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Inside a Savannah Mansion

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On New Year’s Eve, we were invited into the home of an old-school Savannahian. Our soft-spoken host, Alvin, was a true southern gentleman, as gracious as possible, and both his character and his house seemed to be straight from the pages of some Victorian Gothic novel.

Mysterious Mansion

Alvin’s brick mansion, built in 1887, was in our neighborhood and we had admired it often. So when we were invited inside, we jumped at the chance. Since purchasing the mansion decades ago, Alvin has worked to restore its original elements, decorating it with artwork and period furniture. Jürgen made an appreciative comment about much all this original artwork must have cost, which caused Alvin to laugh. “This is all stuff I get for free!” He pointed to a painting of a dancing jester. “The girl who painted this gave it to me in exchange for a month’s rent.”

The mansion’s architect, William G. Preston, had also been responsible for the late, lamented DeSoto Hotel. Alvin reminisced about that building, which was torn down to make space for the Hilton, a much derided eyesore on Madison Square. He got out a book of old images from Savannah, back in the days when the live oaks which now tower over the city’s squares were just saplings. Alvin was a member of the Historic Savannah Foundation, and recounted some of the battles which he helped fight; preserving the DeSoto was one they lost.

After a couple cocktails, we took our leave; the New Year’s celebrations were just heating up in the city, and Alvin urged us to go and have fun. We did so, but somewhat reluctantly. The party we ended up at was alright, but I have a feeling that spending New Year’s with Alvin in his incredible mansion would have been the more memorable evening.

May we guide you through Savannah?

Alvin Neely
Lady with Dirty Face
Savannah Garden
Savannah Tower
Savannah Mansion
Savannah Details
Savannah Design
Savannah House Tours
Mirror Lamp
Savanah Salon
Savanah Salon
Haunted Mirror
Porcelan Clock
Savannah Memories
Savannah Decoration
Savannah Sofa
Angel Boy
Savannah Glass
Savannah Curtain
Classic Savannah
Savannah Silver
Savannah Chair
Savannah Mansion Details
Savannah Figures
Southern Living
Flower Baby
Round Window Savannah
Savannah Tiles
Old Fashion Bathroom
Savannah Porch
southern Bell
Neely Alvin
Alvin Neely

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January 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm Comments (12)

Whitefield Square

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On Habersham and Wayne, Whitefield was one of the final squares to be laid out in Savannah, in 1851. With a distinctive gazebo in its center and gingerbread houses surrounding it, this small square feels like a throw-back to Victorian times.

Gazebo Wedding Savannah

The square was named after George Whitefield, a British priest who came to the colonies and was largely responsible for a religious movement that has become known as the First Great Awakening. The “Awakening” left a permanent imprint on American religion, by eschewing quiet contemplation and somber services in favor of loud, bombastic preaching, and by putting a heavy emphasis on personal guilt and the need for redemption. When you see present-day televangelists screaming and crying and carrying on about the devil inside all of us… well, you can thank Mr. Whitefield for that.

Whitefield also put great worth in the importance of public deeds, and did his part by establishing the Bethesda Orphanage just outside Savannah. Still in use today, this was the very first orphanage in all North America.

Whitefield Square is fun to explore, as long as you don’t mind the occasional pan-handler. The gazebo in the center could be a nice place to spend some time, but it’s currently the exclusive domain of vagabonds. Still, Whitefield is not without its charms. The Congregational Church, for example, is a handsome building. Found on the western side of the sqaure, it was consecrated in the late 19th century.

Location on our Savannah Map

Buy Your Gazebo Here

Gazebo
Whitefiled Square
Savannah Tower
Savannah Architecture
Ginger Bread Houses Savannah
Savannah Seeds
Savannah Herbs
Corner House Savannah
Savannah Porche
Savannah One Way
Savannah Lizard
Rusty Lamp
Sneaky Leaf
Savannah Fine Art
Savannah Gates
Savannah Garden
Savannah Fountain
Savannah Gates Iron
Pink and Poofy
Churches of Savannah
Brown Church
Church Glass
Church Corner
Church-Congregational
Hot Rod Savannah
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January 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm Comments (10)

Pulaski Square

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Laid out in 1837 and named in honor of the Polish revolutionary hero, Casimir Pulaski, who died during the Siege of Savannah, Pulaski Square is another of Barnard Street’s quiet, residential squares.

Hand Tree

Pulaski Square is devoid of monuments; there’s not even one honoring its namesake (Pulaski’s obelisk is in Monterey Square). But Pulaski does have the most impressive collection of Southern Live Oaks of all Savannah’s squares, making it an agreeable place to pass through, or relax for a spell.

Live Oaks, gorgeous residences, Spanish Moss. Let’s see, there’s something missing. Ah yes, SCAD of course! There’s not a corner of the city without the university’s sticky, paint-caked fingers all over it. The college put its stamp on Pulaski Square in 1995 by purchasing its most stately building, the red brick Pulaski House. Originally built in 1915 by the Jewish Educational Alliance, it’s now used as a girl’s dormitory.

Location on our Savannah Map

Civil War Savannah
Book your Savannah Tours here

Double Shining
Cozy in Summer
Row Happyness
Iron Handle Pulaski
Spanish Moss Church
Winter Savannah
Cotton Red Door
Pulaski Square
Nature Taking Over
Savannah Gas Lamp
Narrow Buildings
Nard Street Savannah
Pulaski Fence
Savannah Heart
Pulaski House
SCAD Pulaski
Savannah Bench
Walking Tour
Pulaski Schark
Pulasky Was Here
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January 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm Comments (4)

In Love with Savannah

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Just Married in Savannah

It started as a crush. Like gum-smacking girls, giggling together at their lockers while the dreamy blue-eyed quarterback passes by, we were initially just obsessed by Savannah’s beauty. But over the course of months, we learned that this city isn’t just superficially gorgeous. It’s got a rich history, fabulous people and a unique vibe all its own. Yep, Savannah is a keeper.

We hope these photographs help reveal a little of the depth behind in Savannah’s well-advertised good looks.

Savannah Framed Photos Souvenirs

Tonight at Lucas
Sleepy Monkey
Night Monument
Retro Cigarette Vending Machine
Custom Art
Holy Sunset
Lean on me
Savannah
Classic Store Front
Main Street Savannah
Savannah Arch
Heaven So Near
Dizzy Stairs
Happy Ball
Hot Ride Savannah
Car Wash Savannah
Pink Numbers
Waiting Room
Savannah Lady
Savnanah Shells
From All Horses
Mayor of Savannah
Dirty Windows
Man Reading Newspaper
President in Savannah
Kangaroo Savannah
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January 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm Comments (9)

Savannah Close Up

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Savannah River Plantations (Images of America: Georgia)

Iron Horse

With its Gothic houses, squares and Spanish moss hanging from every tremendous Live Oak, Savannah truly makes a great first impression. But far from skin-deep, its beauty only becomes more captivating the closer you look.

Savannah Blinds
Savannah Photography
Savannah Old House
Screwed in Savannah
Savannah Cross
Criket
Cricket Savannah
Hidden Door Savannah
Savannah Cock
Savannah Bush
Savannah Gargoyle
Savannah Detail Design
Savannah Dream House
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December 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm Comments (0)

Day Trip to Beaufort

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We took a trip to Beaufort, South Carolina, which is about an hour north of Savannah. This small coastal town makes an ideal excursion, but as I realized after receiving a number of puzzled looks, it’s pronounced “Beww-furt” and not “Bow-fort.”

Beaufort Mansion

On arriving, we had made a beeline for the Old Point, which boasts incredible mansions overlooking the Beaufort River. A brochure from the Tourist Office points out all the historic homes, and there were plenty. On Laurens Street, we passed a huge brick estate built in 1852; its two stories and facade supported by four massive pillars. In the yard, an older gentleman was playing with a boxer. I asked if he owned the house, and his response was classic. “No, actually, the house owns me.”

And I don’t think he was just being clever. This is an area where the houses have more character and history than people could ever hope to attain. Even if you living in one of them, you must almost feel like a guest. The entire historic district of Beaufort was declared a National Historic Landmark, in 1973, for its gorgeous Antebellum architecture.

Although the Point was our favorite area of town, with its stunning old mansions, the city center also has a lot to offer, including some great restaurants along Bay Street. We had lunch at a stylish downtown joint called The Wren, where we wolfed down creative sandwiches stuffed with Southern specialties like fried green tomatoes.

Once we’d had our fill of food and architecture, we decided to round out our day trip to Beaufort with a hike in the Hunting Island State Park. It was a great day. And although I can’t imagine anyone would ever run out of things to do in Savannah, Beaufort makes for a great excursion, just in case.

Location of Beaufort on our Map

Beautiful Beaufort Inns and B&Bs

Beaufort Beauty
Beaufort Architecture
Banana Tree Beaufort
Beaufort Castle
Beaufort Bench
Beaufort Bench
Beaufort Lamps
Beaufort Pier
Beaufort Leaves
Beaufort Warning
Blue Flowers
Beaufort Porch
White Porch
Columns Beaufort
Crazy Tree
BMW Beaufort
Good Doggy
Cozy Beaufort
Dawg in the Hood
Fall in Beaufort
Evil Eye
Low Clearance Beaufort
Horse Ride Beaufort
Trapped Spanish Moss
Lamp With Character
Southern Design
Southern Living
Stairs to Nowhere
Stars and Stripes
Sweet Iced Tea

Beaufort Books

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December 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm Comments (6)

The Owens Thomas House – Our First Bad Experience in Savannah

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We had been excited to get into the old homes of Savannah, especially after our experience at the Scarborough House. So it was with high expectations that we visited the Owens-Thomas House on Oglethorpe Square. Unfortunately, our high expectations weren’t met, this time.

Owens Thomas House

Let’s start with the good. This house built by architect William Jay house is a masterpiece, with design elements I’ve never seen before, such as a bridge connecting the two halves of the upper floor. It was one of the first houses in America with running water, and every room has been designed with timeless elegance. Plus, the house has been remained in excellent shape. The price is initially shocking, at $20 per head, but when you consider that it includes entrance to the three sites of the Telfair Museum for a week, it becomes less outrageous.

Moving onto the bad. The first, and least understandable, problem was the unfriendliness of the ticket sellers, who treated us with an attitude that approached open contempt. It wasn’t just us; they were equally rude to the group behind us. “There are NO pictures inside!” Fine, okay. “I mean it, absolutely NO PICTURES! Not even with your phones!” I was shocked that we were being yelled at before we’d even done anything wrong.

Our tour began in the carriage house with a little history, and then we moved into the main residence, were we encountered Problem #2: our group was sandwiched between two other groups. The people ahead of us were moving too slowly, and those behind us was advancing too quickly. Our guide often became flustered, not knowing what to do with us, and we were repeatedly shoved through rooms before having a chance to properly admire them.

Problem #3: the guide, while pleasant enough, was obviously not an expert in the history of the Owens-Thomas House. As long as she stuck to the script, she was fine, but when (god forbid) we had a question, she was almost always at a loss. For example, this was an actual exchange:

“Please admire the fine engraving on the fireplace, which was based on a famous myth.”

“Interesting! What myth is that?”

“You know, that’s a good question. I have no idea, but it is a very famous myth”.

While we were waiting on the group ahead of us to move on, she would just stand there in uncomfortable silence, having exhausted the four factoids she had about, say, the kitchen. Even when we’d prompt her (“Who is that a portrait of?”), her awkward responses made us feel bad. Eventually we stopped putting her on the spot.

The worst moment came while we were viewing the balcony from which the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the Revolutionary War, once gave a famous speech. She described how he spoke “of liberty and freedom, and these things that…” And now, she turned her attention to Jürgen, whom she knew to be German. “As an outsider, you have to understand that the concepts of Freedom and Liberty are very important to us Americans.” I almost died, although Jürgen was able to answer with a grin. “Liberty? But vas ist das, mein Fräulein?”

The Owens-Thomas House could offer a rich experience, but the staff needs to get its act together. The docents should study up, the ticket ladies should take an etiquette course, and customers who’ve just paid $20 should not be rushed through. From reading online reviews, I don’t think our experience was a fluke. It’s a missed opportunity for the city.

Location on our Savannah Map

Buy Spanish Moss Online

Savannah Bush
William Jay
Savannah Architecture
Savannah Detail
Owens Towers
Owens Thomas Garden
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November 26, 2010 at 9:58 am Comments (16)

The Scarborough House: Ships of the Sea

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On MLK Boulevard near River Street, one of Savannah’s most historic houses has been converted into a museum called The Ships of the Sea. The 1819 Scarborough House was designed in the Greek Revival style by architectural wunderkind William Jay, who was responsible for many of the city’s best houses of that time period.

Scarborough Savannah

William Scarborough was an early American from North Carolina, who made his fortune in shipping. He was perhaps best known as the mastermind behind the famous S.S. Savannah, the first steamship to successfully cross the Atlantic. Although it was one of the city’s proudest moments, luring even President Monroe to commemorate the occasion, the venture was a commercial failure and Scarborough fell into bankruptcy. His handsome house was sold off at auction, and would serve as both an orphanage and Savannah’s first public school for black children, before finally being abandoned and falling into ruin.

In 1972, the Historic Savannah Foundation stepped in and begun restoration on the house. Keeping in mind Scarborough’s line of work, the house was converted into a maritime museum. The Ships of the Sea boasts large scale model ships, and a wealth of information about the lines which operated out of Savannah, and famous ships from around the world.

I’ve never been the least bit interested in boats, so I didn’t expect the museum to impress me. But it did. We really enjoyed our visit to the Scarborough House, which is just as interesting for its architecture as for the exhibition pieces. The model ships were incredible, their stories interesting, and we loved the collection of nautical equipment and scrimshaw.

Ships of the Sea – Website
Location on our Savannah Map

Savannah History Books

Savannah Flag
Savannah Steam
Pulaski Ship
Ship Museum
Ships of the Sea
Scarborough House
Ship Painting
Sailing USA
Ship Models
Master Ship
Modern Savannah
Boat Doctor
Feather Letter
Seamen Instrument
Ship Dude
Savannah Lady
Sailor Valentine
Old World Globe
Sailor Savannah
Captain Uniform
Scrborough Museum
Tusk Miniature Ship
Big Boy Egg
Sailor Toy
Prostitution Cat
Titanic in Savnanah
Fancy Bucket
Techno Flower
Trumpet Flower
Savannah Bench
canon hole
Good Night
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November 17, 2010 at 5:25 pm Comments (7)

Washington Square

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The most northeastern of Savannah’s squares, Washington is a lovely garden in a quiet residential neighborhood. It was named in honor of our first president, who visited the city shortly after his election.

Savannah Houses

Originally the site of the Trustee’s Garden, Washington Square is well cared-for and regarded as one of the most beautiful squares in Savannah. Betrothed couples often choose this as the location for their wedding portraits. In fact, the first time we visited Washington Sqaure, a pair was posing together on the benches, running hand-in-hand down the sidewalk, and throwing bunches of leaves up into the air. (I don’t know why wedding photographers always instruct couples to act like idiots, but it was fun watching them. “Now jump in the air! I love it. Rub your noses together! Yaaasss, just like that. Hop on one leg and bray like donkeys! Fantastic!”)

A number of interesting buildings surround Washington Square, such as the International Seamen’s House and the Mulberry Inn, an elegant hotel which started life as a cotton warehouse before becoming a Coca-Cola bottling factory. We pretended to be guests, here, so that we could use the bathrooms. Gentlemen such as Jürgen and myself will only sneak into the finest bathrooms! And this one was pretty good so, despite our having never stayed there, the Mulberry earns our seal of approval!

Location on our Savannah Map of Squares

Savannah Books

Washington Sq Savannah
Washington Square
Horse Tour Savannah
Houston Street Savannah
Savannah Architecture
Savannah Porch
Savannah Squares
Savannah USA
Seman House Savannah
Oyster Streets Savannah
Alice in Savannah Land
Candy Houses Savannah
Candy Hydrant Savannah
Typical Savannah
Mulberry Savannah Inn
Mulberry Inn
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November 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm Comments (2)
Inside a Savannah Mansion On New Year's Eve, we were invited into the home of an old-school Savannahian. Our soft-spoken host, Alvin, was a true southern gentleman, as gracious as possible, and both his character and his house seemed to be straight from the pages of some Victorian Gothic novel.
For 91 Days