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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.

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All 24 Savannah Squares

Reynolds Square Savannah
Reynolds Square
Horse Carriage Tour Savannah
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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.

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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.

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

Orleans Square

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Orleans Square, on Barnard Street, might as well be called Parking Lot Square. It’s one of the spaces which has been most negatively impacted by the development boom of the mid-20th century.

Orleans Fountain

The square itself could be quite charming, with a large central fountain dedicated to the German immigrants to Savannah that was installed on the 250th anniversary of the founding of Georgia. But once you take your eyes off the ground and look around, the charm vanishes. The biggest blight is the Civic Center, whose backside and rear parking area mar the western end of Orleans Square. Five of the eight lots which surround Orleans are dedicated to parking. Another is occupied by SCAD’s gym.

Luckily, the houses which do survive on Orleans are beautiful, particularly the Harper-Fowlkes House on 230 Barnard. Built in 1842 in the Greek Revival style, this house is occasionally open for tours and also serves as the Georgia headquarters for the Society of the Cincinnati. This house can be toured. Another noteworthy home on Orleans is the Stephen-Williams House, constructed in 1834 in the Federal style. It’s currently an inn with individually-designed rooms.

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Stephen-Williams House Inn – Website

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Orleans Spanish Moss
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January 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm Comments (5)

The Inescapable Influence of The Book

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Before we moved to Savannah, me, Jürgen and four-year-old Xiao Liang of Taiwan were the only three people on Earth who hadn’t read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. And now, noble Xiao stands alone. Jürgen and I have buckled down and read “The Book.”

Midnight Garden of Good and Evil

And it was great! We had already become relatively familiar with the city, and the characters and locations leaped right off the page. Berendt has an amazing talent for description, and a knack for mixing his way into interesting situations and meeting bizarre, charismatic people. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil still holds the record for the length of time spent on the New York Times bestseller list, and there’s a reason for it.

But, man, after living in Savannah, did we get tired of hearing about “The Book.” I wonder if another city has ever capitalized so much on a single work of art. I doubt that even Bethlehem milks the Bible as outrageously as Savannah does Midnight. Copies of it can be found everywhere in the city, on every bookshelf, and on sale in every shop… even clothes stores! There are tours of The Book’s locations, an entire store shop dedicated to it, and fans can even tour the Mercer House on Monterey Square, where Clint Eastwood’s adaptation was filmed.

While I loved Midnight, I’m glad I didn’t read until after we’d lived in Savannah for awhile, otherwise I might have been tempted to follow in Berendt’s footsteps exactly. But sometimes we can’t help ourselves. He documented this city in such a unique and engaging way, it’s hard to resist repeating his experiences. For example, how could we not visit Club One to watch the fabulous Lady Chablis do her thing? And after reading Berendt’s description of it, of course we were going to eat at Clary’s! I suppose that, as far as guidebooks go, you could do a lot worse than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Buy The BookThe Movie or take The Tour

Where is the bird statue now?
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Mercer House Savannah
Danny Hansford
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January 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm Comments (6)

Crawford Square

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Laid out in 1841, Crawford is the only of Savannah’s squares with recreational equipment: a basketball court, won by the neighborhood after a 1946 tournament. Found on Houston Street, the square was named after native son William Harris Crawford, who was Secretary of the Treasury and who unsuccessfully ran for President in 1824.

Crawford Sq Gazebo

At one time, all of Savannah’s squares were fenced in, but only Crawford remains so. It’s also retained its cistern, from the days when Savannah’s fire department kept a station in every square. The fence, the cistern and the basketball court give Crawford a unique feel. And with a gazebo in the center and azaleas which explode in bloom during the spring, Crawford definitely manages to charm.

In the days of Jim Crow, when segregation was the law of the land, Crawford was the only square which blacks were permitted to use. It’s a historically black neighborhood, and today a quiet, peaceful one. It’s also the former home of the fabulous Lady Chablis, who lived in a house bordering the square, during her rise to fame.

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New Savannah Sqaure
New Savannah Sqaure
New Savannah Sqaure
Basket Ball Savannah
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Savannah NO NO s
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Places to Rest
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January 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm Comment (1)

Troup Square

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Built in 1851, Troup is one of Savannah’s smaller squares. It was named after George Troup, a former governor known his strident support of slavery and anti-Indian policies. It might be because of these unappealing views, that the square’s central monument is not a statue of Troup, but a strange, archaic globe.

Savannah Squares

Troup Square may lay claim to Savannah’s most curious monument, with its Armillary Sphere. This was a model used to track celestial orbits, invented by the Greeks and made obsolete by the invention of the telescope. The sphere an odd choice for the middle of a square in Savannah, which wasn’t founded until well after the instrument was out of use. (You know where else you can find an Armillary Sphere? Portugal’s flag. Don’t ask me why.)

Troup Square

Another strange feature of Troup Square is its doggy drinking fountain, moved here from its original location in Forsyth Park. It doesn’t even bother with spouts for humans, and is the reason some residents refer to this area as “Dog Bone Square”.

Troup Square isn’t done confusing you, yet. Another oddity is that this is the birthplace of Jingle Bells. You know that song that goes, “Dashing through pleasantly mild winters, in a picturesque Victorian district, round the squares we go, drinking from plastic cups all the way.” The Unitarian Universalist Church, on the square’s west side, is where James Pierpoint, the brother of the church’s reverend, wrote the famous song. Why he was inspired to write a song about sleighing and wintry fun, as he gazed out onto Troup Square is anyone’s guess.

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January 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm Comments (7)

Alex Raskin Antiques

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I found myself in the middle of a fevered dream. Alone on the third floor of a house on Monterey Square, I knocked about a room filled with antiques. Chinese vases, broken beds, faded photographs in golden frames with faces I faintly recognized. I climbed steps to the fourth floor and looked out a broken window at the nearby Mercer-Williams House. I shuddered. It was cold and in my haste to leave, I stumbled, nearly crashing into a warped, full-length mirror. “Time to wake up, Mikey”.

Antik Geschäft

But this was no dream. I really was inside this mansion filled with unbelievable antiques. I’ve never seen a store quite like Alex Raskin Antiques, at 441 Bull Street. Mr. Raskin has operating out of the Noble-Hardee mansion for twenty-five years, and has spent most of that time filling it with finds made at auctions around the world. We went inside knowing full well that we couldn’t afford to buy anything, but just wanted to see the house. Paint is peeling off the walls and windows are broken, but the dilapidation adds enormously to the charm. The guy working allowed us to wander around at our leisure, and the sheer vastness of the place won us over immediately.

If you’re in the market for antiques, or even if you’re not, don’t hesitate to visit Alex Raskins. There are some wonderful and strange pieces of art, and the eerie feeling inside this historic, deteriorated house is one-of-a-kind.

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January 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm Comments (13)

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.

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Double Shining
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January 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm Comments (4)

Old Town Trolley Tours

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Hey, you know what Savannah has plenty of? Tours. Carriage tours, walking tours, hearse tours, haunted tours, pub tours, haunted pub tours, Civil War tours, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tours.

Best Trolley Tour in Savannah

Hold on, I’m just getting started! Black history tours, Girl Scout tours, dolphin tours, gates and gardens tours, Paula Deen tours. And trolley tours. Lord, are there trolley tours. There are more trolleys than cars in Savannah. There are more trolleys than blades of grass! Yesterday, I got hit by a trolley on the street and another trolley rushed me to the hospital, which was itself inside a trolley. The Hospital Trolley Tour. It’s awesome, check it out.

So we’ve done a few trolley tours. How could we not? I won’t mention the less impressive ones: the dumpy ones with plastic covering the windows, you know who you are. If you’re planning on taking a tour in Savannah, hunt down the Old Town Trolley. They’re orange and green, and impossible to miss. The tour is a little more expensive than some of the others, but worth the extra money.

The trolleys have sparkling clean glass windows, none of this plastic nonsense, and the driver we had managed to be both interesting and legitimately funny. Often, these tour guides rely upon the same old corny jokes… but Savannah seems to have its share of colorful and amusing folks, and at least some of them work for Old Town Trolley.

The tour is long and comprehensive; perfect for people who don’t have all that much time in the city, and want to see as much as possible in one shot. You can hop and and off as often as you want during the day, so it’s an easy way to navigate Savannah’s deceptively large historic district.

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January 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm Comment (1)

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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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