Friday, June 10, 2016

Own a Piece of Savannah History

June 13th will be the first day of an online auction where bidders will have the opportunity to own a piece of Savannah history as the fixtures, equipment, decor and memorabilia from Johnny Harris Restaurant will be offered at auction.

The stories read like that of a vintage southern novel.  The autographed menus hanging on the wall act as a kind of inventory mechanism, denoting the famous patrons from over the years.  The booths still have that private feeling just as they did when the curtains were pulled so that patrons could indulge privately just after the end of prohibition.  The doors of the kitchen show the age associated with wood that has been bumped into by what has to be thousands of different servers, cooks and bus boys.  With all the history, two specific things stuck out to me as I prepared the property for auction.

Did you know that Johnny Harris has a cellar?  Most people do not.  Originally used to store ice, the cellar was once used to store wine as well.  The cellar door spoke to me during auction prep.  It was old, but had been wonderfully preserved down below.  It even has the original hardware on it.  I knew that I had to harvest it and offer it at auction.  I did exactly that, item number 309.  As interesting as the cellar door is, its story pales in comparison to the story behind the murals that surround the top of the main dining room.

According to Johnny Harris President Norman Heidt, the story goes that after spending some time in his new building, Johnny Harris decided that he didn't like the way that the ceiling looked.  One day in the late 1930s a gentleman fresh out of prison came by looking for work.  When he told Mr. Harris that he could paint, a deal was struck.  The gentleman was given food and a place to stay for as long as it took to paint the 3 1/2'x12' murals.  A stunning example of depression era folk art, these murals will also be offered at auction, item numbers 113-126.

What an honor it is to conduct this auction!  Johnny Harris has been a part of my career from the beginning.  I hosted lunch meetings there as a development officer at Memorial Health.  I fed the GACA all-star Basketball teams there when I worked with the Greater Savannah Sports Council.  I hosted alumni luncheons there when I worked with Georgia Southern University.  Now, as an auctioneer, I have the opportunity to help close the book on this gem of Savannah history. It's absolutely an honor and a privilege.


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