Georgia’s first city, Savannah, was designed on a ward system in 1733 by James Oglethorpe. 21 squares of the original 24 still exist. Here is a single square plan: The design was implemented to keep an eye on intruders; it also is a lovely, peaceful and park-filled layout for a city. Each square is a green space which commemorates someone who had contributed to Savannah, each trust lot is for a community or religious building and the others are for homes. Good planning, Oglethorpe!
The Live Oak trees shade the city giving it, as well as the famous Forsyth Park, a calm and relaxed aura. Savannah has survived several wars, yellow fever epidemics and fires. Homes in the Historic, Colonial and Victorian district date to the 1700’s. Most are in beautiful shape and all must comply with specific regulations. The charm of Savannah also includes many museums and an art school that has merged with the city. Every corner we walked revealed more history and beauty.
The City Hall looks like a State Capitol building. Its distinctive dome in 23-karat gold leaf, is the first building constructed for exclusive use by the municipal government (1906) It is an imposing site along the waterfront. The third oldest Jewish congregation and synagogue in the nation, Temple Mickve Israel is also in this city. It is the only Gothic style synagogue in America. The history of the congregation is unique too; the first building was the first synagogue in the state of Georgia, built in 1820. The present building was consecrated in 1878. The Girl Scouts founder, Juliett Low, was born and raised in Savannah. This is where the Girl Scouts of America began. There were no cookies in the gift shop! The Mercer-Williams Home is a beautiful mansion. It was built for General Hugh W. Mercer, great grandfather of Johnny Mercer the lyricist and singer. (Moon River and Accentuate the Positive). The house, along with many others in the historic district, fell into disrepair during difficult times in the 1960’s. Jim Williams, one of Savannah’s restorationists, bought the house and restored it. The non fiction story Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil explains why the home has remained a tourist attraction. The Telfair Museum, Jepson Center and the Owens Thomas House are wonderful museums which offer art and architecture that span several centuries. We learned how the Jepson Center had to respect and conform to the ward system of the historic district while offering a 21st century twist with it’s design. The Jepson Center now houses the sculpture of the plate-holding girl that was made famous on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. River Street was the warehouse location for cotton, rice and other commodities. Now it is a thriving tourist area with hotels, restaurants and shops. As we walked along the Savannah River in the morning, we saw many dolphins swimming by the ferries and tour boats. I learned that there are indeed fresh water or river dolphins. Who knew?
There are two statues along the river. One is an Olympic torch. It commemorates the 1996 Altlanta Olympic Games. Savannah was the sailing venue. The other sculpture is of a girl waving a cloth with her dog and lantern by her side. It represents a heartbroken woman waiting for her sailor lover to return. (Spoiler alert: He has not returned).
We stopped in a time warp, like a scene from Bye Bye Birdie, to enjoy Leopold’s ice cream. Two scoops served in a glass sundae dish and it was outstanding. The ice cream parlor is next to the Savannah College of Art’s Movie Theater. Green tomatoes, fried. A true Southern treat. My first taste was at the Crystal Beer Parlor. They were much more tender and sweeter than I expected; delicious! This once speak-easy then grocery store then restaurant now serves some local beers too. We even saw a 7-11 although I am not sure if this was part of the national chain. We stayed in a great bed and breakfast, the Printmakers Inn. It is a short walk to the park and to the river. We had a full apartment with a sun porch and a back yard.