Hotel Intel: Bellwether House

Hotel Intel: Bellwether House
Words by Jennifer Kornegay
Photos by 
Voyage Creative/Andrew Fraizer

The Vibe: Bellwether House, an inn that opened in fall 2021 in Savannah, Georgia, easily fills the expectation built into its name. Its emphasis on custom customer service from the moment you book a room—you’re emailed a few questions, and staff use your responses to ensure a smooth and special stay—fits a common definition of a bellwether: it’s an indicator of the personalized hospitality you’ll enjoy while there, a welcome change from what’s trending in large corporate hotels.

Its logo, a simple line sketch of a fluffy sheep, nods to a second definition of the word: the lead sheep in a flock outfitted with a tinkling bell. Follow this bellwether up to the property’s deep front porch—the longest contiguous porch in the city—and walk across the honeyed wood-floor threshold to begin the Bellwether experience.

When they combined two 1876 Italianate-style townhouses and transformed them into an inn, Bellwether’s owners took great care to preserve the details held within its 150-year-old walls. Modern amenities abound (flat-screen TVs, large bathrooms and wi-fi), and instances of contemporary décor add panache throughout, but the personality of the inn is anchored in the space’s 19th century architectural elements.

Silver-blue velvet Chesterfield sofas dominate the airy, sunlight-soaked den that opens to an intimate dining space. A diminutive but debonair bar, decked in panels of pine-green, waits farther back. A small but stunning collection of original art (Picasso and Dali to name a few) is scattered about on the walls. It’s fresh and vintage, refined and relaxed, all at the same time.

The Neighborhood: Despite holding an impressive time-specific distinction — established in 1733, it’s Georgia’s oldest city — Savannah is truly timeless. Life seems to move at a more languid speed, matching the easy flow of the river winding along its edge. Yet there’s an energy in the place too, a slow buzz, accented with bird chirps, fountain gurgles and the flutter of breeze-rustled live-oak leaves in the city’s historic district. 

Here among the shade of these ancient trees is where you’ll find Bellwether House, a location that makes it walkable to most of the historic district’s main draws, including famed Forsyth Park only a few blocks away. And yet it’s just far enough off the busiest thoroughfares to remain a quiet respite.

Your Room Key: No two of the 16 guest rooms at Bellwether House are the same. Some are large; some are less so. Some feature grand arches and high ceilings. Some reveal rough exposed brick walls. There are writing desks ready for jotting down memories or a journal entry in several. Each boasts big showers outfitted in the same soothing evergreen hue as the bar, but a few also have soaking tubs for a serene way to wash away the day. What they all share: the comfort and calm that permeates the property.

That Something Special: Additional common threads woven through the distinct rooms include multiple little extras given to every guest. Valet parking is prompt and included in your rate (and is a necessity in a city like Savannah where parking is sparse). There’s the included breakfast (served at a relaxed pace from 8am to noon) built from a selection of dishes showing off a blend of cultures, with Indian flavors popping up among Southern morning-meal standards.

Every afternoon, every guest is treated to an indulgent tea service and invited to choose a “tea of the moment” to be served hot or iced alongside a tower of sweet and savory bites like strawberry coriander cornmeal pound cake and curried finger sandwiches. All edibles are made from scratch by the property’s chef, Ryan Whyte-Buck, who leans on organic, locally sourced ingredients. 

Later, to start each evening, a chilled bottle of bubbly is opened with dramatic flair—the top is sliced off with a saber—and poured into flutes for sipping on the back patio. Want another drink or two before digging into one of Savannah’s lauded restaurants? Choose a cocktail from Bellwether’s handsome bar.

At breakfast, tea and beyond, the inn is happy to accommodate dietary restrictions. And staff are authentically eager to serve guests at the highest level of warm hospitality. (You may even hear them whistling while they work.) When all the offerings and genuine smiles combine, the result is more akin to being a valued guest in a private home than a hotel and in perfect keeping with Savannah’s “Hostess City of the South” nickname.

Notable News: The folks behind Bellwether House just opened a sister venture, a restaurant called Folklore, with Chef Whyte-Buck also heading up its kitchen.