William Jay was an English-trained architect who, from 1817 to 1820, practiced in Savannah, where he built Greek revival–style public buildings and fashionable neoclassical houses for the city’s wealthiest residents.

Owens-Thomas House
Owens-Thomas House

Image from JR P

Jay was born in 1792 or 1793 in Bath, England, to a family of stonemasons. From 1807 to 1813 he apprenticed in London with the architect David Riddall Roper, who built mostly in the Greek revival and Gothic revival styles. Jay’s only known commission in London is the neoclassical-style Albion Chapel (1816), Moorgate, a square-shaped church with a recessed Ionic entry and a Pantheon-like dome.

In December 1817 Jay arrived in Savannah as the city’s premier architect and one of the best-trained architects in America. The Owens-Thomas House (1819), a commission he received through a family connection, was the first of a series of neoclassical-style mansions Jay designed and features a Regency-style side porch supported by foliated consoles (leaf-shaped decorative brackets). The interior plans of the William Scarbrough House (1819), which later became the headquarters for the Historic Savannah Foundation (1976-1991) and the Ships of the Sea Museum (1996-present), and the Alexander Telfair House (1819), which later became part of Telfair Museums, are configured in circular, oval, and elliptical shapes. In the Bulloch House (1818-19) Jay called for a dramatic spiral stair surrounded by Corinthian columns. Jay’s last commission in Savannah was the Bank of the United States (1821), an early Greek revival–style building dominated by a hexastyle (six-columned) Doric portico. During the years he worked in Savannah, Jay also practiced in South Carolina. In 1820 he was appointed architect of the South Carolina Board of Public Works, for which he provided designs for district courthouses and jails.

Archibald Bulloch House, Savannah
Archibald Bulloch House, Savannah

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society.

After returning to England in 1822, Jay produced designs for Pittville Parade, a large, six-unit row house. When the speculative Pittsville development failed in 1829, Jay went bankrupt and in 1836 was forced to accept the position of colonial architect and civil engineer on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar. Jay worked on the island until his death in 1837 in Port Louis, Mauritius.

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Owens-Thomas House

Owens-Thomas House

The Owens-Thomas House (1819) in Savannah was designed by architect William Jay. The Neoclassical mansion features a Regency-style side porch and a beautiful garden.

Image from JR P

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Archibald Bulloch House, Savannah

Archibald Bulloch House, Savannah

Architect William Jay built this villa on Orleans Square in Savannah in 1819 for Archibald Bulloch. The house was razed in 1916, and the Savannah Municipal Auditorium was constructed on the site. In turn, the Savannah Civic Center was built on the site, replacing the auditorium, in the 1970s.

Courtesy of Georgia Historical Society, Foltz Photography Studio (Savannah, Ga.), photographs, 1899-1960, #1360-08-08-01.

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Bank of the United States

Bank of the United States

Engraving of the Bank of the United States (1821), in Savannah. The Greek revival-style building was designed by the architect William Jay and was razed in the 1980s.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, #HABS GA,26-SAV,38-1.

Wayne-Gordon House

Wayne-Gordon House

The Wayne-Gordon house was designed by the architect William Jay in the Regency style. The Bull Street residence is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low and has been home to four generations of the Gordon family.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection, #HABS GA,26-SAV,15-1.

Wayne-Gordon House, Interior

Wayne-Gordon House, Interior

Interior view of the Wayne-Gordon house, the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low. Designed by architect William Jay, the house is a Regency-style structure, with a stuccoed gray brick facade.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection, #HABS GA,26-SAV,15-6.