Saturday, December 31, 2011

Old Lady Antebellum

My favorite house in Savannah is this one.  I've loved the lacy wrought iron balconies and the rusting intricate iron window-works since I first laid eyes on it.  I've always imagined the interior as a lavish home for a wealthy family.  The interior I pictured had grandiose staircases,  windows with yards and yards of richly colored silk draperies and plush velvet armchairs made for shipping mint juleps while cradled in the lap of luxury. The walls would be decorated with contemporary landscapes of live oaks, much like my own.  Ok, now I'm fantasizing that I own the place...Anyway, I never thought that I'd be able to waltz into the house on a sunny afternoon, much less poke my head around each corner on every floor.

Dave and I were in Savannah on our way back from the Podracky Christmas celebration in Orlando this year.  We were walking around and peeking into antique shops when we stumbled upon the open doors of Alex Raskin Antiques.  He owns this house!  Of course we went in, and when we did, we found piles and piles of dirty old treasures.  They were stacked to the ceiling, covering the walls and spilling out of the balconies of this wondrous old shell of a Savannah mansion.  Based on the condition of the stuff, we thought we'd hit a gold mine! Surely we could find an affordable treasure here!  It was not the case.  Every piece of hand-carved furniture and ancient photograph was priced at thousands of dollars.  So we crept around and looked and marveled at the treasures!

My favorite piece was a hand-carved Victorian mantle.  It was a mere $4,500.00.  Since it wouldn't fit in our trunk, I had to say no.  I also adored some stained glass windows that were propped precariously on the first floor in what I assume was the grand ballroom in it's hey-day.  The paint was peeling off in layers as thick as cardboard.  With the original chandelier still swaying eerily from it's dusty chain, this house was beyond anything from my wildest dreams.

We also found an early dress form with a painted doll's head.  Dave loved an ancient looking fish-tank from the turn of the century. He also eyed up some French furniture with aged paint patinas that cannot be mimicked, no matter how many layers of faux paint and crackle medium you try.  We laughed when we saw a "choo-choo" train that looked like it came from the carnival from the turn of the century (1900's, not 2000's).  There is no way to describe the magic of this place.

At the same time, there was an inescapable sadness to it all.  Every room was decaying. The ceilings were caving in on the top floor.  The stairway was held up by a metal rod that surely was not an original part of the design.  As the plaster and horse-hair concoction crumbled, you could see the wooden slats behind the walls and ceilings. With every crack in the wall, it became harder and harder to imagine the people that raised their families here.  I felt a sadness that the owner of this place didn't take better care of it.  Hopefully one day we will go back again to see that renovations from the historical society have begun.  If Dave and I ever hit the lottery, this is where you'll find us!