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Reynolds Square

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At the top of Abercorn Street is Reynolds Square, originally laid out in 1734 as Lower New Square, but renamed in honor of the Royal Governor John Reynolds.

John Wesley

A stern statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, dominates the center of the square. The British preacher arrived in Savannah on an invitation from Oglethorpe, to be the new city’s religious leader. He soon found himself in trouble, involving himself romantically with a young woman, only to later refuse her communion after their affair came to an end. She brought suit against him, but he fled to Britain and never returned to Georgia. The statue strikes an imposing figure, with Wesley forcefully clenching a Bible that looks small in his over-sized hands. He looks like the jerk he probably was.

The northeast trust lot of Reynolds Square was originally home to the colonial filature, where silk from the experimental Trustees Garden was be spun. The garden’s planters spent a lot of time in around Reynolds Square, and the names of the surrounding buildings reflect that fact. The Planters Inn is a 200-year old hotel on the southwest side of the square and the tavern on the bottom floor of the Pink House is called Planters Tavern.

We walked about Reynolds Square somewhat wistfully. Three months ago, we’d started with a list of 22 squares to explore and document, and this was the last one. When we’d began this project, I was worried that it would be too repetitive; I mean, how different can twenty-two square-shaped plots of land be? But each of Savannah’s squares has its own personality, from the monumental to the placid, and its own history. It was a true pleasure to get to know each, individually.

Location on our Savannah Map

All 24 Savannah Squares

Reynolds Square Savannah
Reynolds Square
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January 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm Comments (2)

Madison Square

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Madison Square, on Bull Street between Chippewa and Monterey Square, is possibly the most monumental in Savannah. With a magnificent tribute to William Jasper as its centerpiece, Madison offers a wealth of things to see and do.

William Jasper

South Carolinian revolutionary hero Sgt. Jasper was mortally wounded during the Siege of Savannah. He had found fame during an earlier battle with the British, when he recovered a shot-down South Carolina flag and held it aloft in the midst of heavy fighting. The statue in Madison Square pays tribute to that event, and includes other scenes from his life.

Madison Sqaure’s southern flank is symbolically protected by defunct cannons from the Savannah armory. And a monument to the ill-fated 1779 siege, which cost both Jasper and Casimir Pulaski their lives, can be found in the square.

Around Madison, there’s enough to occupy an entire afternoon. You can visit the Green-Meldrim House, where General Sherman famously stayed during his sojourn in Savannah. With its cast-iron fence and extended covered porch, this National Historic Landmark from 1861 is a stunning example of the Gothic Revival style, and is connected to St. John’s Episcopal Church. According to legend, the ladies of the congregation, offended by the next-door presence of the enemy Yankee, rang the bells through the night, without pause. Sherman responded by having the bells removed.

Green Meldrin Garden

On the northwest corner of Madison is one of Savannah’s most famous residences: The Sorrel-Weed House. One of Savannah’s best examples of Greek Revival and Regency architecture, the house is the subject of numerous ghost stories.

Across Bull Street is of Savannah’s most unfortunate buildings: the Hilton DeSoto. An ugly, towering blight on the city’s skyline, the Hilton has loomed over the middle of Savannah since 1966, when it replaced the lovely red brick DeSoto hotel. Continuing clockwise around the square brings you to the most popular independent bookshop in Savannah, E. Shaver’s, where Jürgen and I stocked up on Savannah literature, during our first week in the city.

On the southeast corner of Madison is the SCAD shop, which is the perfect spot to hunt for unique gifts. And should you need a break while touring the houses and shops of Madison Square, you can stop in at the popular Gryphon Tea Room. With its high ceilings, cozy furniture and classy interior, this former pharmacy is a great place to relax tired feet.

Location on our Savannah Map

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Madison Square
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January 26, 2011 at 1:49 pm Comment (1)

Warren Square

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Laid out in 1791, Warren Square was named in honor of General Joseph Warren, a Revolutionary hero from Massachusetts who was killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren Square itself looks like a battlefield, in the eternal fight between the forces of preservation and development.

Warren Square

A hulking parking lot mars the western side of the square, damaging Warren’s aesthetics and rudely truncating lovely St. Julian Street, which is notable for the oyster shells in its pavement. Turn your attention to the east, however, and an entirely different picture emerges.

On Habersham and St. Julian, there are a number of splendidly restored houses, some of which were moved here from other locations. With its Savannah gray brick, the house at 420-422 E. St. Julian is particularly striking, as it’s so isolated from other buildings. Another nicely restored house is at 24 Habersham, built in 1797 by a plantation owner from Daufuskie Island. It hosted the Marquis de Lafyette in 1825, and later served as a makeshift hospital during a yellow fever epidemic.

Warren Square itself is almost completely nondescript. There’s a pretty yard, but no statues or markers of any kind. But with its location near the river and the beauty of the homes on the east side, there are reasons swing through the square… especially since you probably parked in that hideous garage, anyway.

Location on our Savannah Map

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January 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm Comment (1)

Oglethorpe Square

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Oglethorpe Square was laid out in 1742, the last of the six squares that were originally planned for Savannah. It was originally known as Upper New Square, but that bland name was soon tossed out in favor of a tribute to Georgia’s colonial founder, James Oglethorpe.

Ogletherpe Square

The statue of James Oglethorpe perhaps got lost on the way to its eternal home, and can be found in nearby Chippewa Square. The only monument to be found in Oglethorpe Square is a small pilaster honoring the Moravian immigrants who moved to Savannah during the colony’s founding. Otherwise, it’s just oaks, grass, benches and Spanish moss.

Oglethorpe is beautiful and restful, but not among the most impressive of Savannah’s squares. The main features are the Regency-style Owens Thomas House, on the eastern trust lot, and the President’s Quarters Inn to the southeast. On the western trust lot are a couple of handsome brick buildings.

Location of Oglethorpe Square on our Savannah Map

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Ogletherpe Square
Ogletherpe Square
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Ogletherpe Square
Winter Shorts
Oglethorp Sq
Bushy Savannah
Broken Lamp
Iron Cast Balcony
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January 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm Comments (10)

Lafayette Square

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Lafayette Square, on the intersection of Abercorn and Macon, is named in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who became a major Revolutionary War hero and impressed Savannah with a speech delivered from the balcony of the Owens Thomas House.

Lafayette Square Savannah

Surrounding the square are a number of interesting buildings, including 1839’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the biggest Catholic church in the region. The city’s Catholic population had to wait for a long time, for a proper cathedral — Savannah was founded over a hundred years prior. But don’t forget that for the first phase of its history, this city was so suspicious of Catholics, and their possible ties to Spanish Florida, that the religion had been banned.

On the western side of the square is the Andrew Low House. Andrew’s feisty daughter-in-law Juliette would found the Girl Scouts in this property’s carriage house, unwittingly releasing the horror of Thin Mints on future generations. If only she had lived to see what she had wrought! Directly across the square we find the Hamilton Turner Inn, an elegant hotel with individually named and decorated rooms. It was the first house in Savannah with electricity, and gained infamy after falling under the care of Joe Odom, the party man so colorfully depicted in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Another house of note is the childhood home of Flannery O’Connor, on the southern side of the square at 207 East Charlton Street. The famous author spent her first 13 years of life, and it’s hard to imagine that Savannah’s Southern Gothic atmosphere, along with her house’s location across from the Catholic church, didn’t have a major influence on her writing. The home can be visited by appointment.

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The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist – Website
Andrew Low House – Website
Hamilton-Turner Inn – Website
Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home – Website

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Lafayette Square Savannah
Lafayette Square Savannah
Lafayette Square Savannah
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La Fayette Square
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December 8, 2010 at 6:09 pm Comments (5)

The 24 Squares of Savannah

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At the time of its founding in 1733, Savannah was the first North American city planned around public squares. General Oglethorpe’s grand design for his new capital called for four squares to serve as gardens and meeting areas. The western and eastern sides of each square were reserved for public buildings, such as churches and government offices, while the northern and southern ends were for private residences, called tything blocks.

Savannah was the original capital of Georgia, the last of the original thirteen colonies, and its logical design won it fame around the world. The plan was far-sighted, allowing for over a century of growth, always replicating the square system further outward. By the mid 19th century, there were a total of twenty-four.

From the largest (Johnson) to the smallest (Crawford), each of Savannah’s twenty-four squares has its own history and personality. We made a promise to fully explore each of them during our three months here, and learn their stories and secrets. It was a promise we kept.

1. Franklin
2. Ellis
3. Johnson
4. Reynolds
5. Warren
6. Washington
7. Liberty (lost)
8. Telfair
9. Wright
10. Oglethorpe
11. Columbia
12. Greene
13. Elbert (lost)
14. Orleans
15. Chippewa
16. Crawford
17. Pulaski
18. Madison
19. Lafayette
20. Troup
21. Chatham
22. Monterey
23. Calhoun
24. Whitefield

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November 7, 2010 at 4:26 pm Comments (11)
Reynolds Square At the top of Abercorn Street is Reynolds Square, originally laid out in 1734 as Lower New Square, but renamed in honor of the Royal Governor John Reynolds.
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