Telfair Museum: Where Art and History Collide


We are in a journey through art and history at the Telfair Museum, a cherished gem nestled in the heart of Savannah, Georgia. Established in 1883, the Telfair Museum holds the distinction of being the oldest public art museum in the South.

Comprising three unique sites, the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Jepson Center for the Arts, the museum showcases an exceptional collection of American and European art spanning over two centuries.

Telfair Jepson Owens Map

Telfair Museum history

It’s amazing how one person’s generosity and vision can impact a community for generations to come. Mary Telfair’s bequest has given birth to the Telfair Museum, which is now a beloved cultural institution in Savannah.

It’s heartwarming to know that her family’s passion for the arts and the preservation of history continues to influence the museum’s growth and development.

Telfair Museum Bird Girl
Bird Girl statue

Designed by renowned architect William Jay in the early 19th century, the Telfair Academy originally served as a family mansion.

Following Mary Telfair’s bequest, the building underwent significant renovations to transform it into a public art museum.

Telfair Museum Exhibits
David Kaminsky
Telfair Museum Collections
David Kaminsky

The Telfair Academy officially opened its doors in 1886, showcasing a diverse collection of American and European art, ranging from paintings and sculptures to decorative arts and furniture, for the Savannah community to enjoy.

The Telfair Museum expanded its footprint in 1951 with the acquisition of the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, a stunning Regency-style mansion also designed by William Jay.

Telfair Museum Halls
David Kaminsky

The site provides visitors with a glimpse into the lives of both the wealthy occupants and the enslaved people who lived and worked there.

In 2006, the museum expanded yet again with the addition of the Jepson Center for the Arts, a modern architectural masterpiece designed by Moshe Safdie.

Exploring the Three Sites

Telfair Academy

The architecture and design of the building reflect the Neoclassical style popular during the early 19th century.

William Jay’s expert craftsmanship is evident in the intricate moldings, the grand rotunda, and the stunning Telfair family sculptures that adorn the premises.

Telfair Museum Sculpture Gallery
Sculpture Gallery
Telfair Museum Rotunda Gallery
Rotunda Gallery

The diverse collection of American and European art spans several centuries, encompassing paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. You can appreciate works by renowned artists such as Frederick Carl Frieseke, Childe Hassam, and Robert Henri.

Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

The history of the site as a Regency-style mansion is preserved through its carefully restored architecture, including the iconic ironwork, the ornate plasterwork, and the unique bridge that connects the main house to the garden.

Telfair Museum Slave Quarters

The powerful narrative of slavery and the lives of the enslaved people who lived and worked at the site is brought to light through carefully researched and presented exhibits, helping visitors understand the complexities and human stories behind this period in American history.

Telfair Museum Garden
Parterra Garden

Jepson Center for the Arts

The contemporary design by Moshe Safdie stands in contrast to the historic buildings of the Telfair Academy and Owens-Thomas House. Its striking glass and white façade symbolize a beacon of modernity and creativity in Savannah’s historic district.

The focus on modern and contemporary art is evident in the Jepson Center’s impressive collection, featuring works by acclaimed artists such as Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Richard Estes.

How to get there and parking options

The Telfair Museum, located in Savannah’s historic district, is easily accessible by various modes of transportation.

By car: If you are driving, you can find metered street parking around the museum, with a 2-hour limit enforced between 8 AM and 5 PM from Monday to Friday, and 8 AM to 8 PM on Saturdays. Keep in mind that parking is free on Sundays and city holidays.

For a longer visit, consider parking in one of the nearby parking garages. The closest option is the Robinson Parking Garage, located at 132 Montgomery Street, just a few blocks from the museum. Other nearby garages include the State Street Parking Garage and the Whitaker Street Parking Garage.

By public transportation: If you prefer public transportation, the Chatham Area Transit (CAT) offers multiple bus routes that pass near the museum. The free DOT Express Shuttle also has stops close to the museum sites, making it a convenient option for visitors.

By walking or biking: For those who enjoy walking or biking, Savannah’s historic district is pedestrian and bike-friendly, with many scenic routes to explore as you make your way to the Telfair Museum.


In conclusion, the Telfair Museum offers a captivating journey through art and history in the heart of Savannah, Georgia.

With three unique sites, visitors can explore a diverse collection of American and European art, delve into the stories of Savannah’s past, and experience the creativity and innovation of modern art.