top of page
Anchor 1

Bluff Drive Cottage

To fully appreciate the property at 31 West Bluff Drive, it is important to first acknowledge the history amongst the backdrop that is Isle of Hope, a unique, coastal riverside community with a place in history almost as old as Georgia itself. Located on a small island about 10 miles from downtown Savannah, the community is situated around a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Skidaway River, set amongst picturesque marshes and river views along the Intracoastal Waterway. Isle of Hope until the mid-19th century was home to only fishers and farmers when it became a summer retreat for Savannah’s wealthier citizens who wished to escape the city’s intense heat and mosquitos. Thanks to a railroad line built in 1871, the area served as a popular summering spot, and by the early 20th century, the community had become a more suburb of Savannah with year-round residents. Present day, one must travel riverfront Bluff Drive within Isle of Hope’s Historic District for only a few steps to instantly become part of the story. The historic homes and moss-draped live oaks characterize the essence of the community.


In the late 1800s Isle of Hope resident and notable owner of the landmark Barbee’s Pavilion and Terrapin Farm, Alexander Marcus Barbee, built four, nearly identical cottages at 27, 29, 31 and 33 Bluff Drive. The cottages were built by Barbee and could be rented by boatmen sailing the inland waters looking for a comfortable resting place, preferring this setting over a hard bunk on a rolling ship. Unfortunately, by the 1940s, the cottages had become dilapidated, and overrun with pests and mold. Over the years, the cottages were sold and repaired; however, not all renovations and updates were completed with regard for history.


When first encountered in preparation for the project at hand, the house at 31 West Bluff Drive was nearly devoid of any historic fabric or detail. The house had undergone a recent renovation that removed almost all traces of its original floor plan and historic detailing. This was unfortunately the case on the interior as well as the exterior. 

Through further investigation, the design team discovered from the neighbors that the house next door at number 29 was the most historically intact of the four cottages built by the Barbee family. The design plan used the floor plan at number 29 as a guide in deciding how to move forward with the renovations at number 31. In number 29 there is a wonderful, 7’ wide center hall that runs the entire depth of the house. The design team discovered evidence of the same feature in number 31 and restored that part of the plan. Additionally, at number 29, the living spaces were on the south side of the center hall; the plan for number 31 followed suit and moved the living, dining room and the kitchen to the south side of the house. The bedrooms were placed on the north side of the hall in roughly the same configuration of the house at number 29. Detailing the new interior was carefully considered. The simple casings that were discovered in number 29 were copied for the windows and doors. The new openings to the principal rooms are double width 9’ tall glass pocket doors, as the team did not want the door swings to impede the small footprint. The pocket doors extend to the newly-created cornice mouldings that were also copied from another house of the same period. There was a desire to expose some of the only remaining historic fabric; that is the ceiling joists from the original construction. It was decided to raise the ceilings in the principal rooms thereby exposing the joists. The new ceiling is covered in wood planks that follows the slope of the roof up to a flattened plane. The overall look gives the house a sense of history without appearing too contrived.

Though definitely a carefully-considered renovation and not a restoration, the house gets the well-deserved return to some sense of history while still serving the new homeowner in the 21st century.


bottom of page