If you’re looking for a touch of Old Southern Hospitality during your stay in Savannah, there’s perhaps no better place for you to rest your feet or stay the night than at the Old Harbour Inn. One former guest of the Inn raved, “The entire staff was outstanding! They really go above and beyond for all of their guests. You will truly experience genuine southern hospital at [the] Olde Harbour Inn."
This old warehouse has sidelined as an blue jeans and overall factory, a headquarters for an oil company and two massive fires that wrecked the entire building. But one thing The Olde Harbour Inn is particularly well known for? Its ghosts and hauntings.
One TripAdvisor reviewer highlighted the perks of the Inn, listing the building’s features as “superb” and incredible, with “perfect views of the river!” Unfortunately for them, they apparently did not run into any of the Inn’s ghostly residents which was a shame—according to the reviewer, the ghosts “would have been very welcome to come and relax with us."
Some of the Olde Harbour Inn’s employees might not feel similarly—once made comfortable, the spirits at this very haunted Inn tend to make their presences consistently known and aren’t willing to leave the living alone . . .
Legend has it that the Olde Harbour Inn is one of the oldest properties in all of Savannah, Georgia. Seated adjacent to the Savannah River, this Inn can be found between River Street and Factors’ Walk. And, if we can believe the talk (or the Inn’s website), Olde Harbour Inn was originally built sometime around 1812.
During the early years, Factors’ Walk and River Street were some of the worst places you could find in all of Savannah. They sat largely along the city’s port, and like many port cities in the world, crime was an infestation that couldn’t be erased from the blueprint of the area. Not just crime, though.
Through River Street and Factors’ Walk came America’s early economic foundation: cotton and slaves. Cotton was naturally exported; those who would become enslaved were imported like nothing more than human "goods." Tunnels once snaked their way under the streets of Savannah, and it is through those tunnels that many slaves were shuffled through. In some locations, iron hackles still hang from the walls, a symbol of a past that many in Savannah prefer to keep hidden.
It is in this area that the original building (that would later become the Olde Harbour Inn) was built as a warehouse for the Johnson & Jones families. Utilized for the storage of cotton, the work conditions at these warehouses were horrific. Mostly African slaves, or Irish and German immigrants, worked along River Street and Factor’s Walk. Men were crushed under the heavy weight of a cotton barrels; slaves were hustled off ships in the cover of darkness and ushered into the warehouses, where they were often imprisoned until being sold at one of the slave markets in town.
This does include the amount of people who died from malnourishment, disease or exhaustion.
Records from this early period do not exist for the current Olde Harbour Inn, but we can imagine quite clearly how the Johnson & Jones families probably operated their warehouse. And by that I mean, it was probably run no differently than the terrible conditions that the others were run next-door.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the wharfs and warehouses along River Street and Factors’ Walk were in a bit of a predicament. Sure, the Savannah economy was thriving—cotton was king!—but there was also the minuscule detail that reform was on the rise . . . and the storage houses and docks had to change.
Sometime between 1888 and 1889, the original warehouses belonging to Johnson & Jones were removed and a new property constructed. There were initial debates among politicians and merchants about the fate of the new-empty plot of land. Some shouted for the advocacy of another warehouse-type building, while others promoted turning it into part of the docks and wharfs nearby.
The Savannah Morning News & Evening Press reported in December of 1889 that a new building was on the rise: “Dennis J. Murphy is raising a three-story building under the bluff; which will extend from River Street to Factor’s Walk. He will bridge, at several intervals, the building to the ‘Green’ or E. Bay Street. Tide Water Oil Company has already leased two floors of the new building."
This wasn’t the end of the newspaper’s interest in the construction here. Only a few months later in March of 1890, a journalist penned, “Dennis J. Murphy has just finished the Tide Water Oil Company, a three-story building on East Bay Street (between River Street and the Green) at a cost of $2,500."
From cotton warehouse to the headquarters for the Tide Water Oil Company, fate had other plans.
In 1892, an eviscerating fire started at a wooden warehouse on the east end of Factors’ Walk. The Tide Water Oil Company building stood no chance.
A slapping breeze slipped through the streets, gathering force, gathering energy, and destroying everything laid out in its path. Despite the fact that the fire department was called to the scene, there was not much that could be done. Along with many others, the Tide Water Oil Company burned down to the ground.
The following morning on January 3, 1892, the Savannah Morning News’s headlines broadcasted: “Bay Street’s Big Blaze—Five Hundred Barrels of Oil and the Building is Burned . . . "
According to the article, the source of the fire was never discovered but thankfully no lives were lost. At the time, the loss of the Tide Water Oil Company’s headquarters was listed at $19,000 (while the insurance covered $15,580 of the overall damages).
After the fire, the Tide Water Oil Company began rebuilding almost immediately. Thanks to a newly issued city ordinance mandating the usage of fire resistance building material like stones or bricks, construction at the company’s officers was matched with over 730,000 bricks.
The bricks were used from the newly minted “Liberty Brick Company” in Savannah and shortly after, all continued as normal once more.
Not long after the reconstruction of the new property, the Tide Water Oil Company was assumed by Rockefellers’ Standard Oil Trust. The company operated out of the building until 1907, selling what became known as one of the most high-tech kerosene oils of the era: “Guardian Oil."
(Today, if you were glance up at many of the exposed wooden beams at The Olde Harbour Inn, there’s a good chance you’d discover quite a few old oil stains marring the otherwise perfect wood.)
By 1907, Rockefellers’ Standard Oil Company had decided to leave, thereafter leaving the property to abandonment for nearly twenty years.
It wasn’t until 1930 that the Alexander Brothers Company swooped in, purchased the building, and settled in. Their money was made in selling blue jeans and overalls, and they did a good job of making ends meet until 1980.
In 1985, the property underwent a massive renovation—a two-year long renovation that continued until 1987, when The Olde Harbour Inn was opened in one of the more historic lots in all of Savannah.
December of 1991 saw the HLC Hotels, Inc., purchase The Olde Harbour Inn to add it to its repertoire of historic hotels in the downtown Savannah area. The corporation itself was locally owned, and also operated The Marshall House, The Eliza Thompson House, The Easy Bay Inn, The Gastonia and The Kehoe House.
Today, The Olde Harbour Inn is considered to be one of the nicest, most opulent boutique hotels in Savannah. Its website alone boasts its high quality, claiming, “What was once a bluff-side warehouse is now a visitor’s dream, boasting spacious suites with wonderful amenities like WiFi, a complimentary breakfast, evening wine and hors d’oeuvres, and an ice-cream treat delivered to your door each night."
(Is it wrong that the ice-cream is what might lure me to The Olde Harbour Inn during my next trip to Savannah?)
In addition to welcoming pets (as the hotel is four-legged friendly), employees and management are known to welcome Hank.
Who might Hank be? (Keep reading to find out . . . )
The most well known spirit hauntings The Olde Harbour Inn would have to be Hank.
Hank’s origins are not as clear. Former desk receptionist Sherry Hughes was always quick to refer to Hank’s spirit while working at The Olde Harbour Inn from 1995 to 1997. In one particular interview, she explained that it was believed that Hank had died in one of the fires that had enveloped the building in the nineteenth century. It’s thought, perhaps, that Hank died—despite the fact that there is no evidence indicating to any casualties from the fire of 1892.
A commonly told story about Hank involves his death: “Many suspect Hank of setting the blaze himself. It was especially suspicious since the fire began around his office, and he was in a particularly nasty argument with management at the time of the fire. If he indeed set the blaze, then Hank’s revenge backfired because he lost his life in the inferno. He was the fire’s only fatality."
Is this possibly the case? Was Hank responsible for the fire that ravaged East Bay Street in the late nineteenth century? According to some believers, the answer to that is yes.
Regardless of how Hank died—as well as the fact that spirits do not, in fact, have to die at a location in order to haunt it—Hank’s ghostly legacy has continued on over the years. For many who stay at The Olde Harbour Inn, there’s the undying hope that they too might run into Hank’s spirit wandering the halls of the boutique hotel.
Former innkeeper Valerie Freeman Clark often encouraged ghost-seeking guests to consider staying in Room 405 when booking their room. It’s said that is where truly strange phenomena occurs, most of which has no known source.
On one particular night, Sherry Hughes had stayed the night at the Inn to avoid having to drive home in the morning. She’d picked Room 405. It was just before bed, a little past midnight, when she heard the rambunctious beep-beep-beeeeep of the alarm clock from Room 406 go off.
But Sherry Hughes knew one thing as she lay curled in her bed—Room 406 next-door was vacant for the night.
As she retold the tale in an interview, she exclaimed, “It could have just been that it was an alarm going off that was set. But I thought it odd after midnight that an alarm was going off and the radio was just blaring. That kind of creeped me out, especially with 406 being the room that (Hank) tends to be the most."
Whether choosing Room 405 or 406, Hank tends to also make himself known in more obvious ways. He has pounded doors with his ghostly fist, shaking and jerking on doorknobs and undoubtedly frightening countless guests. On a few different occasions, he’s even been known to stretch out along a guest’s bed . . . While they are themselves in it.
(That’s when you know that he fancies you).
On one particular might, Hank’s ghost decided to show his interest by crawling into bed with a female guest. The guest, thinking that her husband had joined her, turned over and went back to sleep.
The unfortunate thing was, for her anyway, just before her eyes succumbed to sleep she saw the shape of her husband exit the bathroom and stumble toward her and the bed.
Fear hit her sharp in the gut—she twisted, nearly falling to the floor, as she stared at the other half of the bed. Both sides were still compressed with the weight of those who had laid down on it. Herself and . . . Hank’s ghost.
Throughout the hotel, there has been the scent of cigar smoke wafting through the hallways, even though smoking is off limits in the hotel.
Guests have experienced their personal belongings disappearing, only to reappear elsewhere in their guest room. Hank’s ghost also has a penchant for food, and prefers to camp out in the “Marine Room,” where the hot food is. Depending on his mercurial mood, his spirit will turn on and off the toasters, the microwaves, even the ovens.
Chefs will be in the groove, mixing it all up and getting ready to serve food to their guests, when they realize that the (fill in the blank) appliance has been turned off. Sometimes the cords are yanked from the walls; other times their kitchen equipment disappears entirely.
During one previous interview, the Chef (generally known as the “Colonel”) explained, “Sometimes I ask him [Hank], I say, ‘Hank, you know I’m trying to get throughout breakfast right now. Give me a chance to get through, then you can do some more pranks. Since I’ve been here, he’s grown on me. I know what he’ll do. I expect him. It’s something every day."
Some people liken The Olde Harbour’s one and only, Hank, to be the grouchiest spirit in all of Savannah. Still yet others label him as a harmless prankster, and flirt.
One thing is for certain: Hank’s ghost is perhaps the most well known spirit at The Olde Harbour Inn, and if you take a glance at their TripAdvisor Page, he’s become something of a spectral celebrity.
Everyone wants to meet him. Everyone wants to hang out with him. But like all celebrities, the ghostly Hank chooses which of us plebeians to bestow his attention on. Your best bet is to book Room 405 or Room 406, slide to one side of the bed, and invite Hank to lay down beside you.
If you're looking for a haunted place to stay while visiting Savannah, there is perhaps no where else to stay than at the very active Olde Harbour Inn. Besides Hank, the resident spirit, its location near River Street and Factor's Walk--arguably the most haunted area in all of Savannah--means that your chances of experiencing paranormal phenomena is pretty high.
Plus, The Olde Harbour Inn offers delicious ice cream. Who can say no to that?
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If you're looking for the perfect way to learn more about haunted Savannah Georgia, check out one of our Savannnah Ghost Tours. We look forward to showing you around our beautifully haunted city.