Sorrel-Weed House

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Sorrel Weed House
SavannahGA SorrelWeed.jpg
Former names Francis Sorrel House
General information
Construction started 1835
Completed 1840
Design and construction
Architect Charles Cluskey

The Sorrel-Weed House, or the Francis Sorrel House, is a historic landmark and Savannah Museum located in Savannah, Georgia. It represents one of the finest examples of Greek Revival and Regency architecture in Savannah and was one of the first two homes in the State of Georgia to be made a State Landmark in 1954. At 16,000 square feet, it is also one of the largest houses in the city. The Sorrel-Weed House was first opened to the public in January 1940 by the Society for the Preservation of Savannah Landmarks. It was the Society's first exhibit and was called "The Society for the Preservation of Savannah Landmarks Presents a loan Exhibit of Furniture and Fine Arts 18th and 19th Centuries at the Sorrel-Weed House on Madison Square : Jan-April 1940." This Society later became the Historic Savannah Foundation. The Sorrel-Weed House was opened again to the public in 2005 and conducts Historic Savannah Tours during the day and Haunted Savannah Ghost Tours inside the house every evening. These tours are conducted by The Sorrel-Weed House Museum.

The Sorrel-Weed House was the boyhood home of Brigadier General Moxley Sorrel, who fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He served under General James Longstreet, and after the War wrote "Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer", considered to be one of the top postwar accounts written. General Robert E. Lee visited the home in late 1861 and early 1862. He and Francis Sorrel had been friends since the early 1830s. Lee also visited the Sorrel family in April 1870, shortly before his death.

The opening scene of the 1994 film Forrest Gump was filmed from the rooftop of the Sorrel-Weed house and is a popular tourist stop. The scene, which begins with a floating feather through the Savannah sky, pans the rooftops of other buildings occupying Madison Square as seen from the very top of the Sorrel-Weed home. The scene is then spliced to a scene of another church located on Chippewa square, where ultimately, Forrest is seen sitting on a bench.

The house was investigated by TAPS during a special 2005 Halloween Special episode of Ghost Hunters. The house was also featured on HGTV's "If Walls Could Talk" in March 2006. It was also investigated by the Ghost Adventures crew in 2014. Zak Bagans stated the Sorrel-Weed House Museum gave him a "3 alarm hangover". Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of Taps told us it was one of the most haunted locations they had ever investigated in 2005. The house was featured on the Travel Channel's " The Most Terrifying Places in America" in 2010, and on the Paula Deen Network in 2015.[1]


The house was designed by famous Georgia architect Charles Cluskey, who moved to Savannah in 1829 from New York City, where it is believed he apprenticed under the architectural firm of Town and Davis. Cluskey also designed the Governors Mansion in Milledgeville. The house was built for Francis Sorrel (1793–1870), a wealthy shipping merchant and esteemed citizen of Savannah. One of his sons was General Gilbert Moxley Sorrel (1838–1901), one of the youngest Generals in the Confederate army. In 1859, a purchase agreement was made by the prominent Savannah businessman, Henry D. Weed; he took possession of the house in 1862 and it remained in the Weed family until 1914.

The Sorrel-Weed House has a reputation for being one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah. USAToday listed the Sorrel-Weed House as a top ten Halloween travel destination.[2] in 2013 listed the Sorrel-Weed house as the fifth most haunted place in the United States in their article "The 20 Most Haunted spots in the U.S. And UK." by Jaime Morrison Curtiss. The Trans- Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and Moon River Brewery were mentioned as well.[3] Conde Nast states the Sorrel-Weed House has a reputation for paranormal activity, discussing the 3-hour midnight tours conducted by the house.[4] The article is written by Laura Carrol and titled "The 8 Best Halloween Cities". wrote an article on 6/12/2015 titled "5 Hair-Raising Haunts for a Hair Raising Event". The article discusses Savannah as being one of the most haunted cities and highlights the Sorrel-Weed House, The Pirates House, Moon River Brewery, The 17hundred90 Inn, as well as the Marshall House as top haunted hot spots in Savannah.[5]

On Oct 30 2014 WTOC Savannah is quoted by CBS stating," The City of Savannah has been named one of the eight best Halloween cities by Conde Nast Traveler. The magazine names the Sorrel-Weed House and its reputation for paranormal activity as a great way to spend Halloween."  [6] stated  in their Oct 23rd 2010 article titled " 10 Creepy Places in America"  the following; "The Sorrel-Weed House has a reputation for being one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah. People  claim to see figures in the windows and hear disembodied voices in the house." The article lists their top 10 places in order; 1. The Lizzy Borden House, Fall River Massachusetts 2. Bell Witch, Cave-Adams Tennessee  3. Villisca House, Villisca,Iowa 4. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado 5.Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Ky. 6. Sorrel-Weed House, Savannah Georgia 7. The Winchester House in San Jose California 8. Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 9. The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana 10. Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Chicago Ill.[7]   In an article "Best Creepy Sites in the U.S." from Oct. 14th 2014 printed by CBS News St Louis, Savannah is listed, and the Sorrel-Weed House is mentioned specifically .  " this historic site has often been referred to as the most haunted building in Savannah. Claims  include figures appearing in the windows, sounds of disembodied voices and feelings of being touched..... Ghost tours are available for those daring enough to enter the most haunted location in the city"[8]

In an article in "This Old House" titled, "8 Harrowingly Haunted Historic Houses" by Elizabeth Lilly in 2013, The Sorrel-Weed House is listed as number 1.[9] The Sorrel-Weed House was also featured in the Wall Street Journal[10] October 30, 2009 because of its haunted reputation.

Architectural style[edit]

The National Trust Guide to Historic Places makes architectural comparisons between the Sorrel-Weed House, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, and William Jay's Owens-Thomas House in Savannah. Although clearly a Greek Revival house, English Regency influences are prominent.[citation needed]

The Savannah College of Art and Design hosted the 28th annual meeting of the Vernacular Architecture Forum in 2007. Themed as "Savannah and the Lowcountry", architects and historians from around the world gathered to document and categorize houses of Savannah and the Lowcountry. The Sorrel-Weed House was included in "Colonial Williamsburg's Picks",[11] "The Caribbean Tour: Is Savannah in the Caribbean, Is the Caribbean in Savannah?",[12] and was listed as one of the houses chosen in the Conference Committee Favorites[13]

Willie Graham, the Curator of Architecture at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, came to the house and drew detailed blueprints during the conference. He also wrote a lengthy and quite detailed article on the Sorrel-Weed House in the 450-page Vernacular Architecture Forum Field Guide compiled at the Forum conference.[14] He confirmed in his article that the Victorian stairway that was demolished in 1999 was indeed a late 19th century addition by the Weed family, and the original Sorrel stairway had been arranged originally very much as the 1999 rebuild is today. (from the 1999 recreation of the original Sorrel stairway)[15]

The stairway built for the Sorrel family mimics the Regency Owens-Thomas House stairway, designed earlier in 1816 by Regency Architect William Jay in Savannah. This is a center stairway ascending to a midfloor stoop, from where one can walk to the left or right to ascend to the second floor.

A common device used by both William Jay and Charles Cluskey in Savannah architecture was the division of space in a foyer by two columns, to differentiate between guest space and private family space. Cluskey's use of this device was more indirect than William Jay's use in the Owens-Thomas House. Cluskey denoted a very small space between the front door and the two columns, a small space where guests would wait to be greeted, after which they could enter the double foyer,library and the main length of the foyer. The Owens-Thomas House has these columns much closer to the stairway leading to the second floor, where public and private space was more clearly separated.[16]

An interesting observation made by Mr. Graham to the Sorrel-Weed staff, was how the Sorrel dining room was intended for private family use only, and done more privately than he had seen before.[17] Mr. Graham also confirmed to staff that the wall which was torn down in 1999 was a late 19th century addition by the Weed family, and the columns that were recreated in the place of the wall were as the Sorrel family had them originally.Mr. Graham discusses these columns in his article.


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  11. ^ Vernacular Architecture Forum 2007, Savannah and the Lowcountry, Map Booklet,p. 5.(2007)
  12. ^ Vernacular Architecture Forum 2007, Savannah and the Lowcountry, Map Booklet, p. 9
  13. ^ Vernacular Architecture Forum 2007, Savannah and the Lowcountry, Map Booklet, p.13
  14. ^ Vernacular Architecture Forum 2007, Savannah and the Lowcountry, Field Guide, page 4, article on Sorrel-Weed House, pp. 164-68
  15. ^ Vernacular Architectural Forum Field Guide, 2007. p 165
  16. ^ VAF 2007 p.166
  17. ^ Vernacular Architecture Forum, Savannah and the Lowcountry Field Manual, 2007, p.166

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