederate military where he received the rank of Captain towards the end of the Civil War. He appeared to be in charge of shipping of freight and prisoners when his services were required. After the war he served as General Superintendent for the Wilmington & Manchester Railroad. In Savannah, Drane worked for the Savannah, Florida, & Western Railway as a Superintendent.
There were five children born to the Drane’s. The eldest, Salter Lloyd (b: November 4, 1861) was traced to Macon, GA to work on his career. The most successful was the youngest daughter, Catharine Parker Drane (b: September 28, 1863 – D: July 22, 1912), known for marrying a rice merchant, William G. Morrell (b: May 26, 1852 – D: December 23, 1915) April 10, 1888 at Christ Church in Savannah. The two lived in the home at 222 East Gwinnett then called 70 Gwinnett Street for two years. They later moved to 79 Gordon St. then to 611 Whitaker. The youngest son, George T. Drane (b: January 14, 1875), worked for W.G. Morrell's rice business but left Savannah in 1900 after an unsuccessful business venture in the rice market. Eliza Brown Drane (b: January 9, 1866), also identified as 'Lyda' on invitations found in the wall of the home, moved to Albany, Georgia. Henry Martyn Drane, Jr. (b: October 16, 1870 – D: September 12, 1896) worked in Savannah as a clerk for Hunter, Pearce & Battery but died of "Complications from Rheumatism" at 48 Hall St. The family plot where Virginia, Henry, Robert, are buried is located in Oakdale Cemetery, Section: D Lot: 26. It is assumed Henry & Virginia Drane left Savannah in 1892 and moved to Baltimore, M.D.
John Schley occupied the house from 1893-1895. He owed the creditors, Wilcox, Gibbs, Guano, Co., who were reimbursed when the property was sold by the bank to the Olivit Brothers who were lawyers from New York City who purchased the house with the high bid of $5500 on the courthouse steps. Within a month, the house was sold for $7600 to William E. Seabrook. Mr. Seabrook is thought to be related to the Seabrook's of Edisto Island, SC who occupied a large estate on an island. William E. Seabrook was said to have been ill and moved to Pendleton, SC whereby he signed the property over to his wife, Henrietta, to release him of the property dealings due to his condition. The house then came into ownership of the Harty's.
The Harty Family
William J. Harty (b: 1868 - D: 1936) was a successful insurance manager for Mass Mutual Life Insurance, whose offices were located at 606-12 Liberty Building which later changed to 602-12 Oglethorpe Building. Mr. Harty advertised his business in and on the directories of that time. They read: "Talk It Over With William J. Harty - Manager". Mr. Harty married Joanna Mary Kehoe (b: 1869 - D: 1916). His wife was the daughter of the man who started the Kehoe Ironworks. The family lived at 123 Habersham until 1914 when they moved to 203 East Gwinnett St. which was once owned by Mills B. Lane. Mrs. Harty loved the house and when she died in 1916, Mr. Harty could not stand to live there anymore. His children encouraged him to move to Ardsley Park where the town was expanding but he insisted on staying downtown where he could walk to the Oglethorpe Club and to work. So, he decided to move across the street and down a few houses with his five children and two sisters, Genevieve and Nellie.
Mr. Harty died on November 15, 1936 and was buried the next day. His son, Anthony, took over his father’s position at the insurance business a month later. The house was not sold by Genevieve Harty until 1939. But in 1938 occupants George Blake and family, along with J.R. Creamer, and family, resided as the first of a long line of renters. This list of renters did not end
until 1974 when John A. Brown took ownership and residence on the first floor while renting to tenants the upstairs and carriage house. When Mr. Brown was restoring the home in the mid-1970's, he was visited by Mary Harty, who's father owned the house. She grew up with Johnny Mercer, who lived in the house next door. Mary is also a character mentioned in the John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
There have been a few cosmetic changes made to the interior and exterior of the home in which you see today. Mr. Harty made several changes to the house such as the removal of the pocket doors between the parlors. The reason given was Mr. Harty was highly aggravated because the doors would stick shut. He also had the wooden steps at the front entrance removed and replaced with brick steps to resemble those at 202 East Gwinnett St. Further, it was said he had sensitive hearing, because he had the double doors to the front of the house changed to a single door because of the slamming.
The earthquake of 1886 in Savannah was said to have knocked down plaster walls and ceilings of the home. It is assumed when this happened various calling cards and invitations from Eliza Drane dropped behind the wall before it was repaired.
Between 1888-1898 a portion of the north, single story side of the house was removed, and an addition made to the west, single story side. According to the Sandborn maps, the carriage house was added between the years of 1888-1898.
Floor plans exist of when the house was being altered in 1974 which show the interior as it is thought to have been since its construction with much detail on the interior and exterior intact and restored. The house was found after a long vacancy in the 1960's with many interior and exterior ornaments missing. Amongst them are the doorknobs and sockets, lights, shutters, turret grill work and spires, and weather lightening vane rod. On most of the windows, only the lower sash moves because the window weights were stolen during restoration in 1974. According to research, the house was said to be used as a barber shop on the first floor by a young man who lived in the house in the 1950’s. During the vacant years of 1968-74, the house was used for storage by Tommy Anderson. He owned 218 East Hall St on the other side of Hall lane and props and materials relating to his floral and party supply business were scattered about the house. Mr. Anderson had planned to tear down the house and use the property as a parking lot for his business but selling the property would prove to be more profitable.
In 1974, Mr. John A. Brown acquired the house based on his interest in architecture of Savannah and history. During his renovations, he changed the interior slightly by moving the kitchen and bathroom along with changing one of the windows leading to the side porch to french doors. Mr. Brown also rehabilitated the carriage house to become an apartment.
Today, the history of 222 E Gwinnett Street has transitioned the home as the site of the Thomas Weihs Haus, a luxury B&B which offers you a taste of the past surrounded by amenities of the present. Here you can enjoy the elegance of the original wooden baluster, plaster ceiling medallions, and over 1 foot of plaster crown molding grounding the 14-foot ceilings of the downstairs area hovering over the 12-foot floor- to -ceiling windows and 9-foot wooden doors.