Kiah House

Happy Passover from the Kiah House!

The Kiahs bought their namesake house in 1959, but the house was originally built in 1912. At least 26 other residents have been identified in the home’s first 46 years, including the original owners, the Parrish family (1913-1921). Because the Cuyler-Brownsville neighborhood is predominantly African American, and historically so, researchers were surprised to discover that the first several families that lived in the house were white. For the majority of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, the Kandel family lived at 505 W. 36th St. The Kandels were eastern European Jewish immigrants. Phillip Kandel was born December 16, 1873, and immigrated to the United States possibly in 1885 (the 1920 Census is hard to read). His hatmaker business was at 21 Broughton Street in Savannah. Philip was required to register for the draft in 1918 at the age of 44. He was described as a naturalized citizen having a medium build, medium height, gray hair, gray eyes, and no physical disabilities. The 1910 Census lists Phillip’s native language as English, which seems unlikely for an Austrian immigrant. The 1920 Census lists Phillip’s native language as Hebrew and that he does speak English.

Frances Clara Orgel Kandel was born in Austria on March 15th, 1878, and immigrated in 1885 (1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 Censuses). There are discrepancies in the historical record about where Phillip and Frances were born. The majority of the records indicate they were both from Austria, although Phillip’s death certificate lists his birthplace as Russia. The couple married in 1897 and became naturalized citizens in 1902. Their two older sons (Harry, born 1899, and Emanuel, born 1901) were born in New York, possibly their entry point into the United States. The couple’s third son, Seymour, was born in Georgia in 1917. In 1920, the all three sons are living with their parents, but by 1930, the older sons had moved out. Harry M. Kandel was a City Physician from at least 1925 to 1928, and Savannah’s Army Recruiting station is named after him.

Phillip’s untimely death on January 30, 1923, at age 50 left Frances with a lot to handle. Phillip’s death certificate lists the cause of death as asphyxiation, and a secondary cause as “illuminating gas poisoning”. Illuminating gas is the gas used in gaslights, and accidental or intentional asphyxiation was not unknown (Ravine 1911). Tragically, the death was ruled a suicide. Phillip was buried at Bonaventure Cemetery, Section P, lot 131.

From 1924 to 1937, Frances Kandel is listed as an insurance agent for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. In the city directories, several other people are listed as residents as well, indicating Mrs. Kandel took on boarders. The 1930 United States Census gives us more information, listing Frances C. Kandel (age 49) and her son Seymour Z. Kandel (age 14). Frances is described as able to read and write and having a radio. Also listed are the following boarders: Stella C. Gordon, a divorced dressmaker working from home (age 36), her sons Harvey J. (age 7) and Murray (age 3), and Bertha Bradley (age 26). Stella Gordon was Polish, spoke Yiddish indicating she was also Jewish, and immigrated in 1906. Ms. Bradley was Swiss-born to Russian parents. She immigrated in 1908 and worked as a stenographer in the real estate industry. In the 1937 city directory, Frances’ boarding house has been formalized to the Sunshine Inn. However, in 1941, the residence is no longer listed as the Sunshine Inn. Perhaps at age 63, Frances considered herself retired. No city directories were printed during the years 1942-1946, as production and publishing were halted during the war. The 1940 United States Census lists Frances as well as Seymour and his wife Helen (both 24-years-old, and salesmen with high school educations). Frances lived at the house until her death on June 10, 1949. She was buried in Bonaventure Cemetery near her husband.

Help continue research on the Kiah House and support its preservation, while eating delicious cookies! Donate here.

Bonaventure Cemetery in the spring.

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