Get Married There ~ The Mansion on Forsyth Park

The South is home to a host of exquisite hotels and resorts that host equally exquisite events. In every issue of Weddings Unveiled, our staple article Get Married There highlights an extraordinary Southern property where truly spectacular weddings take place. To share more of these gorgeous locales with you, we have decided to feature them here on Completely Unveiled. With this, our first Get Married There post, we visit Savannah, GA and The Mansion on Forsyth Park.

Article from Summer 2009 Issue of Weddings Unveiled Magazine, written by Brooke Thomas.

Savannah, GA is a singularly beautiful city with an equally distinct personality. It’s a charming, if somewhat surprising mix of historic significance, a liberally hip artistic community and good old southern hospitality, albeit with a loosened tie and cocktail in hand. Savannah was founded in 1733 by British general James Oglethorpe, who planned the city in a grid-like pattern of squares that are still pretty easy to navigate today. In 1864, the threat of devastation loomed when General Sherman marched through the south, leaving in his path a smoldering wake of ruined cities. In effort to save Savannah, the mayor gave Sherman’s troops the run of the city in exchange for leaving it in tact. As a result, Savannah has a great deal of remaining antebellum architecture and a protected historic district encompassing about two and half square miles. In Savannah, locals often refer to John Berendt’s famous novel-turned-movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil as “The Book”. Needless to say, “The Book” spurred a renewed interest in Savannah as a travel destination, particularly the historic district, which plays a primary role in novel’s setting. Situated at the southern edge of the historic district, Forsyth Park is the largest and arguably Savannah’s most elegant square, where you’ll also find the AAA Four-Diamond Mansion on Forsyth Park. Like Savannah, the Mansion on Forsyth Park is a destination unto itself. It’s an eclectic blend of historic and contemporary, charm and sexiness, comfort and luxury, old-school southern and ultra-cool modernism.

The Mansion on Forsyth Park fronts Drayton Street and was originally a private home. The 18,000 square foot mansion was built in 1888 for $45,000 by Lewis Kayton. It was designed by A.S. Eichberg in a Victorian-Romanesque style, constructed of red brick and terra cotta, complete with arches and turrets. In 1953, it became the Fox & Weeks Funeral home. A carriage house was added to the structure and in 1970, a chapel was also built. Richard C. Kessler, CEO of the Kessler Collection, purchased the property in 2001. He built the adjacent four-story hotel structure and opened the Mansion on Forsyth Park in April of 2005 as Savannah’s first luxury boutique hotel.

Kessler completely renovated and restored the original historic mansion for the 176-seat 700 Drayton Restaurant, Carriage Wine Cellar and the 700 Kitchen Cooking School. Ceiling heights on both floors of 700 Drayton are between 14 and 15 feet and the building features its original oak millwork, mahogany and teak paneling and moldings. The interior of the restaurant is a dramatic mixture of colorful modern décor and architecture from a bygone era. Bright, contemporary chandeliers sparkle amidst floor-to-ceiling drapes hung between tables set with chic, high-backed black leather benches. Each space is intimate and inviting, matched only by the celebrated cuisine, described as nouvelle American with Savannah flair. The menu is detailed by an interpretive smattering of southern and regional fare, such as the calypso glazed wild Georgia game fish with rum runner Sapelo Island clams, black beans and candied fingerling sweet potatoes. As an example, sweet potatoes find their way into many traditional southern dishes, but Chef Michael Groves’ menu is influenced by, rather than literally embracing traditions and its charm is in its creative, but distinctly southern undertones. Upstairs, Casimir’s Lounge features nightly live entertainment and the 700 Kitchen Cooking School, taught by Chef Darin Sehnert, offers hands-on daily and weekly programs that can accommodate up to 16 people.

The hotel structure adjacent to the historic mansion looks as if it’s always been there, blending seamlessly with the original property in striking red brick and commanding the Drayton Street side of Forsyth Park. The hotel is unbelievably luxe, with a pronounced, sophisticated sexiness. The effect is opulent, but also young and fresh, combining a rich, vibrant color palette and sumptuous fabrics with genuine antiques and a host of artwork in varying genres. Glass front doors open with huge Lalique crystal pulls to reveal the lobby, set with Versace furnishings, a sparkling crystal table, pink marble columns and antique chandeliers. The hotel itself is a living gallery, home to more than 400 original artworks, all hand-picked by Richard Kessler. Bright paintings punctuate wall spaces, while small vignettes throughout the hotel highlight specific featured works.

The accommodations are made up of 126 guestrooms and suites with two stunning elevators to transport guests from floor to floor. Each elevator ceiling features a backlit, fine-art photograph of the famous Forsyth Park fountain and wall sconces filled with fresh flowers. The guestrooms are a study in a fantasy-like luxury with 9 or 12-foot ceilings, crystal chandeliers, wet bars and a striking, all-white Baroque-style bed as their centerpiece. The rest of the palette by contrast, is bold, with curtains in a rich rust-orange hue and a bright green velvet chaise. Towering armoires are accented by mirrored bedside tables and antique candelabras. The marble bathrooms, generously stocked with spa-quality toiletries, feature deep soaking tubs, a green velvet-skirted vanity, plush towels and a walk-in shower. If you find yourself lucky enough to stay on the second floor of the hotel, otherwise known as the Bohemian Floor, you’ll find a four-fixture bath in a dramatic color scheme, with fabric-draped walls and vintage tubs.

The Poseidon Spa on the lower level of the hotel is small, but full-service, with a fitness center, four treatment rooms and five manicure and pedicure stations. The décor mirrors that of the hotel, but in a more subdued palette of silver. Soft, fabric-covered walls mingle with gleaming metallic leathers and edgy, contemporary furniture.

Angela Sheets is the go-to-girl for weddings at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, with the hotel itself and its location adjacent to Forsyth Park offering endless inspiration. “Brides walk in and imagine their weddings or receptions here,” she says. “They appreciate the sophistication and the eclectic feel.” With over 10,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space, perhaps the most alluring on-site venue is the Marble Garden Courtyard overlooking the sparkling pool and its adjacent water wall. “We often use lighting to spell out the bride and groom’s names or monogram on the water wall during poolside events,” says Angela, “and the courtyard can accommodate up to 200 for a ceremony.” Another option is the Viennese Ballroom, decorated with hand-painted gold leafing and crystal chandeliers. It’s lavish, though not your typical ballroom, in the same way that the Mansion on Forsyth Park is not your typical luxury hotel. The Viennese features one of the three Bösendorfer pianos housed in the hotel, along with a collection of more than 100 hats dating from 1860 to 1960 along its outside wall. The best setup inside the ballroom is the Kessler Set, which was developed by the Kessler event design team for the wedding of Richard Kessler’s daughter. “The Kessler Set is U-shaped,” describes Angela, “with a head table flanked by long tables. It’s a great option for dramatic table settings. Centerpieces always look great on the long tables.”

Ceremonies often take place outdoors in Forsyth Park on the flagstones in front of the fountain, one of the most desired wedding venues in the city. With its intimate connection to the park, the Mansion on Forsyth Park can also assist with any arrangements on the park property. Following an outdoor ceremony, events might move to twilight cocktails beneath the Marble Garden Courtyard’s fabric-draped tent, then inside to the Viennese for a seated dinner, catered by 700 Drayton. “We have an amazing catering team,” says Angela. “Chef loves to think outside the box.” Menus can be completely customized for any event, offering spectacular cuisine from one of the finest chefs in Savannah.

Savannah is a city perfect for destination weddings. The undeniable beauty of its architecture and somewhat famous (or infamous, thanks to “The Book”) brand of southern hospitality draws visitors from across the country and around the globe. The Mansion on Forsyth Park is arguably one of the most extraordinary luxury hotels in the south and certainly the finest in Savannah, ideally situated for exploring Savannah’s historic district. “Savannah is a great destination,” Angela says, “but the combination of Savannah and the Mansion on Forsyth Park is an experience unlike any other.” BMT

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