The Jepson House Education Center
The magnificent building that today is the Jepson House Education Center was part of Georgia’s history even before it was acquired by the Georgia Historical Society.
Jepson House was originally built in 1856 as a private residence for Thomas Holcombe, a wholesale grocer who designed a grand Italianate mansion on Savannah’s growing south side to reflect his status and prosperity. Holcombe served one term as the city’s mayor, in 1862-63, during the Civil War. His residence in the elegant home at the corner of Whitaker and Gaston was brief, however: Holcombe had to sell the house to pay off extensive debts. Incidentally, Holcombe was elected as a member of the Georgia Historical Society in 1885, just months before his death.
In May 1861, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, commanded by Captain Francis Bartow, received its flag from the women of Savannah on the steps of the Jepson House before marching off to the Central of Georgia Railway station on their way to the First Battle of Manassas two months later. Bartow was the first high-ranking Confederate officer from Georgia killed in the war. His portrait hangs in the Jepson House Banquet Room on the east side of the Parlor level. Edward L. Holcomb, son of the home’s original owner, also served in the Oglethorpe Light Infantry.
Samuel Eckman owned the home from 1863 to 1870, when it was bought by Robert Falligant, one of General Robert E. Lee’s officers and a post-war lawyer and later a Superior Court judge for the Eastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia. When Lee made his last visit to Savannah in 1870 (the year of his death), Falligant entertained the famed Confederate leader in his home.
Falligant and his descendants owned the home until William G. Gnann bought it and restored it for $25,000 (approximately $205,000 in 2014 dollars) in November 1958. At that time the house was divided into five apartments: one on the garden level, and two each on the second and third floors. Gnann fixed a badly damaged roof, removed a two-story 1890s veranda on the building’s east side, refurbished the garden-level and third floor apartments, and lived on the parlor level himself. The restoration architect was John Lebey.
With a history as grand as its appearance, the Jepson House Education Center will now serve the Georgia Historical Society as the hub for history-based education around the state, helping GHS to continue its time-honored mission of teaching Georgia and American history for generations to come.
Jepson House Education Center Project Partners
Jepson House Education Center Leadership Level Donors
Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Jepson, Jr.
Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
Mr. and Mrs. John F. McMullan
Mr. and Mrs. John E. “Ted” McMullan
Mr. and Mrs. Don Kole
Mr. and Mrs. Don Waters
Williams Family Foundation of Georgia
Critz Family Fund
Courtney Knight Gaines Foundation
Georgia Power Foundation
Southern Company Foundation
Jepson House Education Center
Mr. and Mrs. John E. Cay III
Mr. Charles H. Chewning
Mr. and Mrs. Morton G. Forbes
Mr. John C. Helmken II and
Dr. Melanie Helmken
Ms. Marilyn Hull
Ms. Shannon L. James
Mr. Michael W. Kitchens
Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Montag
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Montag
Dr. and Mrs. William T. Moore
Mr. David M. Sherman
Mr. and Mrs. R. Charles Stevens
Bob Christian Decorative Art
Friedman’s Fine Art
Halski Systems, LLC
Livingood’s Appliances and Bedding
Alex Raskin Antiques
Rogers & Goffigon Ltd
Rossin Fine Art
Scottish Stone Craft
Robert and Alice Jepson
The Jepson House Education Center is named in honor of local philanthropist and businessman Robert S. Jepson, Jr., and his wife Alice, principal benefactors and leaders of the effort to obtain the building for GHS.
The Jepsons are active philanthropists and direct the main focus of their giving to the arts and to the field of higher education. Among their most notable contributions is the University of Richmond Jepson School of Leadership Studies, which he conceived and created in I992. The school is the only one of its kind in American academia. Mr. Jepson earned two degrees from the University of Richmond: a B.S.B.A. in 1964 and an M.S. in Commerce in 1975. The University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree in 1987, the Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1992, the Trustees Distinguished Service Award in 1994, and the President’s Medal in 2002. In May 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Jepson were presented with the School of Leadership Studies Leadership Award. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by ten other American institutions of higher education.
In 2020, Mr. Jepson was inducted as a Georgia Trustee by the Office of Governor and the Georgia Historical Society, the highest honor the State of Georgia can confer.
Mr. Jepson served on the Georgia Historical Society’s Endowment Trust and is Chairman Emeritus of the GHS Board of Curators.
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