"Within the storied walls of Savannah's elegant Olde Pink House restaurant, one dines surrounded by the echoes of history."
Savannah overflows with storied landmarks that transport visitors back through the ages.
Among the city’s most iconic historical treasures is the Olde Pink House restaurant, which has borne witness to Savannah society since 1771 within the elegant confines of an 18th century mansion.
In exploring the history of the Olde Pink House, we peel back the layers of this Southern icon to reveal its origins, illustrious inhabitants, and evolving identity across centuries at the heart of Savannah.
Through meticulous restoration and devotion to regional cuisine, the restaurant has revived this aristocratic dwelling, allowing modern diners and history aficionados alike to step inside Savannah’s gilded past.
Each segment of the Olde Pink House’s narrative, from its construction for a prominent Colonial family to its carefully preserved present-day incarnation, contributes to the richer portrait of how this esteemed establishment came to be one of the most beloved architectural and dining landmarks in Georgia’s oldest city.
The grand mansion that now houses the Olde Pink House restaurant stands as a Georgian jewel in Savannah's Historic District.
Completed in 1771, the stately structure was commissioned by James Habersham Jr., a prominent leader who helped establish Savannah as a center of politics and commerce in those early post-colonial days.
Habersham had already amassed substantial wealth as a planter by the time he hired the architect William Jay to design his new Savannah estate.
The ornate brick and pink stucco edifice with its symmetrical layout exemplified the Georgian style then fashionable throughout the colonies. Arched windows flanked by columns, iron-railed balconies, and a signature white ornamental iron fence cast in Savannah all exuded an air of refinement.
When completed, the Habersham house stood among the grandest residences in Savannah.
The interior held carved mantelpieces, crystal chandeliers, and other lavish details that demonstrated the owner's means and status.
The striking pink facade also rendered the mansion instantly recognizable in the local landscape, with the color chosen as a proud nod to Habersham's English heritage.
Over 250 years later, the mansion remains one of the premier illustrations of Georgian architecture in Savannah.
Though the interior layout has evolved through various uses, the exterior and many original design elements still transport visitors back to the Georgian era when one of Savannah's forefathers first envisioned this elegant property.
It continues to anchor Reynolds Square as it has since the square's establishment in 1734, at the very outset of Savannah's settlement.
The legacy of James Habersham is still honored through the surviving Habersham house, now the Olde Pink House restaurant.
Patrons dine immersed in the architecture and atmosphere of 18th century Savannah brought to life by one of its earliest leading citizens.
Standing stately in Reynolds Square, the Olde Pink House restaurant inhabits one of Savannah's finest examples of Georgian-style architecture.
With its pink stucco facade and white ornamental ironwork, the mansion emanates the elegance of 18th century life when it was first erected in 1771 for James Habersham Jr.
He was a wealthy planter and one of Savannah's foremost leaders in those early days, so it is only fitting that his home would become an establishment as iconic as the Olde Pink House restaurant.
For over two centuries, the mansion has welcomed Savannah's elite through its doors, from the lavish parties of Habersham's era to the distinguished gentlemen's club operated out of the house in the 19th century.
Today, diners can still experience that refined grace as they step inside the Olde Pink House restaurant and enjoy Southern cuisine in spaces that have hosted Savannah society since the city's settlement.
From the Planters Tavern in the cellar to the stately dining rooms on the ground floor, the building exudes history through its pristinely restored architecture and design.
The food draws from regional tradition, but underneath the surface of fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits lies a storied landmark that has watched over Savannah from Reynolds Square for nearly 250 years. Just as in 1771, the Olde Pink House remains a destination for those who seek to experience Georgian Savannah's splendor.
As one tours the storied halls of the Olde Pink House today, it becomes easy to imagine the mansion as it was during Savannah's earlier days.
The basement Planters Tavern transports guests back to 1855, when it first opened as an underground bar and billiards hall frequented by Savannah's gentlemen.
Its brick walls, burled wood accents, and dim atmosphere evoke 19th century revelry, likely not so different from when city leaders and planners would discuss business over cards and whiskey.
The small, intimate dining rooms on the ground floor retain a similar old-world feel.
With their low ceilings, fireplaces, and limited seating, they resemble the type of formal but cozy spaces where Georgia's early aristocracy would have entertained friends for elaborate dinners.
Between the food, decor, and architecture, the senses pick up on the echoes of Georgian and antebellum life that still linger within the Olde Pink House.
Yet some claim even more tangible remnants of the mansion's history remain.
Patrons and staff have reported mysterious happenings and encounters with a ghost named James, believed to be the spirit of a worker from the early 1800s.
Footsteps, voices, and moving objects remind visitors that while the Olde Pink House offers a glimpse into the past, some aspects of its bygone eras may continue to inhabit the present day.
The rich heritage woven into every detail remains palpable, both in the physical and perhaps the supernatural.
As Savannah progressed into the 19th century, the stately Habersham house passed into the hands of prominent political leader Joseph Clay.
During Clay's tenure as mayor of Savannah from 1805 to 1806, he and his family took up residence in the mansion.
At a time when Savannah society was flourishing, the Clay family used the house to host elegant soirees and entertainments befitting their station.
Joseph's wife Mary was known as a consummate hostess who masterfully planned lavish dinners, musical evenings, and holiday balls in the mansion's spaces. Guests delighted in dancing the evening away in the grand first floor ballroom or discussing politics and business in the dining room over sumptuous meals.
The parties perfectly reflected the sophistication and gentility of Savannah's elite in that era.
When the Clays entertained, no detail was overlooked.
The house glittered with candlelight while well-dressed gentlemen and ladies conversed over cards or music.
Servants smoothly attended to every guest's needs and Mary Clay ensured the food and wine were of the finest quality. News of the Clays' parties often appeared in Savannah's society pages, further elevating the family's social status.
The stately mansion surely felt livelier during the Clay's residency than in its previous incarnation as a more staid family estate for James Habersham Jr. But the Clays upheld the home's refined atmosphere, using its grand spaces as the backdrop for some of Savannah's most memorable early 19th century social events.
Their tenure left an indelible mark during an important transitional period as Savannah evolved from provincial colony to refined American city.
The Habersham-Clay mansion led a utilitarian existence for many decades following Savannah's antebellum era. As the Civil War plunged the nation into chaos, the grand house transitioned into more practical uses aligned with tumultuous times.
By the late 1860s, the estate had become part of a large hotel complex catering to travelers and temporary residents in Savannah.
The mansion's parlors and bedrooms now served as guest lodging, losing the elegance of their previous incarnations. The war had taken its toll on Savannah, so operating the old house as a hotel provided much needed accommodations.
After the war ended, Savannah worked to rebuild and modernize.
The mansion followed this trajectory when purchased in the 1870s by a consortium establishing a bank.
The banking offices situated upstairs in the former bedrooms, while the ornate dining and drawing rooms of the Clay family became the public-facing spaces for bank transactions.
Sturdy counters and railings were installed while the original delicate interiors were hidden away behind the pragmatic trappings of a Gilded Age bank.
During this period, the mansion was less a family home or even hotel—it now bustled daily with patrons conducting business transactions and employees obediently working in their offices.
The house likely felt very different for inhabitants at this stage, as it adapted to the growing commercial needs of Savannah in the late 1800s.
The bank ultimately moved locations in the 1890s.
But for approximately twenty years it occupied the rooms where Savannah's elite once gathered.
This practical chapter, though far removed from the structure's original purpose, became an important part of the historic mansion's story and connection to Savannah's past.
By the early 20th century, the aging but still-stately former Habersham mansion had passed through many uses and owners.
In a declining neighborhood, the vacant building sat in a state of disrepair during the 1950s, its rich history fading from public memory.
Fortunately, in 1965 saviors arrived in William and Nancy Strong, who recognized the architectural and historic value beneath the dust.
With a vision to revive the mansion to its former elegance, the Strongs commissioned meticulous restorations of the original floorplan, doors, windows, and interior details.
The stucco facade was refreshed to its signature pink hue.
When renovations were complete, the Habersham-Clay house had emerged as the Olde Pink House restaurant.
The Strongs filled the dining rooms with fine antiques and opened the restored cellar as a tavern. Their passion revealed the mansion's beauty once more, while retaining its 18th and 19th century character.
Today diners bask in that historic ambiance carefully recaptured by the Strongs.
From the white ironwork balconies to the flickering candles in the chandeliers, the building's grace stuns anew.
The Olde Pink House transports modern patrons back through centuries of memories made within those walls. If only the walls could speak of Habersham's grand parties, the Clays' lively gatherings, or the bustle of Victorian bank tellers - all long gone but not forgotten.
Stepping into the Olde Pink House today, patrons can embark on a culinary journey through Savannah's regional fare thanks to the restaurant’s meticulous attention to heritage Southern cuisine.
The menu draws deeply from traditions and recipes perfected in local kitchens across generations.
Dishes like the creamy shrimp and grits or silky she-crab soup allow diners to savor two of the Lowcountry’s quintessential flavors.
The kitchen’s expertise with these Satisfying coastal classics comes through in every bite. Yet preparation still remains faithful to the way grandmothers and great-grandmothers cooked throughout Savannah’s history.
Crisp fried green tomatoes offer another taste of regional delicacies transformed by the Olde Pink House into appetizing works of art.
The kitchen fries the green tomatoes to perfection so diners can experience this Southern staple at its finest.
Beyond these specialties, the menu incorporates fresh coastal catches like grouper, salmon, and rainbow trout.
The seafood choices connect back to Savannah's traditions as a port city that has long drawn bounty from the Atlantic.
Exceptional local flavors thus converge within the historic rooms where Georgia's leaders once dined centuries ago.
Through painstaking technique and time-honored family wisdom, the Olde Pink House kitchen channels history onto every plate.
When guests savor the cuisine, they take part in the continuing story of Southern food that fills this landmark with legacy.