Robert T. Spencer House
Savannah Victorian National Register Historic District
The Feldstein Family
Type of Services:
Historic Preservation, Restoration, Rehabilitation, Addition, New Construction
Historic Savannah Foundation Award 2009
Built in 1881, 214 East Park Avenue was the home of Robert T. and Ellen E. Spencer, Great-Grandfather of retired Savannah State University professor Dr. Lester B. Johnson, Jr. and Great-Great-Grandfather of Savannah attorney Lester B. Johnson, III. The 1,900 square foot Carpenter Italianate style single-family home was converted into two apartments in 1934 for the same family. During the mid 1950s, the front wooden porch, the wooden columns, gingerbread elements, and the balusters were replaced with concrete and wrought iron. In 2001, the last remaining family member living died after the house suffered a devastating fire. Following, the house was purchased by Historic Savannah Foundation with its Revolving Fund in 2007. HSF stabilized and secured the building, and in early 2008, Dr. Richard and Theresa Feldstein purchased the property and moved to Savannah from Michigan during its restoration.
The preservation project included the restoration and rehabilitation of the original building, the design and construction of a modern rear two-story, kitchen and master bedroom addition, and a new attached carriage house. The front porch was restored to its original gingerbread grandeur, as were the fireplaces, crown moulding, wood double-hung windows, eave corbels, and many other important interior and exterior details. The interior of the house suffered greatly from the 2001 fire, all of the interior plaster was lost, but the majority of the studs were salvageable. Original hardwood flooring, wainscoting, and some decorative trim also remained and were restored.
The house was converted back to a single family residence; the wall that was built to separate the foyer was removed and the stair restored. Furthermore, the rear addition from 1934 was in very poor condition and was removed prior to constructing the new rear addition. The project was required to meet Savannah’s Victorian District design guidelines. The additions were a unique challenge. Even though the property is situated on a double lot, adding over 2,000 square feet to a downtown Savannah property without crowding it can be difficult. But the challenge was met with great fervor. The modern, yet compatible, design is efficient and attractive, still allowing for an ample garden and courtyard. Located in the Victorian Historic District, the building keeps with the style of other buildings in the area, and joins several other restored historic structures. Its rehabilitation allows the home to rejoin the Savannah community as a viable contributor to the neighborhood’s historic integrity. This project has certainly transformed an eyesore into a gem.