Steeped in Noble #Savannah Heritage: Presidents’ Quarters Inn

SAVANNAH Georgia (June 2013) — Built in 1855, the twin noble mansions of modern-day Presidents’ Quarters Inn survived the American Civil War (1861-1865).  Located overlooking Oglethorpe Square, the historic townhomes are steeped in Savannah heritage.

PRESIDENTS’ QUARTERS INN. LUXURY WITH A LINEAGE.

Here we introduce a prominent Civil War general, famous Savannahian and Ambassador to Austria.  He is a heroic link to the American Civil War, commemorating the 150th Anniversary during the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015).

This story connects Presidents’ Quarters Inn, a noble bed and breakfast inn with a rich southern heritage in Savannah, Georgia USA to a prominent possessor — Alexander R. Lawton — and more famous Savannah places.

grave sculpture by Prof. R. Romanelli ( (May 13, 1856–1928), Florence, 1898
Alexander Robert Lawton Memorial in Bonaventure Cemetery (Section H, Lot 122). Sculpted by Prof. Raffaello Romanelli, Florence, 1898

Alexander Robert Lawton (1818-1896) is one prominent resident of the south mansion.  Brigadier-General Lawton was born November 4, 1818, and died July 2, 1896. He is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery of Savannah.  Lawton’s obituary appeared in the New York Times.

After graduating Harvard, Lawton was admitted to the Georgia Bar (1842) and was a Savannah lawyer, Confederate brigadier and quartermaster general during the American Civil War, 5th president of the American Bar Association (1882), Georgia state legislator, and U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s appointee to U.S. minister to Austria-Hungary (1887-1889).

He was a United States Military Academy graduate at West Point (1839) and classmate of General Robert E. Lee. A young Lt. Lee’s first assignment after graduating West Point was as an engineer during the construction of Fort Pulaski, near Savannah.  General Lee is known to have been an overnight guest in Lawton’s south mansion (now Presidents’ Quarters Inn) at least twice, once accompanied by his (Lee’s) daughter. A signed carte-de-visite of Robert E. Lee is in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Lawton was involved in a number of businesses, including a plantation.  In 1845 he married Sarah Alexander, the great-granddaughter of Sarah Porter Hillhouse (1763-1831), the first woman editor and printer in Georgia and reputed to be the first woman editor and businesswoman in the nation.  Source: blog OnthetrailofHillhouse

“The story of this lovely Georgia Belle could easily have been the inspiration for many a Civil War romance novel,” writes Jan Eloise Morris.

Alexander and Sarah had four children –

Corinne Elliott Lawton – September 23, 1846
Louisa Frederika Lawton – June 9, 1849
Sarah Hillhouse Lawton – March 1, 1855
Alexander Rudolph Lawton – August 9, 1858

From 1849 to 1854, Lawton was president of the Augusta and Savannah Railroad.

General Alexander R Lawton Savannah GA USA

Brigadier General Alexander R. Lawton

A staunch secessionist, Lawton was elected to the state legislature in 1855, and considered among its strongest members. In 1860 he was elected to the Georgia senate. When Georgia seceded, Lawton resigned to help organize a state regiment. As colonel of the 1st Volunteer Georgia Regiment, he led volunteer militia and seized Fort Pulaski from the Federal government.  The seizure of Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, overlooking the Savannah River, was the first overt act of war in the American Civil War in Georgia. This occurred on January 3, 1861, sixteen days before the secession of Georgia from the Union.  In April of 1861 Lawton was commissioned a brigadier general and put in charge of Georgia’s coastal defenses.

LAWTON MONUMENTS IN BONAVENTURE CEMETERY
Statue marking the grave of Corinne Lawton.  Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.
Perhaps the most notable female sculpture in Bonaventure Cemetery is of Corinne Elliott Lawton, Brigadier-General Lawton’s eldest daughter (September 21, 1846 –  January 24, 1877, at 7:40 a.m.).

“She was engaged to be married, and the artist represents her sitting at the foot of the cross, with a crown of flowers that has fallen from her hands, looking up to heaven with a sad, resigned expression.” — Source: The Harper’s Monthly, June 1881.

“Jan. 25, 1877: 3/1 – Funeral invitation -

Lawton – The friends and acquaintances of General and Mrs. A. R. Lawton are invited to attend the funeral of their eldest daughter, Corinne, this morning at 11 o’clock from their residence 135 Perry St.” — Source: Ruth Rawl’s Blog**Note: Today the address is 15 West Perry Street, overlooking Chippewa Square. It was built in 1867.

The sculptor is Benedetto Civiletti (1846-1899) — “the young rising genius” as his fellow Palermitans called him [as of 1881] — from Palermo, Sicily.  His piece was sculpted in Sicily in 1879.   The Corinne monument is referenced in “The Harper’s Monthly,” June 1881 as among Civiletti’s works. More of Civiletti’s works include the bronzes atop the Palermo opera house and here.

 Greek Orthodox church.

LAWTON MEMORIAL HALL (NOW ST. PAUL’S GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH)

In life, Corinne and her father were great lovers of the arts and attended many international performances together. To honor General Lawton and Corinne, in 1897-98, Mrs. Lawton built Lawton Memorial Hall — an opera house and performing arts hall, known for outstanding acoustics.

The building now houses the St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church (14 West Anderson, at the corner of Anderson & Bull Street).

The Greek Church congregation hosts the popular Savannah Greek Festival, held in October annually.

Ease into Presidents’ Quarters Inn, located overlooking Oglethorpe Square in the National Landmark Historic District.  Noble comforts and southern charm await every lodging guest.  — Toll free 1/800-233-1776 or local 912/233-1600; PresidentsQuartersInn.com; Twitter @PQInnSavannahGA.

One thought on “Steeped in Noble #Savannah Heritage: Presidents’ Quarters Inn

  1. There’s an error in Morris’s research. Alexander Robert Lawton and Sarah Alexander Lawton did have 3 daughters, but they were Corinne, Louisa, and Nora. Nora married Henry C. Cunningham, and they had one daughter, Sarah Alexander Cunningham, who left a notable collection of family papers to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah..

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