With generous support from the Friends of the Owens-Thomas House, the northwest bed chamber at the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters was reinterpreted in the spring of 2023 as the Boys’ Bed Chamber.
The new Boys’ Bed Chamber creates a space for interpreting the expectations for the three Owens boys, Richard (1816-1883), John Wallace (1821-1862), and George Savage (1825-1897).
Paint analysis in January 2022 revealed that the room’s walls were finished in an “ashes of rose” wall color during the 1830s, while other features such as baseboards were faux grained like mahogany. After these finishes were restored, Telfair collaborated with Nikki Greenwood and Savannah Window Fashions to acquire modern textiles that were evocative of the period. The boldly printed bedcover is an homage to the chintzes popular during this period and used in quilts in Telfair’s collection, like that completed by Mary Elizabeth Clayton Miller Taylor (1774–1846) in 1824 (1983.1). Thistle Hill Weavers in Cherry Hill, NY created the striped ingrain carpet.
A bedroll underneath the bed marks the presence of enslaved nurses and other individuals who would have been forced to work and sleep in this space. Additionally, the Friends provided the funds for Frank Furniture Studios to stabilize two 1830s side chairs and recover their seats with gold faux silk. These modern materials allow visitors to see the variety of patterns and colors commonly found in upper class homes of this time, while protecting fragile historic textiles from damaging long-term display.
Portraits in the room, such as that of Stephen Percy Ellis of Natchez, Mississippi (1948.3) help illustrate the clothing that boys of the Owens’ age would have worn, and in one example, toys with which they likely played. These details illuminate the expectations placed on these boys, for futures as landholders, political leaders, and enslavers.
Stephen Percy Ellis hangs in a new frame over the mantel in the Boys’ Bed Chamber.