The Scarbrough House is the elegant setting for the Museum's collection of ship models, paintings, and maritime antiques. It was built in 1819, for one of the principal owners of the Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Scarbrough's architect, William Jay from Bath, England, created one of the earliest examples of domestic Greek Revival architecture in the South. Used as a public school from the 1870's - 1960's the mansion was then abandoned until rescued by Historic Savannah Foundation in the 1970's. After another period of vacancy, Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum restored the the house again in 1996-97, building a new roof based on a documented William Jay design, adding a new rear portico and enlarging the gardens.
Scarbrough's architect and builder was William Jay, only twenty-five years old when he came to Savannah from England in December 1817. Born in Bath, Jay had apprenticed to David Riddall Roper, an architect and surveyor in London who participated in the rebuilding of Regent Street for George IV's favorite architect, John Nash. Jay brought to Savannah the opulent architecture of the great city during this high-living, luxury-loving period, with lavish Classical ornament, the new Greek Revival style, and the pioneering use of cast iron for structure as well as decoration. During a stay of about four years, Jay produced at least five houses, a school, theatre, custom house, bank and a hotel. Scarbrough House is the earliest example of the domestic Greek Revival in the Deep South. Jay moved to Charleston in about 1820, and returned to England in 1822. His time in America was brief, his influence limited and his later career an anticlimax. Fifteen years later Jay died on the remote, storm-tossed island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where he was working as a low-paid civil engineer.