Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences
The Telfair Academy of Arts and Science is a historic mansion and art museum built in 1818 for Alexander Telfair, son of Revolutionary War patriot and Georgia governor Edward Telfair. In 1875 the last living member of the Telfair family gifted the house to the Georgia Historical Society with requirements that it be made into a museum. The Georgia Historical Society hired German-born architect Detlef Lienau to add a sculpture gallery and a rotunda, and do other renovations. The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences opened in 1886, making it the oldest public art museum in the South, and showcases two nineteenth-century period rooms and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American and European art from the museum’s permanent collection.
Backstory and Context
Alexander Telfair was left to be the head of household at 29 after the death of his father and older brothers; the family's plantations and mercantile operations became his responsibility. The lot where the Telfair Academy now stands was once the site of Government House, home of the royal governor James Wright. Alexander Telfair decided to build the mansion on this lot to properly house his mother and sisters in 1818. Mary was last living descendant of the Telfair family and gifted the mansion to the Georgia Historical Society with requirements that it be made into a museum.1
Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South, founded in 1883. Today, Telfair Museums consists of three unique buildings: the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House, two National Historic Landmark sites built in the early nineteenth century, and the contemporary Jepson Center. The Telfair Academy offers classes and workshops, and also provides self-guided tours through the museum buildings.2
2. “History » Telfair Museums.” 2016. Accessed September 14, 2016. http://www.telfair.org/about/history/.