Savannah's famous Pirates House is located on one of the most historic spots in Georgia. It is here that Trustees Garden, the first experimental garden in America, was located.
When General Oglethorpe and his little band of colonists arrived from England in 1733, they came ashore in the vicinity of the present City Hall on Bull and Bay Streets, approximately seven blocks due west of The Pirates' House. There they pitched their tents to found the City of Savannah.
A suitable site of land was located on the eastern boundary of Oglethorpe's city plan on which an experimental garden would be developed. The plot of land was dedicated as Trustees Garden in honor of
Oglethorpe's men whom he considered the Trustees of the new colony. The garden was modeled very closely after the Chelsea Botanical Garden in London, a diagram can be seen hanging in our Jolly Roger Room. Consisting of ten acres, it was bounded on the north by the Savannah River, on the south by what is now Broughton Street, on the west by what is now East Broad Street, and on the east by Old Fort Wayne.
Botanists were sent from England to the four corners of the world to procure plants for the new project and soon vine cuttings, fruit trees, flax, hemp, spices, cotton, indigo, olives and medicinal herbs were all taking root on the banks of the Savannah River. The greatest hopes; however, were centered in the wine industry and in the Mulberry trees which were essential to the culture of silk. But both of these crops failed due to the unsuitable soil and weather conditions. From this garden, however, were distributed the peach trees which have since given Georgia and South Carolina a major commercial crop and also the upland cotton which later comprised the greater part of the worlds commerce.
The small building adjoining the Pirates' House was erected in 1734 and is said to be the oldest house in the State of Georgia. The building originally housed the gardener of Trustees' Garden. His office and tool room were in the front section, while his stable occupied the back room and his hayloft, upstairs. The bricks used in the construction of this old "Herb House", as it is called today, were manufactured only a short block away under the bluff by the Savannah River where brick making was begun by the colonists as early as 1733.
Around 1753, when Georgia had become firmly established and the need for an experimental garden no longer existed, the site was developed as a residential section. Since Savannah had become a thriving seaport town, one of the first buildings constructed on the former garden site was naturally an Inn for visiting seamen. Situated a scant block from the Savannah River, the Inn became a rendezvous of blood-thirsty pirates and sailors from the Seven Seas. Here seamen drank their fiery grog and discoursed, sailor fashion, on their adventures from Singapore to Shanghai and from San Francisco to Port Said.
These very same buildings have recently been converted into one of America's most unique restaurants: The Pirates' House. Even though every modern restaurant facility has been installed, the very atmosphere of those exciting days of wooden ships and iron men has been carefully preserved.
In the chamber known as the Captain's Room with its hand hewn ceiling beams joined with wooden pegs, negotiations were made by shorthanded ships' masters to shanghai unwary seamen to complete their crews. Stories still persist of a tunnel extending from the Old Rum Cellar beneath the Captain's Room to the river through which these men were carried, drugged, and unconscious, to ships waiting in the harbor. Indeed, many a sailor drinking in carefree abandon at The Pirates' House awoke to find himself at sea on a strange ship bound for a port half a world away. A Savannah policeman, so legend has it, stopped by The Pirates' House for a friendly drink and awoke on a four-masted schooner sailing to China from where it took him two years to make his way back to Savannah.
Hanging on the walls in the Captain's Room and The Treasure Room are frames containing pages from an early, very rare edition of the book Treasure Island. Savannah is mentioned numerous times in this classic by Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact, some of the action is supposed to have taken place in The Pirates' House! Tis' said that old Captain Flint, who originally buried the fabulous treasure on Treasurer Island, died here in an upstairs room. In the story, his faithful mate, Billy Bones, was at his side when he breathed his last , muttering "Darby, bring aft the rum". Even now, many swear that the ghost of Captain Flint still haunts The Pirates' House on moonless nights.
The validity of The Pirates' House has been recognized by The American Museum Society which lists this historic tavern as a house museum. The property was acquired by the Savannah Gas Company in 1948 and the buildings soon fell under the magic of Mrs. Hansell Hillyer, wife of the president of the company, who with great imagination, and skill transformed the fascinating museum into its present use as a restaurant. Today, it is a mecca for Savannahians and tourist alike who come to enjoy its many delicious Southern
specialties served in the original setting of yesteryear.
While you are here we invite you to visit all of our 15 fascinating dining rooms.