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Inn History

The Catherine Ward House, built in 1886, is considered by many to be the best example of High Victorian Italianate Architecture in the low country and Savannah.

In 1846, James Ward emigrated from Ireland to Quebec at age 13. Having grown weary of the seafaring life, the Sea Captain moved to Savannah in 1869. Captain Ward was attracted to the large Irish community and to the opportunities in the new South during Reconstruction.

In the early 1880's, Captain Ward's first wife died. He married Catherine, fifteen years his junior. It was for Catherine that he planned to move his residence to the developing Victorian District and to build her a modern home on Waldburg Street east of Forsyth Park.

The Italianate carpenter house, completed in 1886, is a unique union of traditional Savannah architecture with the modern conveniences of the Victorian Age. Like so many older row houses, the house is built over a full brick basement with the parlor floor found on the second of its three floors. The house had piped gas for cooking and lighting, piped water, and indoor plumbing.

Captain and Mrs. Ward rose to prominence in Savannah’s Irish circles. They were members of the new and impressive Cathedral of John the Baptist. The Captain stood as a standard bearer in the Hibernian Society.

After Captain Ward’s death in 1891, Catherine continued to live in the house on Waldburg Street. She took in two boarders, the Misses Jessie and Nellie Lynch, who maintained the house while Catherine made frequent visits to her second home in New York City. Catherine died in New York in August 1929.

In 1913, Catherine sold the house on Waldburg Street to Michael Gainey, proprietor of the Cosmopolitan hotel in Savannah. He and his wife, Kate, and their family lived in the house until 1935. The house was sold to John M. Trapani where he and his family resided in the home until 1965. The home was then sold and divided into rental units.

Jim Williams, featured in both the book and movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, and a member of the Historical Savannah Foundation, recognizing the architectural significance of the Catherine Ward House encouraged the foundation to purchase the house. In 1983, the Historic Savannah Foundation purchased the house. The renovation was completed in 1986.

Alan Williams purchased the Catherine Ward House from the Savannah Historical Society. In 1998, he completed renovations turning the Catherine Ward House into a bed and breakfast inn. Those renovations gained recognition from both the Savannah Historical and the National Historic Commission.

In the summer of 2005, the inn received a complete updating from its new owners. New paint, wallpaper and floor coverings went into all common areas and all of the rooms. Furniture was upgraded. New, guest-friendly policies and programs were instituted. Wireless high-speed internet was made available to every room, the courtyard, the porches and the parlor. Catherine Ward with all her charm was given a new personality and brought into the 21st century!

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