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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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Harper-Fowlkes House Website
Stephen-Williams House Inn – Website

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

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)

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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December 8, 2010 at 6:09 pm Comments (5)

Drayton Glassworks

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Biking home with a fresh loaf of bread from the Back in the Day Bakery, we passed a tiny shop in which someone was at work blowing glass. Curiosity stoked, we returned to the Drayton Glassworks a couple days later to meet Jonathan Poirier, a Rhode Island native who spent years in Sweden learning the art of glass blowing.

Drayton Glass Works

While heating, blowing, spinning and shaping colored glass into the form of bottles, Jon told us about his life and the shop. He’s been in Savannah since 2001, building a reputation as one of the best glass blowers in the country. Despite industrialization having long-ago made glass-crafting largely obsolete, Jon has been able to find plenty of customers looking for unique, hand-made pieces.

I was amazed that he could continue to work, not missing a stride, while carrying on a conversation with us. This is clearly something he’s been doing for a long while, and he’s able to perform the spinning, shaping and blowing almost on automatic. To us, these tasks looked insanely complicated, and I almost had a heart attack a couple times as he swung around a nearly-completed vase, without paying any attention to it.

Drayton Glass Works

When we returned to Savannah five years later, we checked in on Jon and his business. Nothing had changed; Jon was still the same friendly, funny guy, and it was great to catch up. One new thing he’s added to Drayton Glassworks is the opportunity for people to participate in workshops and create their own piece of glass-blown art. Check out his Facebook page, if you’re interested.

And definitely make sure to stop by his shop, to check out the pieces he’s made, and perhaps have a chance to see how it’s done. It’s really more a workshop than a store, and he’s always busy creating something new.

Location on our Savannah Map
Drayton Glassworks – Facebook

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Jonathan Poirier

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November 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm Comments (6)
Orleans Square 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.
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