Arrived in Savannah yesterday after a long drive from Orlando via Folkston, GA (more on that later). Checked into our flat on 246 Bull Street just off Chippewa Square in the heart of historic Savannah. The place is real old, kind of musty (well not “kind of”… it’s musty), noisy (across the street from the busy Six Pence Pub), and up a long flight of stairs as it is situated above the Red Clover Boutique. We love it.
Started today at the visitors center where we purchased the book “A Self-Guided Tour of Savannah” by Maryann Jurkofsky. Turns out that Maryann works at the center so we tracked her down, had a great chat, and got her to sign our guide.
This part of Savannah is absolutely spectacular. In 1733 General James Oglethorpe laid out his plans for the city based on 24 park-like squares. Today, nearly 300 years later, you can still walk through the squares, passing by hundreds of ghostly moss laden oak trees and beautifully restored mansions replete with elaborate ironwork. The history of the district is fascinating so we’ll share some of what we learned. And….there is definitely a little something for everyone.
We started the tour at Madison Square (1837, named after James Madison so naturally they have a monument of Sergeant William Jasper in the middle of the of the square??). For Civil War buffs, the “Green-Meldrim House” is located on this square. Charles Green (rich from the cotton trade) was a member of the delegation that helped persuade General Sherman not to burn Savannah to the ground while on his famous “march to the sea” near the end of the war (December 1864). General Sherman took residence at Green-Meldrim house where he sent President Lincoln a telegram giving Lincoln the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift.
At some point during his stay, General Sherman gathered all the newly freed slaves at the Second African Baptist Church in Green Square (no, not that Green again. This square is named for General Nathanael Green who was second in command to George Washington during the Revolutionary War.) where he read the Emancipation Proclamation and promised them all “40 acres and a mule”. Nearly a century later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first gave his “I had a dream” speech. He practiced it at this church prior to giving it in Washington D.C. How cool is that!
For our friends with Chicago roots, Monterey Square (1847) is dedicated to Count Casimir Pulaski (which is why they named the square Monterey Square??). Even though Pulaski day is celebrated in Chicago, his remains are buried right here in Monterey Square. Pulaski died of wounds suffered during the Siege of Savannah (1779) while attempting to recapture Savannah from the Brits during the Revolutionary War.
The house in the background (behind the Pulaski monument) is the Mercer Williams House. This mansion was built for General Hugh Mercer, great grandfather of Johnny Mercer, noted composer and songwriter (Hooray for Hollywood, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, On The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe, Moon River). The house was later purchased by Jim Williams, the main character in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I’m half way through the book now so I can’t wait to start reading later tonight!
And on the other side of Monterey Square is Temple Mickve Israel (told you something for everyone). This Temple is the only Gothic Style synagogue in the USA and houses the oldest Torah in the country (brought to Savannah in 1733). Hard to get a good picture but I took this one showing a Star of David on the iron-works.
On to Troup Square, home to the “Jingle Bell Church”. James Pierpont, the music director at the church, copyrighted “Jingle Bells” which was first called “One Horse Open Sleigh” during his tenure here. The square also has a cast iron drinking fountain for dogs (demo by Robin).
Of course Chippewa Square is one of my favorites because this is where the bench scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed. Sadly there is no Forrest Gump bench (placed on location for the movie then removed), but still……..
Oh, in the center of Chippewa Square is a monument honoring James Oglethorpe (founder of the colony). Oglethorpe Square ( a few squares over, has a pedestal honoring Moravian missionaries………). Then we have Johnson Square (the very first square) with a monument to General Nathanael Green (why not put that monument in Green Square…..I don’t know??) and Franklin Square (yes, Benjamin Franklin) with a monument honoring Haitian soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War. Have yet to find Franklin’s monument.
We also passed by the William Scarborough house. Mrs. Scarborough, know for giving blow-out parties, gave one such party in honor of the visiting President Monroe. Monroe was to give a speech at Chippewa square, followed by a reception at the Scarborough house, a half mile away. Mrs. Scarborough, concerned that the guests would soil their shoes and gowns on the unpaved dusty streets of Savannah, had red carpets put down from the square to her home. Thus…..”rolling out the red carpet” was born.
So just a word or two about Folkston Georgia. It is well know in these parts that the good people of Folkston Georgia love to watch the trains go by. Legend has it they bring out the lawn chairs and marvel at the locomotives. Robin had to see it live so we took a couple hours and drove to Folkston just in time to watch the 2:30 train ramble through town. We found a nice viewing area where another family was anxiously awaiting too. 2:30, 2:40, 2:50……..we finally gave up and went to Subway for a sandwich. 2:55 the bells and whistles start and the train goes through town. At least it sounded great. “And that is all I have to say about that!”
Will be in Savannah for a couple weeks. And will let you know if we figure out the square/monument thing.