It’s a Savannah story that began 100 years ago and now it’s a bit like history is being new again.
The Armstrong Kessler Manson renovation which started in 2017 is now complete.
“It’s a special place,” says Richard Kessler, the Florida developer who was born in Savannah and who wants to honor its history.
“The enthusiasm of people is overwhelming,” Kessler said. “They keep saying this renovation has truly saved a treasure.”
It was in 1919 this mansion which was built by George Armstrong opened its doors as Armstrong’s private residence. By 1935, the property became Armstrong Junior College and then later it was purchased by a law firm which had its offices there for years.
But Kessler told a crowd of guests invited for a ribbon cutting that he had longed to purchase the mansion and made an offer that apparently those who owned it a few years ago couldn’t refuse. By
mid-2017, Mr. Kessler had embarked on what is described as an incredibly thorough renovation with quality and preservation in mind.
“It’s been a long journey, a tremendous amount of detail went into this, a tremendous amount of thought, a lot of people were involved and the result is what you see,” Kessler told us.
What we saw on a quick media tour was a portion of the first floor complete with opulent furnishings and art as well as historic woodwork, etc. Kessler says this will be his private residence and will be open for a few private parties. He also told us that on Thursday, Martha Stewart visited the home that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had been invited to attend a party this weekend.
Several city leaders attended the ribbon cutting including Savannah Alderman Bill Durrence. “It’s one of the finest examples of Italian architecture in the city, probably in the country,” said Durrence. “We’ve got something that sets a standard that is iconic in what it represents,” he told us.
Durrence said the fact the structure is coming full circle to be a private residence again is important, too. “Most of the time when we see these older buildings repurposed they’re not being used they way they were initially,” he said.
The Alderman said the mansion which is just across the street from Forsyth Park draws attention to the park, He says that is meaningful in the sense the park itself is so iconic.
“The fact (the mansion ) is still standing is significant,” said Durrence. “It takes somebody like a Richard Kessler to be able to do this both financially and maybe, more importantly, his imagination and his standards of quality to get us this.”
Finally, Durrence acknowledged most of us probably won’t be invited to a party inside the majestic home, but says the fact it’s been preserved is still significant for Savannah as a whole. “I suspect this building will become the backdrop for many pictures, especially for weddings, and I believe it will become very symbolic of the city,” he said.
Kessler says the six-acre site has been done with visitors and residents in mind. “What we tried to do outside is make some beautiful gardens so everyone who comes to Savannah and all the Savannah citizens – when they walk by would say wow that’s my city,” Kessler told us.