Daily walking tours of downtown Savannah’s architectural landmarks.
Graduated from SCAD in 2004 with a master of architecture degree.
Author of Savannah Architectural Tours (Published in 2008), licensed realtor.
Ranked No. 3 out of 169 activities in Savannah with 99 percent customer satisfaction and a 2014 Certificate of Excellence, according to TripAdvisor
a perfect fit
“I have always had a fascination with both architectural design and history. I was also drawn to Savannah from an early age, and finding the school here made it a perfect fit for me.
“Part of the curriculum includes courses from the architectural history department. I was able to spend some of my electives in that department as well … I gave tours in a few of the museum houses, notably the Owens-Thomas House, while I was in school. That lasted for several years but I didn’t give city tours until starting my current company.”
an idea is born
“My idea for architectural walking tours formed while I was a student, giving tours at the Owens-Thomas House. Chatting with tourists before and after they toured the house, I realized that many of them wanted to learn more about the architecture of the entire city.
“Many wonderful history tours already existed, but guests were asking for more in-depth information about the buildings.”
the best-laid plans
“At first the idea seemed like a good retirement plan. I thought I would do a career as an architect and then come back and give tours. After graduating, I put “tour guide” on the table as an alternative option to an architecture internship.
“After researching the business requirements, it seemed like the next logical step was starting my own tours. Friends and fellow museum workers gave me encouragement. Even my parents reminded me that I’ve been playing the role of tour guide since childhood, when I would grab any willing participant and discuss the buildings around us.”
“The tours have offered me a chance to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I always ask where people are coming from, both geographically and in relation to the building arts. Over the past decade, I have formed many friendships this way, and I’m able to use that network to stay current on architecture and preservation trends around the world.”
the right path
The tour route came together organically. There were a few buildings that I knew had to be on the tour, but the main premise was giving the information chronologically. The route also needed to be fairly compact in order to keep the length under two hours.”
telling a story
“Giving the tour as a narrative timeline helps to distinguish me from many of the other Savannah tours. I also stand out as the first tour to focus on architecture.
“Having said that, a couple of other guides in the city are now doing a great job giving architecture tours as well. Even though we are technically competitors, we have a shared interest in educating our guests and bringing them back for more. It makes it easier for me to get away for a few vacation days when I can comfortably recommend another guide.”
and through time
“I use a few visual aids that help understand the development of the city and changes to the buildings. Maps are extremely useful as are 19th and early 20th century photographs. In some cases I use my own photos to show recent developments or to point out details that are too far from street level to touch.”
spreading the word, 2.0
“Word of mouth is always the best advertisement, and those independent websites are a great 21st-century way to widen the audience. When it comes to social media, I try to stay current and have a presence on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
“My approach is to use those sites as a way to keep people aware of what is happening in Savannah. It allows for a personal conversation and also allows the conversation to spread to more areas than we can cover on a short walk.”
building a business
“Although I have a natural talent for explaining buildings, I do not have a business background. I was fortunate to have a few friends who were willing to advise me on the necessary steps from forming an LLC to applying for business licenses.
“I also spent a fair amount of time quizzing city employees on what was needed before I could legally hit the streets with my groups.”
a unique architectural setting
“All of Savannah’s house museums are important for various reasons. The Owens-Thomas House is the most intact 19th century property in Savannah, making it the most important in my opinion. It is also the site of many firsts – first house designed by a trained architect, first house with indoor plumbing, first building to make extensive use of cast iron.
“The social history presented at that house is also important and understanding it is aided by an understanding of the architecture.”
“Another house I discuss on tours is the Davenport House. I stress its importance as the first major success in Savannah’s current preservation movement.”
other bricks In the wall
“Both my book and my real estate license came well after I started the tour company. I became a realtor in 2011, primarily to learn more about the process of buying and selling property. The side benefit is being able to see houses from another perspective and being able to answer questions more fully.”
“My book came out in 2008, and within months of publication, I had several paragraphs marked up with edits for any future edition. In theory, I am working on a second book. In reality, I give tours seven mornings a week and then spend my afternoons working on my first home renovation.
Compiled by David Gignilliat