, some versions of the maps were available through the State of Georgia and the Library of Congress, but with this release there’s a larger collection available online. Savannah.gov has direct links to all versions.
We used the Library of Congress versions when researching the History of the Broughton Street House. These maps are detailed, down to the shape of each individual building. The Sanborn Map Company made these maps for insurance companies to determine the hazards of a particular area. From 1884 through 1955, Sanborn regularly updated the maps to keep pace with the growth and changes of Savannah.
These maps are a real historical treasure that shows the changes to our beloved city at regular intervals. 1884, 1889, 1898, 1916, 1922, and 1955, are all available. Sincere thanks to the City of Savannah for posting the Savannah Sanborn Maps!
One of the first things we noticed when we first toured the Broughton Street House was an unused picture rail in the downstairs hallway. We’ve always been fascinated by picture rails and really wanted to put this one to use. While we’ve seen them before, we’ve never actually used one, so we needed to figure a few things out.
A quick background: A picture rail is a somewhat archaic way to hang art on your walls. The advantage of a picture rail is that avoids putting holes in your walls. Subjectively, it can be beautiful due to the extra ornamentation of the hanging system. They went out of fashion mid-twentieth century and most picture rails have been removed from houses that originally had them. The physics of hanging objects via an attachment point on one side dictates that the art will lean forward to a certain extent, but this is manageable. Cost is another disadvantage when compared to a simple nail.
However, they grab your attention since they are so rarely seen these days.
In order to hang a picture from a picture rail, you need 5 components.
First: Picture Rail.
A picture rail is a piece of moulding that runs parallel but below any ceiling moulding you may already have. In many cases it will be just below the ceiling an inch or two, but in the case of the Broughton Street House the picture rail is significantly below the 12 foot ceiling.
If you don’t already have picture rail, that’s not a problem. You can find this in the moulding / mill work section of most Home Depot stores. Here’s an example.
As you can see in the profile below, picture rail fits flat against the wall, and projects a lobe upward and away from the wall. That lobe is where your picture rail hangers will rest.
Second: Picture Rail Hangers
Picture rail hangers are harder to come by, but if you’re adding this to your historic home then I recommend ordering them from House of Antique Hardware. They have an interesting selection of hangers derived from various historical styles. We chose their “Regency” style as the best fit for the Broughton Street House.
Three: Picture Hanging Cord or Chain
We bought our picture hanging chain from House of Antique Hardware so it would match the rail hangers. It’s pretty high quality stuff with a nice antique brass finish.
You could also choose rope or wire. If you like to get really ornate, the rope options are pretty fancy. In our case, we chose the metal for both durability but also a little less fussy and ornate. Here’s a link to the product page for the chain we purchased.
It might seem obvious how it should all go together but I’ll tell you we learned a few lessons in our project.
The hangers themselves are the easiest part. You need a ladder, but you simply slip the hanger over the rail. It sits neatly onto the contour of the rail and provides a stable peg for the picture to hang from.
More challenging was hanging the art and getting it to not tilt forward too much. Here’s our first attempt:
On a typical picture frame, the D-Rings are located 1/3 of the distance from the top of the frame, on either side. With the chain and rail system, this turned out to not be optimal. Having the fulcrum point so low caused the picture to lean forward over an inch from the wall at the top.
As you can see here, we added D-Rings in the top left and top right. They’re pretty easy to install on a substantial frame like this. If you were hanging something with a thin, light frame it might be much trickier. Given that the whole picture rail system is a very traditional system, I recommend you stick with thicker frames in order to get the look and the durability that you’ll want.
Once we had the new D-Rings in place, we got much closer to the wall:
Another note: We could have purchased heavier chain and a heavy duty picture hangers, but we didn’t. Since we generally do these projects during a single stay at the Broughton Street House, we can’t reorder parts if we discover we’ve missed something. For that reason, when we hung the VERY heavy mirror, we used two hangers and two chains.
Our Finished Picture Rail
We are unable to get a straight on photo, being a hallway. However, you can see the final results in this photo with three ornate frames hanging via the rail.
We are very happy with how this turned out. While we don’t have any other existing picture rails, we’re considering other locations. This is a classic way to display your art.
With an expectation that our guests need to work, stream, game, and attend school during their stay, we thought a lot about how to get fast internet and Wi-Fi for the Broughton Street House in Savannah. We use the house ourselves as often as possible. My daughter has gamed all night from the Carriage House. My son has done virtual viola lessons from the Map Room. And I have logged into numerous WebEx sessions from the Courtyard. Based on our experiences
, and some experiences we’ve had at other properties, we made a few important decisions to get the fastest possible internet.
FYI, none of the links below are affinity links. We’re not being paid to promote any internet service. Our goal is to show the choices we made, and how we hope to create the best guest experience.
Fast internet is good, but not if it runs out during your stay
We’ve experienced this before at a beach house we rented. The owners had a high speed internet connection, all was good, but on day three of our visit, which happened to be near the end of the month, things got REALLY slow. Suddenly none of us could stream. We were turning off our cameras to try and keep a decent connection on WebEx and Teams. And for the gamers, latency is not okay.
We couldn’t prove it, but we were pretty sure we’d hit the caps on the owners internet service. For normal household, data caps are annoying, but manageable. For a short-term rental, especially in busy season when you know you’re going to have large parties, it’s just not acceptable. We were only at that beach house for a week, so we weren’t the ones that used up all that data. However, we had the misfortune of being there toward the end of the cycle. We were the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Not cool.
The Broughton Street House had a couple of options for fast internet service providers, and Xfinity offers an unlimited plan. It does cost more, but it should prevent our guests from ever having the experience we did at the beach.
An interesting thing about the Broughton Street House: It’s built of Savannah Gray brick. Even some of the internal walls are brick. On top of the brick is stucco. And the walls are thick. Fast internet to the house is good
, but if the walls block the Wi-Fi signal that’s not helpful.
We initially tried to set a single Wi-Fi router central to the home, but the Carriage House couldn’t keep a strong enough signal and the parlor was right at the edge of acceptable. Not fast is not good.
We discovered that Xfinity offers “xFi pods” that you can place around the house. The second generation of the xFi pods, in particular, are very fast and have great range. We placed multiples around the house to ensure there was no where on property you could go and not have a super strong, super fast Wi-Fi signal. To be sure it was all working, we did speed tests at various points around the house using an iPhone. We consistently measured a very fast internet speed of 600mbps or better from anywhere on the property.
The downside of these devices is that they only work with the Xfinity modem. We considered mesh wireless networks from Google, Eero, or other providers, but ultimately decided to go with getting the modem directly from Xfinity for reasons we discuss below.
Fast internet is awesome, but it has to be easy to support remotely
This was a big decision point for us. At our primary home we use a Google Wi-Fi mesh system and it’s very easy to work with. However, the Google devices (or any other third party Wi-Fi network) would require that we own our own router, which is what we do at home. For a Savannah vacation property we really wanted more than just fast internet, We wanted a “one phone call” support model. Having all Xfinity devices gives us that. If a guest ever reports that they don’t have fast internet, it’s definitely Xfinity, so that’s who you call. We’re able to provide Southern Belle all the account information so they can call Xfinity on our behalf.
It turns out the Xfinity app is actually pretty awesome for managing the account. We can see the router and all the xFi pods and check that they’re online. We can restart the modem remotely if needed. We’ve put all the xFi pods on Wi-Fi enabled outlets so we can restart those if needed, too.
High-speed but also secure internet
As much as we (okay, just Kevin actually) love to tinker with technology, security is just too important and things change too fast. We wanted built in managed security features that we could count on to protect our property and our guests from malicious actors. Since we decided to go with Xfinity equipment for the Broughton Street House, they automatically provide a security suite that implements some pretty good threat protection at the router and Wi-Fi access points. There’s some basic reporting letting you know that things are good, and the router is always up to date and secure.
The fastest internet in Savannah
The goal of all this was to be sure our guests could work, stream, and attend school with the fastest possible internet in Savannah. Our guests have told us consistently that the internet is very fast. We also use the property frequently so we can say with confidence that it works great for video conferencing. We know pretty much every AirBNB or VRBO rental says they have high-speed internet, so this won’t help us stand out in the listings. But we can say that our internet in Savannah is truly unlimited, fantastic Wi-Fi coverage, and very fast, so once they get to the property our guests should never experience some of the frustrations we’ve had at other properties.
The Broughton Street House and the O’Connor Family
To highlight The Broughton Street House’s connection to its history, we identify Flannery O’Connor and her use of peacocks as a design focus for our Carriage House. Our Carriage House is a one bedroom, one bath apartment atop the garage behind the main property. It is available to rent as part of the full property, or on it’s own if the full property is not already rented.
On our History page we tell you about the original owner and other residents of this house. Daniel O’Connor and his brother Patrick were a pair of Irish immigrants that came to Savannah after the Civil War. Later, they parleyed their success in industry into real estate investments and established the O’Connor family for generations. Daniel commissioned the three connected townhouses that eventually became 507. 509, and 511 East Broughton. Similarly, his brother Patrick was also a successful businessman and the O’Connor family remained prominent in Savannah through the time of Patrick’s granddaughter, Flannery. Flannery, of course, went on to become one of the best known American voices of the 20th century. Eventually she won a National Book Award for fiction, and was even featured on a US postage stamp.
Flannery’s grandfather Patrick and her great uncle Daniel were Irish immigrants in a new world. As a result, their identity shaped their contributions to society and their views of Savannah. Likewise, Flannery’s Irish Heritage, Catholicism, and Southern upbringing were defining aspects of her life. Her stories were often dark, somber, and somewhat fatalistic.
To highlight the connection between the Broughton Street House and the O’Connor family we have incorporated one of Flannery’s happier subjects into the décor of the Carriage House: Peacocks!
, Flannery owned, cared for, and used as symbols the beautiful peacock. Later, when the US Postal Service decided to make a stamp honoring Flannery O’Connor, they chose the peacock to highlight her. Therefore, we began searching for art and décor that would bring this theme to the Carriage House to celebrate the connection.
For the bedroom we found a cute print with colors that helped enliven the room.
In the kitchen / dining room we found a painting from my niece that we thought would be perfect. When we saw it in my sister’s shop, we bought it immediately.
We had to have a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s stories available, with peacocks, naturally.
And we even found some William Morris patterned cushions: The Peacock and the Dragon. Once we saw them
We enjoy linking the house to it’s history. Choosing an element like the Flannery O’Connor’s peacocks is a great way to add an interesting visual element while also connecting to the past. Hopefully our guests will enjoy the little details!
I woke up this morning at 4:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Today is closing day. I’m Kevin, my wife is Cathy, and as of today we own the Broughton Street House. It’s been a long journey of searching, researching, and preparing.
In preparation for closing I packed up our travel trailer and headed to Savannah Monday. I can work remote, which meant I was able to get some driving in during the day, stopping roadside for conference calls and video meetings. It’s usually a 4 hour drive from Atlanta to Savannah, but it took me 7 due to the frequent stops and lower speed that I drive with the trailer.
Overnight in Fort McAllister
Cathy booked me a site at Fort McAllister State Park. It’s close to Savannah, but across the Ogeechee river so you actually have to drive a circuitous route to get there from downtown. I didn’t arrive until after dark, so I set up camp and did some work without exploring.
, I woke up at 4:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Closing was scheduled for 1:00 pm, and I had some work deliverables as well, so I got started. Around 6:30 I decided to head into Richmond Hill to find breakfast. On the way out I saw this marina with the sun coming up.
A Quick Closing and We Own the Broughton Street House!
After breakfast I went back to the trailer and worked a bit waiting for time for the close. Cathy drive separately and arrived at the walk through at lunch time, so we met there and did our final walk through. Then, it was over to McNamara & Adams to sign the mountain of paperwork. The loan was in order (Thanks, Ron!) and the closing itself went really fast. By 1:45 we were done and the proud owners of this amazing historic home!
Cathy had to head back to Atlanta to make sure the kids were good, but I stayed the week and prepared for our first guests. Nothing major, as the house was in great shape, just making sure the new internet service was working, setting up all the televisions with the new accounts, and going through all the kitchen drawers and such to be sure there are plenty of corkscrews and coffee mugs (I promise, as of today there are PLENTY!)
We are very proud to own the Broughton Street House! Now we can’t wait to share it with you.