Impressive in workmanship and size, the park-side mansion was built in 1873 for Samuel Pugh Hamilton and his family. Mr. Hamilton was a successful businessman and prominent Savannah citizen and alderman. He and his wife, Sarah V. Hamilton, created a social center for Savannah’s elite, hosting a variety of society activities in their home.
The Hamilton mansion was the first residence in Savannah with electricity. In 1883 electric lights were installed in the salon. Spectators witnessing the inaugural room lighting feared the house would explode. The entire house was fitted with electric lights by 1886. It was no coincidence that the illustrious Samuel Hamilton became the President of the Brush Electric Light & Power Company around the same time his prestigious mansion was illuminated, encouraging the acceptance of the invention.
Because of the Hamilton mansion’s tin roof, it withstood the Savannah fire of 1898. All of the homes on Lafayette Square survived the fire due to their heat resistant roofing. A neighbor on the square, St. John the Baptist Cathedral—completed the same year as the Hamilton mansion—was not as fortunate.
In 1915 Dr. Francis Turner purchased the house from the Hamilton estate. He and his family lived there until 1926, when they opened the house up for boarding. The mansion became a home for the Marine Hospital nurses in 1928. The Turner family moved back to the mansion in the 1940s, and the basement of the house served as office space for Dr. Turner’s practice. Dr. Turner was known by neighbors as an electric car enthusiast, preferring electric to the noise and smell of gas cars.
The Turner family sold the house to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in 1965. The Cathedral purchased the property to provide a playground for their school, nearby. Once this plan published, the Historic Savannah Foundation began petitioning to save the house from demolition. After years of negotiations the mansion was saved from destruction in the late 1960s by the Historic Savannah Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1955 to protect endangered buildings in Savannah’s historic district.
Over the next 30 years the Hamilton-Turner House—under several owners and management—was an apartment building. The house was embroiled in scandal under the management of Joe Odom. His raucous parties—made famous through the John Berendt book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—troubled neighbors on Lafayette Square.
The Hamilton-Turner mansion was converted into an inn in 1997 by Charlie and Sue Strickland. The Hamilton-Turner Inn restoration and preservation passed to Rob and Jane Sales in February of 2003. The present owners Gay and Jim Dunlop take seriously the task of continuing the legacy of maintaining and upgrading this fine historic building in cooperation with the Historic Savannah Foundation. As long time Innkeepers, the Dunlops put their experience to good use, over the last five years, investing a considerable amount that was required to do the necessary restoration to the building, The Hamilton-Turner Inn was returned to its original grandeur.