Update as of November 2023: The park is closed for renovations until 2024.
A Century of Hats is a genteel exhibit, in a genteel hotel lobby, in what is arguably America’s most genteel city.
This 100-year-old parade of feathers, silk, and straw is housed in the Mansion on Forsyth Park, Savannah’s premier luxury hotel. The current 126-room hotel was built onto an existing 1888 mansion overlooking the historic district’s Forsyth Park. Its developer, Savannah-born Richard C. Kessler, is also an avid art collector and has filled the Mansion with over 400 pieces of original artwork, inspired by the history and romance of Savannah.
The Century of Hats exhibit came about when Kessler made the acquaintance of a Midwestern woman who dealt in vintage clothing. In passing, he mentioned his idea for an exhibit of historical ladies’ hats and before the conversation had ended, he had presented her with a $10,000 check to assemble his proposed collection. He only had to wait a short time before hat boxes began appearing on his doorstep, containing every shape and flavor of headpiece ever conceived.
The hats in the exhibit, whose provenance spans the 1860s-1960s, are arranged chronologically in two long display cases, flanked by two framed codices. Included in the collection is a wedding bonnet from the 1860s, worn by a Northern woman on the day of her marriage to a Southern gentleman. To the keen sartorial eye, this fact will be decipherable by the bonnet’s contrasting blue/white ribbon trim.
A friendly waiter pointed out that when you stand in front of the display case, your reflection allows you to “try on” the different specimens.
Know Before You Go
The Mansion on Forsyth Park closed in Jun 2023 and plans to re-open in 2024 under a new name. The hat collection is thus not available and its future is not known.