Savannah is by all accounts a pretty neat city. It has history – settled in 1733 along the banks of the Savannah River by General James Oglethorpe. It has a vibrant culinary scene that draws from the native coastal abundance of seafood and southern cooking. It has mystery, named as America’s most haunted city, it has a cinematic sub base that has produced numerous full-length feature movies; museums house period memorabilia and the 24 squares that the city is built around have any number of statues adorning the parks lined with Spanish moss laden oak trees. And it has a temperate climate that allows one to spend most of the year outdoors walking the cobblestoned streets of this great southern city.
You can start your exploring tour pretty much anywhere you want, and the historical riverfront is as good as anywhere. Florence Martus was a local resident who every day for 44 years would stand at the entrance to the city and wave a welcome or a goodbye to every ship that entered and left the city.
With the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793, cotton production throughout the South soared and Savannah became a leading export town. All along the riverfront cotton gin houses were built, and ships docked along the ever-expanding wharf with their captains doing business with the exporters. The riverfront itself sat quite a bit below the squares of the main part of the town and parks, and city engineers developed buildings along the river and steps to easily access the rest of the city. Today they house gift shops, restaurants and small bars.
The entire riverfront is now home to restaurants, small museums and gift shops that abound daily with tourists.
On the bluff above the river any number of buildings were built including what is now known as The Thomas Gamble building, so named for a former mayor of Savannah,
the United States Customs House,
and the iconic Old City Exchange Bell.
“In its day, the bell signaled the closing time for shops and was rung by a watchman when fire broke out. Its rich tones were heard in celebration of American victories during the War of 1812. It pealed a welcome to such distinguinshed visitors to Savannah as Monroe, Lafayette, Polk, Fillmore, Clay and Webster and it tolled tributes for America’s illustrious dead.”
Looking back from Johnson Square, the first of the 24 squares laid out, one can see the gold-domed top of City Hall and within the square itself a monument over the gravesite of General Nathaniel Greene, a Revolutionary War hero who died in 1786.
Reynolds Square was named for Captain John Reynolds, the first royal Governor of Georgia in 1734. The Olde Pink House, its bricks covered with a pink stucco, was built for James Habersham in 1771. A successful businessman, he helped found the University of Georgia and today it is a popular restaurant and bar. In the middle of the square is a monument to John Wesley, founder of Methodism in the early 1740s.
Wright Square, also one of the oldest squares, was originally named Percival Square and was renamed in honor of Sir James Wright, the last Royal Governor of Georgia. Ironically there is no monument to the esteemed Sir James, but there is one dedicated to William Washington Gordon, an early mayor of Savannah and the founder of the Central of Georgia Railroad. The Lutheran Church of the Ascension was founded in 1741 and its iconic steeple soars above the square.
Juliette Gordon Low was born in a house built on the corner of Bull Street and Oglethorpe Avenue on October 31, 1860. She lived in the family home until her marriage to William Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman. While living in England she met Sir Robert Baden Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts who in turn introduced her to the Girl Guides. Widowed, Juliette returned to Savannah to start the American version of the Girl Guides in Georgia in 1912. A year later the name was changed to Girl Scouts and today it has over 3.5 million members worldwide. Her birthplace was purchased by the Girl Scouts in 1953 and became the first National Historical Landmark in Savannah. And that is the rest of the story…
Madison Square was laid out in 1839 and honors the fourth President of the United States, James Madison. In the middle of the square is a monument immortalizing Sergeant William Jasper who was killed during the Siege of Savannah.
Lafayette Square was laid out in 1837 and was named for the Marquis de Lafayette who visited Savannah in 1825. It is home to the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, one of the oldest Roman Catholic parishes in Savannah.
Monterey Square commemorates the capture of Monterey, Mexico by General Zachary Taylor and once again ironically the statue in the middle of the square honors not Taylor, but General Count Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was recruited in Paris by Benjamin Franklin to aid in the fight for our independence. He was killed in the same battle as the aforementioned Sergeant Jasper during the Siege of Savannah in 1779.
Forsyth Park is the largest of all the parks in Savannah and the famous fountain that graces the center built in 1858 has been shot in many movies that were made in Savannah, most notably Forest Gump. On any given day the park is filled with musicians, artists, photographers and people lying on the grass reading or just contemplating the beauty of the park.
A couple of other memorable areas include the well known Jones Street where you can find some of the most stately homes in the city and renown Six Pence Pub. Jones Street with its beautiful root homes graced with amazing ironwork is believed to have laid name to the oft-said “keeping up with the Jones”.
Savannah has been the site of more than ten movies including Forrest Gump, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and of course Something to Talk About with Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid where they famously argue in front of the Six Pence Pub on Bull Street.
We were in Savannah over Mother’s Day and decided to eat at Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons Restaurant located at 102 W. Congress Street in historical Savannah.
Of course there was a wait, 1 1/2 hours which I would never do except for the chance to hob-nob with another foodie as I did with Giada. Paula wasn’t there, rarely is, but several hundred of her peeps were and they were dressed to the nines in their Southern finery in honor of the women in their lives. Jan and I were poor cousins with our RV garb, but no-one paid us much attention.
The buffet was incredible and I managed to stick to a non-color plate foregoing the black-eyed peas, collard greens and what not concentrating on pulled pork, mac and cheese, cheesey potatoes and fried chicken.
This was the first time I had eaten fried chicken in 39 years since a very disappointing first and only encounter with a KFC somewhere in the middle of the country. But this was to die for. Finger licking, moist, juicy, tender, crisp and on and on. I just had to get that recipe and if you have the cholesterol to spare, try to make it. Close is even good! Enjoy!