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Spanish Moss: Neither Spanish nor Moss

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I clearly remember the first time we entered Savannah, and turned onto 37th Street, where we would be living for three months. Huge oak trees canopied the street and random rays of sunlight squeezed past the Spanish moss, which hung apathetically off branches like the embodiment of sorrow. Years from now, when I shut my eyes and think “Savannah,” Spanish moss washed in sunlight will be what I see.

New Spanish Moss

Spanish moss doesn’t come from Spain. It’s indigenous to the Southeastern US, with a range between Florida, Maryland and Texas. There are a bunch of stories for why it’s named after the Spanish, but the most likely explanation is that the newly-arrived British thought this odd, mossy plant looked like the graying beards of their Spanish rivals.

And not only is Spanish moss not Spanish, it also isn’t a moss. It’s an airborne plant which takes its nutrients directly from the air. It’s actually a member of the same family as the pineapple, which is just bizarre enough to be true. Spanish moss doesn’t harm the trees it rests on, which are predominately Live Oaks and Bald Cypresses.

One of the first things we learned in Savannah was not to touch the Spanish moss, because of the red, biting bugs which live on it. Of course, this lesson was learned immediately after we had fashioned a “hilarious” moss coat for our dog, and wigs for ourselves.

I’ve often wondered to what extent the Spanish moss unconsciously influences life in the South. It fits perfectly in Savannah, creating an atmosphere of mystery and beauty, and it’s impossible to imagine the city without it.

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New Spanish Moss
New Spanish Moss
New Spanish Moss
New Spanish Moss
New Spanish Moss
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January 24, 2011 at 7:56 pm Comments (6)

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
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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)

Ellis Square

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Laid out in 1733, Ellis Square has the distinction of being one of Oglethorpe’s original four squares, along with Johnson, Telfair and Wright. It also has the distinction of being the most singularly ugly of all Savannah’s squares.

Ellis Square

In 1954, before the historic preservation movement really got going, Ellis Square was sold to business interests that demolished it and built a parking lot. It’s actually an ironic twist, that Ellis Square might be sold off and lose its dignity. Before the Civil War, this was the site of Savannah’s slave market. Karma can be tough.

The parking company’s 50-year lease ended in 2004 and Savannah wasted no time in redeveloping the square. But from an aesthetic viewpoint, there’s little doubt they did a poor job with the development. Perhaps they wanted something more modern and daring, but Ellis has none of its siblings’ charm. With plain cement in a circular shape and a total lack of vegetation, most tourists don’t even realize they’re in one of Savannah’s most historic spots.

The chintzy tourism zone of City Market sprouts off to the west of Ellis Square, where a statue of Johnny Mercer leans happily against his fire hydrant, And Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons is nearby. But unless you’re desperate for a bench to stretch out on, after consuming too much greasy food, there’s not much reason to spend time in Ellis.

Location on our Savannah Map

Listen more to Johnny Mercer

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Mercer Statue
Closed Stores Savannah
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January 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm Comments (6)

Skidaway Island

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Skidaway Island is one of Savannah’s larger coastal islands, found just past the Isle of Hope. Home to a state park popular with campers, it provides yet another great escape from the city.

Savannah Day Trip

There are campgrounds at Skidaway State Park, but since we don’t have a tent, we just spent a few sunny hours exploring the woods. There are a couple trails to choose from, and we went with the three-mile Big Ferry Trail. It was secluded and peaceful, and we enjoyed the views of oaks covered in Spanish moss, swampy marshes and shell middens.

The trail was almost too simple and the three miles passed by in a flash. We came upon a Prohibition-era bootlegging spot with barrels still rotting in place, and earthworks from the Civil War where Confederates prepared for a Union assault that never came. Near the water, there’s an observation deck from where people more invested than us might spot a bird or two.

Perhaps the most fun we had on Skidaway Island was driving east past the state park. Well, as far east as we could manage. This side of the island is dominated by gated communities with names like The Landings and Deer Run. There were a lot of SUVs and a lot of churches, all of which were busy, since it was Sunday. State parks, churches and gated communities… Skidaway might be the perfect representation of a certain type of American dream.

Location on our Savannah Map

Take The Savannah Ghost and Gravestone Tour

Savannah Hiking
Tree Wall
Tarzan Paradise
Haunted Island
Marsh Walk
Skidaway Island
Baumrinde
Shrooms
Savannah Island
Moss Carpet
Bowing Tree
Bootleg
Flying Over Savannah
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January 13, 2011 at 9:28 am Comment (1)

Wormsloe Plantation

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Located on the Isle of Hope, just twenty minutes by car Savannah, Wormsloe Plantation is a gorgeous historic site which allows visitors to explore both a museum and a couple nature trails. And this must be one of the only sites in America whose most memorable feature is its driveway.

Wormsloe Gate

Pulling into the plantation, the scene is breathtaking. Hundreds of live oaks tower over a straight road which leads deep into the coastal forest. Speed along the path is limited to 15 mph, but most visitors will want to proceed even slower. The oaks, evenly spaced apart and draped with Spanish moss, create a scene of incredible beauty, particularly on days when the sunlight filters through the foliage.

Wormsloe was established by Noble Jones, an English official who came to Georgia with Oglethorpe and the original settlers… and who had the coolest name of any of them. And throughout the succeeding generations, this plantation has continued to provide a home to the same family. Wormsloe’s mansion is still a private residence, although it’s opened often to fundraising events and private parties. When we visited, preparations for a wedding reception were in gear.

Wormsloe Library

There’s a museum dedicated to the area, with colonial and Native American artifacts that have been found here. But we paid it scant attention, wishing to spend more time outdoors; it was a beautiful day, and Wormsloe’s walking trails were calling to us. They brought us by the tabby ruins of Noble Jones’ original residence, and the shell middens left by the Isle of Hope’s original inhabitants: the Yuchi and Creek Tribes. We even found a makeshift “Colonial Village”, complete with a wooden house and big tools used by the settlers.

Wormsloe Plantation is one of the most photographed spots in Savannah, and for good reason. The grounds are simply stunning, and its proximity to the city makes it a favorite spot for day trips. Nature lovers and history buffs (and really, just about everyone) will find plenty to enjoy, here.

Location on Map
Wormsloe Historic Site – Website

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Wormsloe
Wormsloe Georgia
Wormsloe Chimney
Wormsloe Knecht
Fake Flowers
Wormsloe Lady
Antique Inbox
Secret Gardens
Deer Statue
Frida-Renne-Barrow
Relax in Savannah
Spanish Moss House
Plantation Ruin
Wormsloe Grave
Savannah Nature
Wormsloe Palms
Wormsloe Root
Tree Skin
Travel Blogger
Lost Bird
Wormsloe Bridge
Fuzzy Moss
Mogli Jungle Book
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January 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm Comments (5)

Greene Square

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Named after revolutionary hero Nathaniel Greene, whose monument and burial site is at Johnson Square, Greene Square was laid out in the 1790s and developed into the center of Savannah’s black population. With a number of beautiful homes encircling it, it’s one of the city’s more enchanting squares.

Bachelor House Savannah

The Second African Baptist Church on the northeast side of Greene Square was built in 1802. Though destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1925, it retains much of its original interior, such as its benches, chairs and pulpit. This is where General Sherman famously promised to provide each freed slave “40 acres and a mule” after the Civil War.

Pay attention for signs around Greene Square, which reveal the original street names. President Street was originally King Street, and Congress Street was once called Prince Street. (After the American Revolution, we didn’t have any desire to continue honoring the monarchy.) Other signs provide information about Greene Square’s homes. The house on 521 East York Street was built from the famous Savannah gray bricks of the Hermitage Plantation, and at 124 Houston, there’s an early 19th-century wood and stucco house built by Isaiah Davenport; one of the prominent architect’s few remaining structures in Savannah.

Greene Square itself has no monuments or fountains, but is rich in contrast. And its charming houses make it one of the must-see squares in Savannah.

Location on our Savannah Map

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Savannah Jungle
Greene Square
Ginger Bread Savannah
How Many Squares in Savannah
Savannah Fern
Prince Street Savannah
President Street Savannah 1733
Savannah Chimney
Savannah Front Doors
Savannah Flames
Iron Works Savannah
Haunted Tree
The White House
1797 Hand Shake
Blue House Savannah
Gingerbread Houses Savannah
Second African Baptist Church
Baptist Church
Savannah Palms

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History of Savannah Squares
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January 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm Comments (3)

Telfair Square

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Originally called St. James Square after the famous London park, Telfair Square was renamed in 1833 in honor of Savannah’s VIP-iest family. It was one the city’s original four squares and, for a long time, its most fashionable district.

Telfair Square

The four walking paths which cut through Telfair Square create a tic-tac-toe pattern in the grass. In the northeastern quadrant, there’s a curious monument in the form of a nautilus shell, and a tribute to the Girl Scouts in the southeast. The Girl Scouts, I can understand, since they were founded in Savannah. But the shell monument is a total mystery.

The Telfair Academy sits along the western side of the square. Done in Regency style by William Jay, the Telfair is the oldest public art museum in the South, housing both classic European paintings and regional art. The museum is gorgeous but rather small, so the Jepson Center, on Telfair Square’s southern border, was opened in 2006 to accommodate modern works. Between the two art museums is the Greek Revival-style Trinity Methodist Church, built in 1847.

In stark contrast to the classically beautiful buildings of the western side and the modernist audacity of the Jepson Center, two tiled government buildings occupy the eastern end of Telfair Square. When I say “tiles”, I mean “bathroom tiles”. These are ugly buildings, which really stick out in this otherwise gorgeous corner of Savannah.

Location of Telfair Square

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Telfair Square
Telfair Square
Telfair Square
Telfair Square
Telfair Square
Telfair Shell
Savannah Fall
Girl Scouts Savannah
Government Savannah
Mercedes Oldtimer
Mercedes USA
Savannah Trees
Visit Savannah
Savannah Jungle
Telfair Bird
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November 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm Comment (1)

Bonaventure Cemetery – Good Fortune Comes to Those Who Die

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Known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the entire country, Bonaventure is found on the outskirts of Savannah, bordering the Wilmington River across from Whitemarsh Island. Its name means “Good Fortune,” and those buried on its grounds might certainly consider themselves fortunate. There are worse places to rest in eternal slumber.

Haunted Gracie

Bonaventure is a place of haunting beauty, where Spanish Moss hangs sorrowfully from every tree, casting broken light onto solemn fields of gravestones. The cemetery is large, and one which you could spend hours exploring, discovering tombstones of exquisite craftsmanship, and other most notable for their peculiarity. There’s one in the form of a broken tree trunk. A grinning marathon runner. Obelisks and gates. Downcast girls holding flowers. Underground crypts. And of course, there’s little Gracie Watson.

Of all Bonaventure’s ghosts, the most famous is that of Gracie Watson. In life, the vivacious daughter of the manager of the Pulaski House had been beloved by neighbors and well-known to the hotel’s guests. But pneumonia wasn’t impressed by Little Gracie’s charms. Pneumonia snuffed her out at the age of six. Her grief-stricken father commissioned a statue to mark her grave, and ever since, there have been rumors of the soft sobbing of a little girl in Bonaventure. The statue supposedly sheds tears, and screams out at night if a flower has been removed.

Besides Gracie, a number of famous people rest their bones in Bonaventure, including Johnny Mercer, Conrad Aiken and Henry R. Jackson. One statue you won’t find there, though, is the Bird Girl statue, which graced the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: it’s been moved to the Telfair Museum of Art, for safekeeping.

Location on our Google Map

Bonaventure Books

Haunted Cemetery
Savannah Bonaventure
Crossed Roses
Fire Bush
Spanish Moss
Spritz
Savannah Cemetery
Cemetery Fence
Crypt
Crypt Door
Grave Iron Art
Bonaventure
Barefeet Savannah
Little Eddie
Boyd Grave
Scary Grave Stone
Herschback Savannah
Blind
Bonaventure Savannah
Pyramid Savannah
Broken Angel
Haunted Gracie
Little Gracie Story
Bulldog Grave
Ana Meyer Savannah
Dreamy Places
Grave Flowers
Dead Mother
Grave Roses
Sad Child
Graveyard roses
River Gate
Jungle Graveyard
Palm Cemetery
Windy Girl
Stone Wreath
Two Angels
Mercer Bonaventure
Waveyard
Mother Angel
Urnes
Spooky Savannah
Face of Bonaventure
Soldier Grave
Dead Golfer
Sad Angel
Bonaventure Marathon
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November 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm Comments (17)

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)

Forsyth Park

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Occupying 30 acres between Drayton and Whitaker Street, Forsyth is Savannah’s answer to NYC’s Central Park. It’s not as massive as its counterpart, but blends more seamlessly into the city, and has long been a part of its history.

Forsyth Fountain Park

Forsyth Park was built in the 1840s and christened in honor of John Forsyth, a former statesman and Georgian governor. The park’s massive fountain, crowned with a female figure and flanked by spitting geese, was inspired by the fountain in Paris’ Plaza de la Concorde. With water shooting haphazardly in all directions, it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks of Savannah, appearing in films like 1962’s Cape Fear and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Three monuments in Forsyth Park commemorate Savannah’s contribution to American wars. To the north, there’s one for the Vietnam War. An impressively large memorial to the Civil War’s Confederate dead is in the park’s center, with the biblical inscription: “Come from the four winds, o’ breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (It’s a touching line, but one which reveals disturbing pro-zombie tendencies; The Walking Dead is filmed in Georgia, isn’t it?). And at the southern end is an interesting tribute to the Spanish-American war, in which the US helped liberate Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam from Spanish influence.

Forsyth Fountain Park

Though the northern third of the park is shaded and tree-filled, the rest is wide open, with flat lawns that host weekend picnics and pick-up sports. There’s a café, a visitors center and an open-air stage for summer concerts, as well as something I’d never heard of before: a Fragrant Garden for the Blind. The gate was locked, but I stuck my nose through the bars and took a long whiff. It smelled of trash and roses.

During our first few days in Savannah, we had already crossed through Forsyth Park multiple times. Practically an extended pedestrian-only section of Bull Street, it’s as much a thoroughfare as a destination, and I had a feeling we’d be getting to know the park intimately.

Location on our Savannah Map

Cheap Flights To Savnnah

Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
Forsyth Fountain Park
haunted Moss
Mega Moss
Savannah Tree
Invasion Spanish Moss
Moss Statue
Confederate Savannah
Confederate Savannah
Confedereate Statue
Confederate
Spanish Soldier
Spanish American War
Fragrance Garden Savannah
Savannah Mushrooms
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November 5, 2010 at 8:12 pm Comments (9)
Spanish Moss: Neither Spanish nor Moss I clearly remember the first time we entered Savannah, and turned onto 37th Street, where we would be living for three months. Huge oak trees canopied the street and random rays of sunlight squeezed past the Spanish moss, which hung apathetically off branches like the embodiment of sorrow. Years from now, when I shut my eyes and think "Savannah," Spanish moss washed in sunlight will be what I see.
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