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Seeing Savannah’s Evil Side from a Hearse

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What could be better than touring Savannah in a hearse with a raised roof, so you can poke your head out the top? Nothing comes immediately to mind, does it? I mean, a ghost tour in a tricked-out hearse is kind of like the pinnacle of human culture.

Ghost Tour Savannah

I didn’t know what to think the first time I saw this bizarre vehicle cruising around Savannah’s squares at night. The passengers seemed to be having a grand time, drinking out of to-go cups, gawking at old mansions, and completely oblivious to my baffled staring. “On the one hand,” I thought, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

“On the other hand, my parents are totally going to love it.”

So when my parents came to visit, I booked spots on the Hearse Tour, arranging for a pick-up outside the Pirate’s House. What ensued was an entertaining trip around Savannah’s dark side. Our guide was completely into her character as spooky chauffeur, and her enthusiasm for the supernatural was contagious. There wasn’t a dull moment; a lot of houses in Savannah have some story of fright, whether a horrific crime or an unexplained phenomena. A lot of the tales were new to me, and I felt chills when we went by the old psychiatric hospital on Abercorn. It might have been the booze, but I swear I saw the outline of a face in one of the hospital windows.

The Hearse Tour isn’t exactly inconspicuous. I lost count of how many pedestrians laughed at us, yelling “Oooooooh, spooooky!” But if you’re able to tune out the mockery, it’s a great time, especially if you’ve got an interest in the supernatural.

Official Website

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Tour for only $13.50

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December 31, 2010 at 3:38 pm Comments (5)

Columbia Square

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Although it was neglected throughout much of its history, like most of the city’s eastern side, Columbia Square has now enjoyed a thorough restoration to become one of Savannah’s loveliest spots.

Colombia Square Savannah

The restorative efforts kicked off in the 1950s when a group of society women, concerned about the demolitions which threatened to destroy Savannah’s historic soul, drew the line at the proposed destruction of the 1820 Isaiah Davenport House. They joined forces as the Historic Savannah Foundation, dedicated to protecting the city’s architectural heritage. Over the years, the foundation has purchased and saved over 300 buildings in Savannah’s historic center. Without their labor, the city would be a much more common place.

There are a number of other impressive buildings on Columbia Square, including the house at 130 Habersham, which is usually covered in ivory. But the best might the Kehoe Inn on the western side of the square. This Renaissance Revival mansion dates from 1829, and operates today as a bed and breakfast.

Columbia Square itself is a work of art. Four massive oak trees at each corner provide shade over the entire square, at the center of which sits the Wormsloe Fountain. Green and gray, the rustic fountain was designed in the shapes of leaves and winding ivy. Though it was donated by the plantation’s family in the 1970s, it looks as though it’s been in Columbia Square forever, like it sprouted from the ground.

Location of Calhoun Square on our Savannah Map

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December 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm Comments (3)

Colonial Park Cemetery

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A historical marker in Savannah’s Colonial Park Cemetery reports that “nearly 700” victims of the 1820 yellow fever epidemic are buried there. In fact, exactly six-hundred and sixty-six people died of the disease. But the church had issues with putting the Number of the Beast on a sign, and demanded the figure be rounded up.

Colonial

That’s just one of the disquieting anecdotes from the Colonial Park Cemetery, established around 1750 and closed to burials just before the Civil War. Another concerns the original size of the cemetery. Today, it fits nicely into a tidy square bounded by Abercorn, Oglethorpe, Habersham and Perry, but it used to be much bigger. As Savannah grew, property developers began buying up the cemetery’s prime real estate. Since digging up and moving bodies is so troublesome, corpses were left where they were; only the headstones were moved. The result is that every building surrounding Colonial Park is built on top of the desecrated dead.

A number of prominent Georgians are buried in Colonial Park, though I’ll confess to have never heard of any of them. Someone called Button Gwinnett has the most impressive monument (and the coolest name). After the Civil War, occupying Union troops were garrisoned there, and some of the soldiers amused themselves by defacing tombstones, changing dates and names. I found the gravestone of a woman who supposedly died when she was twelve, but had a son who passed a year later at the age of fourteen.

A green, creepy oasis of death in the center of Savannah, Colonial Park Cemetery is the perfect place for a stroll on cold, sunny, winter afternoons.

Location on our Savannah Map

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Cartoon Cemetery
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Maxwell Savannah
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December 21, 2010 at 10:41 pm Comments (8)

Arrrr, Matey! Dinner at the Pirate’s House

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The Pirate’s House, on the northeastern corner of Savannah, is thought to be Georgia’s oldest building, and is certainly one of its most famous. Captain Flint, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is said to have died here after drinking too much rum.

Pirate House Savannah

Now, this is a touristy place, so you shouldn’t go expecting fine cuisine. But much like Paula Deen’s restaurant, the Pirate House a Savannah institution and we felt compelled to check it out. Our food was decent, if a little overpriced. But that’s to be expected; at the Pirate House, you’re paying as much for the experience as the dinner. We started with fried pickle slices, and I had a kind of seafood lasagna bake. “Arrr, delicious! Fry me pickles and bake me fish!”

I kept up the pirate voice, having a big time, until Jürgen begged me to knock it off. “Arrrr, I be annoying to me matey!”

Legends abound in the Pirate’s House, including one that concerns the underground tunnels leading from the basement of the house into the sea. These tunnels were used to shanghai drunken sailors: villains would wait until they had passed out, then steal them away onto ships bound for unknown destinations. The “Pirate’s House” was a rough, dangerous place, and normal 18th-century Savannahians knew to stay well away from it.

After our meal, our waitress led us on a tour of the house. She explained its history, and showed us into the haunted Herb House, the oldest structure in Savannah. It’s also the the restaurant’s fanciest dining room, available for parties.

We had a good time at the Pirate’s House. It’s fun to simply be inside a building with so much history. And should you wear an eye-patch, and insist on talking in pirate-voice to your dinner companions, you’ll enjoy yourself even more. But they might not.

The Pirate’s House – Website
Location on our Savannah Map

A List Of Hotels In Savannah

Pirate Lamp
Oldest House in Savannah
Pirate Ghost House
Pirate House
Pirate Ship
Scary Pirates
Pirate Stove House
Pirate Shrimps
Fried Pickles
Fried Shrimps
Fried Something
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December 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm Comments (4)

The Telfair Academy

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Found on on the eastern side of Telfair Square, the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences occupies a Regency style mansion built in 1818. It’s been a public art museum since 1886, which makes it the oldest in the South.

Telfair Academy

The museum blends its artwork seamlessly into its historic property, and the mansion itself is just as interesting as the paintings which adorn its walls. One of the most impressive rooms has no artwork at all: an octagonal study outfitted with 19th century furniture. We also liked the kitchen gallery, which featured some modern art alongside old cooking equipment.

But our favorite room was the main rotunda, with high ceilings, giant canvases and a plush bench in the center, where visitors can relax and study the artwork at leisure. I spent at least ten minutes taking in Julian Story’s seventeen-foot long The Black Prince at Crecy.

We’d be remiss not to mention the Bird Girl statue, famous as the cover to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Telfair Academy snatched it from Bonaventure Cemetery to “protect it,” and have displayed it prominently in their museum (snugly behind their paywall). Removed from the cemetery, the statue has lost all of its haunting magic. And it’s aggravating that this work of art was taken from a public place, and put somewhere that forbids photography … “Heavens, no photos in the museum! But please, feel free to buy a postcard.”

Entrance to the Telfair Academy will set you back $20. That’s a crazy price, though it also gets you into the Owens-Thomas House and the Jepson Center. Still, the fact that you can only buy the package deal is exploitative. Why not offer cheaper admissions to the individual spots? What if you’re only interested in classic art? Or if you only want to see a historic home? Well, too bad! We severely disliked the Owens-Thomas House, and blew through the gleaming, sterile Jepson Center with its pretentious modern art in about five minutes. The Telfair Academy is definitely the highlight of the bunch, but at $20? I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Location on our Savannah Map
Telfair Museums – Website

The Savannah College of Art and Design: Restoration of an Architectural Heritage

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December 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm Comment (1)

Chippewa Square

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Alright, Savannah, what’s going on here? The obelisk in honor of Nathanial Greene isn’t in Greene Square, as might be assumed, but Johnson. The statue of James Oglethorpe isn’t Oglethorpe Square, but in the middle of Chippewa Square! And Chippewa Square is named after the Battle of Chippawa, but the name is misspelled ever-so-slightly. Are you trying to confuse us? Or are you just confused yourself?

Chippewa Square

Regardless, Chippewa is one of Savannah’s most impressive squares, thanks mainly to the statue of Oglethorpe. The colony’s founder strikes an imposing figure, with his sword drawn and facing South, toward his hated enemy Spanish Florida. The statue was erected in 1910, and is the work of Daniel Chester French, who was also responsible for the Lincoln Memorial in DC.

Chippewa Square

There’s a lot to see around Chippewa Square, including the Savannah Theater which opened in 1818 and has welcomed stars such as W.C. Fields, Oscar Wilde and Tyrone Powers. This is the oldest still-active theater in the USA. And on the square’s western side is the First Baptist Church, which is Savannah’s oldest standing place of worship, built in Greek Revival style in 1833.

But what am I doing describing Chippewa Square? You’ve already seen it. Everyone has. The opening sequence of Forrest Gump was filmed here, where Forrest sits on a bench and eats from his box o’ chocolates. Gump-fans who journey to Savannah are always surprised to learn that there is actually no bench here. It was just a prop for the film, and can now be found in the Savannah History Museum.

Location of Chippewa Square on our Map

Learn more about James Oglethorpe

Chippewa Square
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December 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm Comments (9)

Photos from Savannah: Red Doors and More

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Red Number

The biggest mistake you can make in Savannah is forgetting to bring your camera with you when you leave the house. Unique photo opportunities spring up like clockwork in this city! Jürgen brought his everywhere — to the supermarket, on walks with our dog, and even to the bar. You never know when this city is going to surprise you with a great snapshot.

Framed Savannah Photos As A Gift

Red Door
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Weed in Savannah
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Chucky and Girlfriend
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December 16, 2010 at 10:19 am Comments (5)

Pinkie Master’s Lounge

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Update: When we returned to Savannah five years later, we were horrified to learn that Pinkie Master’s was gone. I had assumed this lounge was an institution, as permanent a presence in Savannah as the Spanish Moss. But apparently the rent got too high, and Pinkie Master’s took off. The good news is, the property is still a bar, it still has a jukebox, and the clientele seems about the same. The only thing which has really changed is the name: it’s now called The Original. We’ve decided to leave this post up, in memory of the good old days.

Let’s be honest here. Pinkie Master’s Lounge is great, but it’s not the kind of bar you’re going to take home and introduce to your parents. You won’t be taking Pinkie Master’s to the Olde Pink House for an awkward first date, and you would never conceive of one day marrying it. Pinkie Master’s just isn’t that kind of bar. But on those late weekend nights, after respectable joints have closed up, and you’re not yet ready for bed… when you’re still looking for a good time… Pinkie Master’s knows what ya want. Pinkie Master’s got what ya need.

Pinkie Masters

Found on Drayton Street, Pinkie Master’s is an institution in Savannah: the ultimate dive bar. Pinkie Master was actually the owner’s real name. He was friends with Jimmy Carter, who supposedly announced his intention to run for president in the bar. That’s more legend than fact, but Pinkie Master’s has the vibe, and smell, of a place which has seen a lot of history.

We’ve been a few times, and have always had a blast. Pinkie Master’s boasts the craziest, most eclectic crowd in Savannah. I’ve gotten into more hilarious conversations there than in any other bar, and there’s something bizarre going on anywhere you look. Hey, drunken palm reader: me next! Hey, creepy old guy with teenage Asian girlfriend: nice catch! Hey bartender: two more PBRs for me and my new buddy Oskari from Finland! Let’s play darts, Oskari! Haha, this jukebox is awesome!

That’s basically how a night at Pinkie Master’s goes. It’s not for prudes, and not for those looking for a fancy evening out, but if you’re looking for a great dive with cheap beer and fun people, you can’t go wrong at Pinkie’s.

The Legion Savannah

Another classic dive bar is the Legion, found on Bull Street, just south of Forsyth Park. It’s actually an American Legion hall, but opens its doors to everyone. Drawn by the cheap drinks, darts and chill atmosphere, this was one of our regular haunts.

Locations: The Original (Pinkie Masters) | Legion

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Photos of the old Pinkie Master’s Lounge:

Pinkie Masters Savannah
Cool Pinkie Master
Pinkie Fortune
Best Pub
And now… it’s “The Original”
The Original Bar Savannah
The Original Bar Savannah
The Original Bar Savannah
Pics from The Legion
The Legion Savannah
The Legion Savannah
The Legion Savannah
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December 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm Comments (7)

Savannah Icy Winter Dream

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Savannah Winter 2010

When we chose Savannah as our next destination, it was partly because of the weather. In December, the average is supposed to be between 40 and 63°F. So, I never expected to encounter a frozen fountain in Forsyth Park. It’s a beautiful sight, and one that’s relatively rare, so we’re happy to have seen it. But we’re done, now. Could someone please give us back the warm weather we had been promised?

Framed Photo Of The Icy Forsyth Foountain

Savannah Fountain ICE
Snow Savannah
Ice Snow Savannah
Forsyht Park Winter
Savannah Snow
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December 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm Comments (7)

Captain Mike’s Dolphin Adventure

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I’ll admit it. I was already partial to Captain Mike’s Dolphin Adventure, out on Tybee Island, because I like anything featuring my own name. Mike & Ike’s? Delicious. Michael Jackson? The greatest ever. Mike the Headless Chicken? Best headless chicken ever. Mikes rule, and so it was no surprise to discover that Captain Mike’s Dolphin Adventure was totally awesome.

Savannah Dolphin

During our hour-long journey into the ocean, we saw probably over a hundred dolphins. Fine, they might have been the same dolphins over and over again, but we had well over a hundred “sightings.” Jumping dolphins, playful dolphins, sassy dolphins. One dolphin swam right alongside our boat, and I swear he was looking at me, so I named him “Mike”. He was my favorite.

Our guide was great, too. The whole time, she was sharing fun facts while continuing to direct our attention toward the dolphins. “Did you know that (3 o’clock!) while dolphins sleep, they keep one side of their brain (Jumper, 11 o’clock!) active at a time?” I don’t know how she spotted them so quickly, but her eyes were always well ahead of mine.

This tour is a great deal, both for the dolphin spotting and for the excursion out onto the water. If you even see one dolphin, it’d be hard to walk away dissatisfied, and if our excursion was anything like typical, you should see a lot more than one.

Location on our Day Trips Map
Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours – Official Website

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Dolphin Xing
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Local Pelican
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December 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm Comment (1)

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Seeing Savannah's Evil Side from a Hearse What could be better than touring Savannah in a hearse with a raised roof, so you can poke your head out the top? Nothing comes immediately to mind, does it? I mean, a ghost tour in a tricked-out hearse is kind of like the pinnacle of human culture.
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