The Kiah House

Culture and Restoration

The side porch of the Kiah House.

he Kiah House Project will revitalize the home of Virginia Kiah, who retrofitted it in 1959 in order to establish the first African American-founded museum in Savannah. In partnership with the City of Savannah and the African Diaspora Museology Institute, the project presents an opportunity to restore a historic building with significant social and cultural history and reintroduce it as an active arts and community service program.

Rendering of the restored Kiah House

We aim to rediscover the social and cultural significance of the Kiah Museum through the lens of contemporary creative expression that entertains, educates, and inspires.

Kiah House programs will support creative expression inspired by Kiah, arts education, public art initiatives, streetscape improvements, community building, and other projects in partnership with neighboring groups and organizations.

Kiah House Museum once stood as a bold lesson in fortitude and a beacon for all of Savannah. Constructed circa 1913, the building is a two-story Queen Anne residential structure in the Cuyler-Brownville National Historic District. In 1959, the Kiahs made significant alterations to accommodate the museum installation. It operated until 2001 when Virginia Kiah died.

Despite losing some of its original interior and exterior features during the 1959 alterations, the building maintains a high integrity of location, design, setting, materials, craft, feeling, and association with the Kiah Museum. The mid-20th century alterations are significant and character-defining.

To honor this later “Kiah Period,” we will preserve as much as possible, only altering when necessary. For example, we plan to maintain and restore the grand two-story gallery space, retain the 24 square lite windows, retain the inset piano on the 2nd-floor landing, and replicate the decorative metal handrail for the 2nd floor staircase.

Following the restoration, the building will be home to a first-rate arts and cultural center which will commission works, provide studio spaces, and host exhibits, performances, talks, and workshops.