Savannah, GA – Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) today announced that the Savannah Historic District Board of Review (HDBR) approved Girl Scouts’ plans to renovate the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. The renovation will bolster, protect and rejuvenate the site, and ensure its continued importance and relevance to the Savannah community and the Girl Scouts Movement for generations to come. The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is the spiritual home of the Girl Scouts, where their visionary founder Juliette Gordon Low was born and lived much of her life. The approval of the HDBR demonstrates the shared commitment of Girl Scouts and the Savannah community to honor the legacy of Juliette, preserve her past and ensure an inclusive and engaging experience for girls and visitors from all over the world.
GSUSA assumed ownership of The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace from the Gordon family in 1953. The site has since been designated a National Historic Landmark, welcoming 30,000 guests per year. In the midst of its second century, Girl Scouts is investing heavily in the Birthplace to assess what features it needs to continue to be relevant, impactful and empowering to girls in the 21st century, while also meeting visitor expectations. In addition to addressing issues of circulation, accessibility and safety, the planned renovation seeks to drive education and engagement at Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in a way today’s Girl Scouts will find exciting. None of the planned renovations will affect the historic landmark status or compromise the historical structure.
“We call the Birthplace the front door of the Girl Scout movement. This is where it all began, and this site continues to be a force for girl empowerment in the 21st century,” said Angela Olden, GSUSA Chief Financial Officer. “The Birthplace is a living, breathing testament to Girl Scouts. It stands for our mission, for our common values, and for the generations of girls and women who have worn our uniform. Our job is to ensure that 100 years from now, the Birthplace will be just as relevant, engaging and important to girls as it is today.”
Patti Lyons, Birthplace Advisory Committee Member and Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia former board chair spoke during the November historic board of review meeting assuring everyone that the approach has been thoughtful and inclusive when planning for the site’s future.
“We are working with a broadly talented group, which includes many exceptional female leaders, to honor the spirit of Juliette Gordon Low throughout this renovation project,” Lyons said. “These updates are for girls everywhere, drawing inspiration and expertise from women of today just like I imagine Juliette Gordon Low would love.”
The scope of work includes adding accessible ramps at the courtyard north of the main house and in the garden east of the main house; adding accessible restrooms to the main house; restoring the existing gate at Oglethorpe Avenue; relocating the main entrance to Oglethorpe Avenue and into the garden; relocating the gift shop to the outbuilding west with a Bull Street presence; adding a connector building between the outbuilding west and outbuilding east for children and users with mobility concerns to access the upper levels of the outbuildings; and adding new doors on the south facade for new ticketing/exhibit space as well as security of the site. All of these updates will add capacity to use the space for interactive programming and gathering spaces which guests can enjoy for learning, ceremonies, public events and more.
Savannah-based Greenline Architects was selected as the project architect. The next phase of the process is to finalize landscaping plans and the garden design. Groundbreaking activities are anticipated to begin next spring with project completion in fall 2020.
“It is an honor to help further the legacy of Juliette Gordon Low through this renovation project,” said Lisa Junk Lopez, Executive Director of the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. “We are making sure this is a place where the past is preserved and the future is secured for not just the girls, but for everyone.”