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.
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.
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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In the same block as the Cathedral is St. Vincent’s Academy, a Catholic girls school founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Mercy. During the Civil War, the daughters of Jefferson Davis, president of the CSA, attended school at St. Vincent’s. At one time, St. Vincent’s operated a co-ed kindergarten which I attended which is more hysterical than historical. In the 60s, Dad owned a building two doors down from the O’Connor home. Later in life, my parents lived at the Lafeyette Condominium building which was the old Bell South building.
I’ve lived in Savannah most of my life and I still can’t keep the names of the
squares straight. There appears to be no correlation with monuments present in the square and the name of the square.
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My very fave square; thanks for covering it. I want to live in the Lafayette Apartments!
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