The Massie Heritage Center
Located on Calhoun Square, the Massie School opened its doors in 1856, and was the first public school in Georgia. Today, it’s been converted into the Massie Heritage Center, featuring an overview of Savannah’s unique urban planning, and exhibits dedicated to the most important aspects of the city’s culture, from architecture to the Native American influence.
The Massie Heritage Center provides a great introduction to Savannah. In the first room, you’ll find a large-scale model of the historic district, complete with a laser show that highlights important events in the city’s history. Just as interesting is a walk through the various architectural styles which can be found in Savannah. From Colonial to Contemporary, seventeen styles are detailed, with their periods of prominence and photographic examples from around in the city.
The Heritage Center is spread across two floors in three buildings. The central building was the former schoolhouse, while the buildings to the left and right were the boys’ and girls’ dormitories. Exhibits in these side buildings include an introduction to the work of the Historic Preservation Society, which rescued many of Savannah’s most lovely buildings from the wrecking ball of progress, and a tribute to the Creek and Yamacraw people who lived in the region long before the arrival of the Europeans.
Perhaps our favorite section was the old classroom, found on the top floor of the schoolhouse. With old-time desks and chalk slates to write on, this room doesn’t seem to have changed much over the course of the years, and it’s not hard to imagine a group of fidgety kids learning their arithmetic here. In the teacher’s office, at the front of the room, visitors are allowed to ring the school bell, which once called the children in for class.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Massie Heritage Center, but wish we had seen it when we first arrived in the city. It provides an easily-digestible introduction to Savannah, and should be one among your first stops.