The History of our Home
Built as an investment in 1883, this Historic Downtown Savannah home we call The Broughton Street House has a unique and charming history. This page documents the history of this wonderful house. You can also learn some of the ways we incorporate the history of this house into its furnishings and decor in other articles:
The Civil War was over and Savannah had been spared. General Sherman had famously “gifted” Savannah to President Lincoln for Christmas at the end of his long march to the sea and left the city standing, setting up his headquarters at the Green-Meldrim house on Madison Square, south of Liberty.
After the war, there was scarcity and poverty for a time, but within a decade Savannah was booming again. Cotton production had resumed, and immigrants were flowing into the city by ship and wagon to work the docks and make their fortunes in industry. In 1887 the Savannah Cotton Exchange members erected 100 Bay Street as their gathering place, and Savannah was a lively and active port city with many opportunities for employment.
In particular, there was much interest amongst the Irish. Irish immigration to Savannah boomed around 1845, with the onset of the potato famine in Ireland. Savannah had become an established destination for Irish immigrants over the decades. Immigration agents established companies to attract the Irish to Savannah, with direct sailings from the Emerald Isles directly to the Port of Savannah, drawing thousands of Irish to the city to work the docks and fields, and to establish new industry. It is estimated that by 1860, as many as one in three white households in Savannah were Irish-born immigrants.
Daniel O’Connor, Wheelwright
Many Irish had come to Savannah, especially from County Wexford, and among them was a blacksmith named Daniel O’Connor.
Mr. O’Connor had much success serving the ships, trains, and wagon owners of the time. He served as an alderman for the City of Savannah from 1879 to 1883 and was characterized by the Savannah Morning News as “one of Savannah’s most prominent Irish citizens”, and a man “prominently identified with public affairs”. As a man of much influence he also invested in real estate, and in 1883 he commissioned the building of three townhouses in the growing eastern edge of Savannah:
While Daniel O’Connor may have commissioned the homes, there is no record that he ever lived here, and at the age of 57, just 4 years after building the home, Mr. O’Connor passed away. His headstone is located at the Catholic Cemetery east of Savannah
William Kehoe – Man of Iron
Instead, it appears from property records and directories that the very first person to occupy the house was none other than William Kehoe in 1884.
Another Irish Immigrant from County Wexford, William Kehoe came to Savannah at the age of ten. Mr. Kehoe was born in Ireland in 1843 and was educated in Savannah, learning the iron molding trade. In 1878 he started his own casting factory and built what was called “the best equipped marine engineering shops on the South Atlantic Coast”.
Mr. Kehoe also was the president and a founder of the Chatham Savings and Loan Company, a director of the Savannah Electric and Power Company, an originator of the Tybee Railroad, president of the Tybee Beach Company and the Hotel Tybee Company, a member of the town council of Tybee for 25 years, and a director of the National Bank of Savannah. He was also member of the Board of Commissioners of Chatham County from 1893-1898.
Mr. Kehoe’s time at the Broughton Street House
Records indicate that William Kehoe resided at 25 Broughton Street in 1884 shortly after construction completed, most likely on lease from Daniel O’Connor. Mr. Kehoe had engaged the Savannah architect Andrew Dewitt Bruyn to construct his own future house. Therefore, we suspect that Mr. Kehoe found the proximity of The Broughton Street House to his new home, as well as proximity to the Kehoe Iron Works entrance at the end of Broughton, to be attractive. He only stayed in the property for a year, however.
Mr. Kehoe completed his own residence, the famous Kehoe House at 123 Habersham Street in 1892. This beautiful mansion is a unique treasure with its iron ornaments. Later owned for a time by football legend Joe Namath, it now serves as one of the premier Bed & Breakfasts in Savannah and is located around the corner from The Broughton Street House on Columbia Square.
William Ebbs – A Mystery
In 1885, the house was occupied by W.M. Ebbs until 1889.
Directories of the period indicate that William Ebbs occupied 25 Broughton Street from 1885 to 1889. During that time, The Savannah Morning News tells the story of two William Ebbs: William Ebbs and William G. Ebbs, likely father and son. Neither of them appeared to have had a happy time. Attempts by others to find the grave of William Ebbs were fruitless.
William G. Ebbs (the younger) operated a grocery store at the corner of Broughton and Price. This is another of Mr. O’Connor’s properties, and was adjacent to the townhouses. William Ebbs (the older) had filed claims against the United States during the occupation of Savannah for property taken by the Union Army at the end of the Civil War. The amount owed: $1,252, which in 2021 would be roughly $40,000. What property was taken is not specified, so we cannot say if the senior Mr. Ebbs had also been a grocer, but it does seem plausible.
We haven’t been able to locate conclusive information as to whether or not this claim was successful, but it is unlikely. Overall of the 22,298 claims submitted, only 7,092 satisfied the rigid tests of sworn statement and cross-examination used to prove both the sustained Union loyalty of the claimant throughout the war and the validity of the claim.
The senior Mr. Ebbs appears to have died in or prior to 1888, as evidenced by the filing by the younger Mr. Ebbs to administer his estate in September of that year:
Bankruptcy of William G Ebbs
It is unclear if it was the Senior or Junior Mr. Ebbs that resided at The Broughton Street House in 1885. The younger Mr. Ebbs was definitely the operator of the Grocery Store after the older Mr. Ebbs death, however, as we find this unfortunate filing regarding his bankruptcy.
The notice is from March of 1884, which would be prior to his residency at 25 Broughton (just three doors down from his grocery store) and four years prior to the death of his father. It is difficult to reconstruct exactly what happened here but one theory is that the older Mr. Ebbs rented at 25 Broughton but was in poor health, and his son operated the Grocer and Bar on the corner. After that, when the business failed and his father died, the younger Mr. Ebbs took possession of the house some time after 1888 or 1889. At any rate, Mr. Ebbs didn’t stay long because the house soon had a new resident.
In 1890, the house was back in the hands of the O’Connor family, this time occupied by one of Daniel O’Connor’s sons. Patrick J. O’Connor, better known as P.J., attended Mercer College and the went on to Georgetown in Washington DC. Upon his graduation he returned to Savannah and formed a law firm with another Irishman, “O’Connor and Byrne”. Following in his father’s footsteps as a Savannah Alderman, PJ also managed the real estate he inherited from his father, and chose the Broughton Street House as either his home or office.
At this time in history, Broughton Street was not divided into East and West. Therefore the address of the townhouse was 25 Broughton Street at this time. Later, In 1896 it was changed to 511 E Broughton.
Mr. PJ O’Connor’s custom home near Forsyth Park was completed in 1885 and was recently restored. Why PJ listed his primary address as 25 Broughton even though his custom home had most likely been completed by 1890, we cannot say.
Other Residents from the History of The Broughton Street House
After PJ moved out, the house was occupied by A.B. Simmons and I.M. Lindsey (an engineer). This arrangement lasted until 1895, after which the house appears to have been vacant for a year.
From 1896 to 1900, the house was occupied by E.R. Hernandez, who appears to have moved to 25 Broughton after having previously lived at 31 Broughton (also part of Daniel O’Connor’s estate). Mr. Hernandez is listed on the “Savannah Roll of Honor” of 1868 for having served as a Private during the Civil War. He is also listed as having travelled by Steamship (The Dessoug) from Philadelphia in 1889, along with William Kehoe, so perhaps they were associates.
Then the property changed hands to B. Tully until 1905. In 1906 it was occupied by G. Stevens (a marine engineer), and then W.D. Durden from 1907 through 1913. Mr. W.D. Durden apparently had some trouble with the law later in his life (1925), as documented here: He was convicted of allowing dancing on Sunday on Tybee Island.
Interestingly, there is also a telephone record of Joanna Kehoe listing her address as 511 e Broughton in 1907, and additional records that she occupied the property in 1914. Clearly the Kehoe family really liked this house.
Records from previous owners show the following history of the property subsequently:
- 1915 – H. Lind
- 1916 – 1918 – Vacant
- 1919 – 1923 – J. Sheehan
- 1924 – 1938 Thos J McMahon
- 1939 – Rosa Bell & MA Bazemore
According the Report of the Mayor in 1914 and 1915 M.A. Bazemore was a City of Savannah Police Officer with the rank of “Private”. In 1915 he made 15 arrests. It’s not known if we was still a police officer by 1939.
- 1940 – Mrs. Rosa Bell & W.S. Hawkins
- 1941 – Vacant
A House on the Lane
In 1942 the Broughton Street House was purchased by Mr. John E Tanner. Following the purchase, it appears Mr. Tanner added a residence at the rear of the property. From 1950 until 1970 there are records for both 511 E Broughton Street and 511 E Broughton Lane.
- 1942 – 1950 John E Tanner, Lane: Thos Brown (1950 only)
- 1951 – Aaron Whitfield and Earl Head, Lane: Mary Blue & T. Brown
- 1952 – L. Lee Shuman, Lane: Mary Blue & T. Brown
- 1954 – 1955 – Earl Head, Lane: Mary Blue & T. Brown
- 1957 – Ira Counts, Lane: Thos Brown
- 1958 – 1959 – Nesbitt Morrison, Lane: Brown & Blue
- 1960 – Vacant, Lane: Lyndia Blue
- 1961 – Vacant, Lane: Isaac Siegler
- 1962 – Rosa Sharp, Lane: Vacant
- 1963 – 1964 – Vacant, Lane: Lula Singleton
- 1965 – 1968 – Eugene Love, Lane: Mary Lewis
- 1969 – Eugene Love, Lane: James Seabrough
- 1970 – 1972 – Eugene Love, no further records of 511 E Broughton Lane
From 1973 to 1984 the property was owned by Aron Weiner, but apparently vacant or used infrequently. Aron was a prominent attorney and real estate investor active in Savannah for many decades.
By 1979, when most of the standing properties in Historic Downtown Savannah were registered as historic buildings, 511 E Broughton was unused and in disrepair. As you can see in the picture below, this was a low point in the history of the Broughton Street House.
Interestingly, in this same year (1979) Aron Weiner arranged for the construction of a brand new property next door. Mr. Weiner tore down the property on the corner of Broughton and Price. One of Daniel O’Connor’s investments, where William Ebbs ran a grocer and bar, became townhomes. Below you see the plaque on the property today.
- 1985 – 1987 – John Hodges
- 1988 – Vacant
- 1989 – 1994 – William D. Elwell
1994 – 2000 – Yusef & Tonya Saleeby
In 1994 the property was purchased by the Saleeby family, and from records we can gather they made many structural investments in the property. Subsequently, they converted the house to a small Bed & Breakfast. The Saleeby’s updated electrical systems, modernized plumbing, and added stained glass transoms in the downstairs rooms.
2000 – 2021 – Robert Bell
In 2000 the property was purchased by the Bell family and continued for a time as a Bed & Breakfast. With the advent of short-term rental platforms like AirBNB, the Bells saw opportunity and converted the home to a vacation rental property as “Savannah Villas”, along with its sister property at 507 E Broughton. Additionally, the Bells made investments in heating and cooling systems, and also added the Carriage House to the back of the property along with the two-car garage.
2021 – The Priest Family
Today we offer the Broughton Street House as a vacation rental property through Southern Belle Vacation Rentals, while investing in additional upgrades. We welcome new guests to appreciate the history of this amazing historic home and to enjoy all that Historic Downtown Savannah has to offer.