The Mercer House, Savannah, Georgia
This famous home was the setting for the movie and book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." This article would showcase what the house is all about and what you need to know about it when you visit the Coastal Empire.
When you travel to Savannah, Georgia, you will not want to miss the Mercer House. It is located at 429 Bull Street in downtown Savannah. While it is an historic home, it is most well known as the setting for the book and movie, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." The stories that developed from the owners of the home are fascinating but wouldn't be told if the Mercer family did not first construct the home.
The Mercer House is one of Savannah's oldest Italian buildings. It was designed in the mid 1800's by John Norris. General Hugh Weedon Mercer owned the home and requested the Italian architecture, known by its arches and columns. The Mercers' home would not be complete until after the Civil War in 1871. The house is nearly a 7,000-square-foot-area, filled with beautiful archways and staircases.
The story is absolutely fascinating, because it is partially fiction and partially fact. The book's author, John Berendt, was a reporter assigned to cover a story in Savannah, when he uncovered a bigger story and better characters than he could have ever dreamed up. Berendt was in town to cover a series of high class parties. This is how he met millionaire Jim Williams.
Williams purchased the Mercer home in 1969. He was known for his elaborate parties, and also for his extravagant lifestyle. Shortly after one of these parties, Jim Williams shot and killed a young man. This man, Danny Hansford, had become a close friend of Williams. Despite this, Williams said the shooting was done in self defense. And he was acquitted of the murder.
Williams once said he believed the house was haunted. He thought the shooting was part of a curse. That's because of the trouble two previous owners had. One of them fractured his hip by falling off the banister. Another one, a boy, impaled himself on the iron rod fence, after falling from the roof top.
Whether you believe all the story is true is part of the mystery. When you read the book, so many characters are factual people. It will be up to you to decide how far reality roams.
Screenwriter John Lee Hancock turned the Berendt book into a screenplay. Then he sent it on to director Clint Eastwood. Eastwood not only thought the screenplay was well written, he loved the idea of filming in Savannah. However, before he took the job, he visited the city. Once he saw all the places behind the people, he knew it could be a hit.
In this movie, Clint Eastwood chose to remain behind the camera as the film's director. This is partly because of the real-life characters. If you didn't already know, many of the actors were playing themselves, including the Lady Chablis, a nationally renowned crossdresser.
So, whether you chose to read the book or see the movie before you visit Savannah, you must visit the Mercer House. After you visit, you will understand the scene behind the story.
If you like the home and its history, you can actually buy it. At last report, it was on the market for $8.95 million. Dorothy Kingery owns the home. She is Jim Williams' sister. Williams left the home to his mother, Blanche, and she gave the home to her daughter, Dorothy. Dorothy Williams has lived in the home since her brother's death in 1990. She decided to sell the home in 1999 and listed it with Southeby's Realty. At last report the home had not sold. Williams says she would like the house to be kept as a home. However, the area is zoned for both private and commercial property.
$8.95 million is an amazing price considering her brother bought the home in 1969 for $55,000. Yet, at that time it was in poor condition. The house had been vandalized and needed restoration. The restoration was such a success, and the Mercer home was even featured in Architectural Digest.