The Gold Mine in the Closet: 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia

Sugar’s earliest memory of his mother’s mother is at 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia.  He never knew either grandfather, and only a little of his father’s mother.

His mother was the youngest child of seven children, a large range in ages of approximately 20 years, start to finish.  One of the children died at a young age.  The family traveled the world, following Grandfather Lawton’s military career.  The travel took its toll on the mother with six children, what with having lost one to death in a foreign country, and finally she was done traveling the world, and went home to Savannah with the children.  Grandfather kept traveling with his career and business interests, and died of cancer in Paris in 1929.

You can double-click on this image to enlarge.

You can double-click on this image to enlarge.

While we were sifting through the photos, and he was arranging them in small heaps of organization, he found a series labeled “122 E. Taylor Street”.  He thinks perhaps it is his mother’s handwriting.  Upon later reflection, he thinks that one photo is not at Taylor Street, but we don’t know where it is exactly yet at this moment in time.  So I include it here, because if it wasn’t at Taylor Street, it was most likely just before they moved to Taylor Street.

I said “they” moved to Taylor Street.  I meant Sugar’s grandmother.  All the children were out and about in the world.  At one time the family lived at Gordonston, the first subdivision of Savannah, and Sugar thought that they lived with the oldest daughter Margaret who married William Garrard.  After looking at more photos and thinking about it, he was surprised to realize that his mother and grandmother had their own house in Gordonston, which will probably be the focus of another blog post.  His grandfather was the owner of that house, and after his death in 1929, we find that  his wife “Leslie” is renting a house on Gaston Street in the 1930 census.  Apparently they lost the house, moved into rental property, and she later moved to Taylor Street.  It was said that one of the sons and his wife purchased the Taylor Street house for Sugar’s grandmother.  Truth?  I don’t know yet, but I like that notion that she was provided for.

Let’s look at 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia.

Here’s the first page.  None of these pages are in a book, so perhaps the books were torn apart and divided between family members.  Sugar’s mother was already married and gone.

I took this page, copied it until I had enough pages for each photo saved to the computer so that I could adjust, edit, straighten, and crop to individual images.

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The oldest daughter, Margaret, petting a dog.

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This was a city house, and this is the garden area at the rear of the house.

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This is Sugar’s mother’s mother. On the bench in front of the window, I see an African violet, a pair of glasses, and perhaps an old-fashioned cardboard fan. I also see a newpaper on another surface. I’m wondering if this is the springtime because of the light-colored slipcover.

The next photo was attached to another page along with another photo that was unidentified.  It’s probably not Taylor Street, but it’s still lovely.  There are items on the mantel that probably were gathered during their travels.


Sugar thinks that this is NOT East Taylor Street because he can’t place the fireplace at the Taylor Street house. I include it here until we figure out where it belongs. “Leslie” is with one of her daughters-in-law, Betsy.

So let’s guess that she moved into the Taylor Street house in the early 1940s, because on the 1940 census she is listed as renting, not owning.

LawtonLeslie 1940

In the photo below, you can see the front steps of the Taylor Street house.  The house itself, remember, is a city house, so there’s another house on either side.  This is not the traditional style house that I grew up in, so it’s hard for me to get an understanding of sharing a common wall.  (Spoiler alert:  you know we went over to the Taylor Street house and took photos.)  The house to the left shares a wall.  The house to the right is perhaps 4 or 5 feet away, creating an alley of sorts to the rear garden, and passage to the alley is restricted by a gate.

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It’s easier to see where the Taylor Street house ends on the right, and the next house starts.  The chimney on the right is Sugar’s grandmother’s.


This is the view of the house from across Calhoun Square.  Savannah is arranged on a grid system, with squares around which homes were grouped.

This is the view of the house from across Calhoun Square. Savannah is arranged on a grid system, with squares around which homes were grouped.

Let’s skip forward in time, and we’re back in the garden at Taylor Street.  Who are these adorable babes?  It’s Sugar and his brother!


Sugar’s mother arranges him on the left to meet the camera, and her sister Margaret holds his older brother Richard. Hard to believe that the tiny lady on the left just gave birth to twins.

Sugar remembers that his grandmother employed domestic help.  His first memory is of Edith, a black woman who always had cornbread and jelly for them.  I’ve never had jelly on cornbread, but that makes my mouth water every time he says “jelly on cornbread”.  Heck, it’s actually watering just typing those words.

After Edith retired, there was Vivian, an educated black woman who had limited work opportunites.

She also employed a man who came several times a year and oiled the hardwood floors.  I wish she had kept a journal like her father, William Starr Basinger, because now I want to know details.


The boys with their mother’s mother on the front entry porch. We are facing west as we view this photo, and Sarah Alexander Cunningham lived a few doors down. I say Sugar is the one with the sweeter face.


And that’s beautiful 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia.  I’ve never been inside, but a few years ago, the property had changed hands and was being remodeled, as was evident by a dumpster parked outside with Grandmother’s hardwood flooring sticking out of it – A LOT. We were sorely tempted to snag a piece of Grandmother’s floor.


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8 Responses to “The Gold Mine in the Closet: 122 East Taylor Street, Savannah, Georgia”

  1. Judith Says:

    Yes, you should have snagged a LOT of that hardwood flooring from the dumpster!! Your post of Sugar’s grandmother’s home on Taylor Street is wonderful ~ it reminds me of a movie, or a book. Can’t you just see those beautiful photos coming to life on the big screen? Being born in 1943 myself, I can just see Leslie and Edith and the others come off the page right there in Savannah!


    • ruthrawls Says:

      Judith, that’s such a wonderful comment. I’m a little teary just thinking about the hardship of these amazing women that were the glue that held everything together.
      I have to admit that I have my own movies playing in my head. There are such stories here in these photos.


  2. coastalcrone Says:

    What a treasure of history! I would have been tempted to steal something or go inside.


  3. Judith Richards Shubert Says:

    I was thinking about what you said – “the women were the glue holding everything together through all the hardships.” And I am comparing their lifestyle to those of our common ancestors in East Tennessee! We tend to forget that with all their elegant furniture, domestic help, and beautiful homes they had as many difficulties during this time as those hardscrabble farmers and coal miners and wives who took in laundry and waited for their men to come up to the sunlight.
    I can just imagine the movies in your head!


  4. Dina Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!


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