Category Archives: Ossabaw Island GA

Torrey Landing Road, Ossabaw Island

National Register of Historic Places


Shell Road, Ossabaw Island

National Register of Historic Places

Torrey-West House, 1926, Ossabaw Island

Built as the winter residence of Dr. Henry Norton Torrey, Ossabaw’s Spanish Revival “Main House” was designed by Swedish-born Savannah architect Henrik Wallin [1873-1936]. Its pink stucco walls, whose tones vary widely with the changing light of the day, are a defining feature. Red clay roof tiles and wrought iron ornamentation complete the Mediterranean character of the house. [There is no public access to the house, which the Ossabaw Island Foundation hopes to eventually stabilize and restore].

The Torrey family had owned a 40-room winter residence, Greenwich, in Savannah. They bought Ossabaw Island after Greenwich burned, and built the house between 1924-1926. Dr. Torrey was a prominent Detroit physician whose wife Nell Ford Torrey was the granddaughter of John Baptiste Ford, the founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG). Dr. Ford died in 1945 and upon his wife’s death in 1959, the island was inherited by their daughter Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West and her late brother’s heirs. But Sandy was the only one interested in living there full-time and it became her domain.

In 1961, Sandy and husband Clifford West established the Ossabaw Island Foundation, which served as an artist’s colony from October until June each year. Sandy sold the island to the State of Georgia (via the Nature Conservancy) in 1978, retaining a life estate. She lived in the Main House until 2016, at which time she moved to Savannah to an assisted living facility.

At 105, Sandy West remains a beloved symbol of independence for her tireless efforts to protect Ossabaw from development. Jane Fishman profiled her in a fascinating book, The Woman Who Saved an Island: The Story of Sandy West and Ossabaw Island, (Real People Publishing, Savannah, 2014).

The rear of the house features a loggia opening onto a patio. A tennis court and formal gardens have long since been reclaimed by nature.

Outbuildings, like the house, are in a bad state of repair today.

National Register of Historic Places





Club House, Circa 1886, Ossabaw Island

The Club House was constructed during Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker’s ownership of Ossabaw Island. Some sources state it was originally built for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 and moved to Ossabaw and reconstructed; other accounts suggest that it was simply a kit house, without the Philadelphia history. Either way, it’s the place where most visitors stay on the island today.

National Register of Historic Places

Cane Patch Road, Ossabaw Island

National Register of Historic Places

Tabby Smoke House, Circa 1820, Ossabaw Island

Besides the tabby slave cabins, this is the only surviving structure from North End Plantation. It has been expanded with brick veneer.

These days, it’s popular with the Sicilian Donkeys.

National Register of Historic Places

Tabby Slave Dwellings, 1820s-1840s, Ossabaw Island

Modified for residential use in the 20th century and restored in the late 2000s, the three extant tabbies on Ossabaw Island represent the most significant surviving cluster of slave dwellings on the Georgia coast. They were part of the Morel family’s North End Plantation, which was among the most successful such operations in early Georgia. Though exact construction dates for the tabby row can’t be determined, extensive archaeological research has determined they were built between circa 1820-1840s. Various Ossabaw employees lived in these structures into the early 1990s and they were modified to accommodate modern needs. Nearly all traces of those modifications have been removed and restoration work has been done.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 1 -Like the other two cabins, this was originally a saddlebag though the central chimney has been removed.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 2 – This cabin retains its central chimney.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 3- This cabin has been stabilized and will eventually be restored. Past modifications are still visible.

National Register of Historic Places

Boarding House, 1918, Ossabaw Island

This structure, also known as the Bachelor’s House, was built for partners of the Strachan Shipping Company who purchased Ossabaw Island from Henry Davis Weed in 1916. During their ownership it was used primarily as a hunting plantation and at least one superintendent (Hinely) and his family lived here.

National Register of Historic Places

Buckhead Creek, Ossabaw Island

Buckhead Creek can be viewed from the site of the Genesis Project at Middle Place.


Genesis Project Ruins, 1970s, Ossabaw Island

The Genesis Project was an interdisciplinary artists’ colony launched by Ossabaw Island owner Sandy West in 1970.

It was centered at the site of an antebellum plantation known as Middle Place and was a starkly primitive affair.

Project members paid a nominal fee to be here and contributed a couple of days of manual labor per week.

The earliest participants constructed these utilitarian dwellings. Abandoned since the early 1980s, they’re slowly going back to nature.