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.
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.
Harper-Fowlkes House – Website
Stephen-Williams House Inn – Website
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One interesting house that can be seen from Orleans Square is located at 123 W. Oglethorpe Avenue. It is a three story masonry house built by Samuel Bryant in 1820. It previously occupied a lot across the avenue where presently sits the architecturally controversial Corps of Engineers Building. When the Corps announced plans over 20-25 years ago (tempus fugit), the Lewis family bought the Samuel Bryant house for $5000 conditioned upon their moving of the building intact onto property owned by the family across the street. It was a spectacular event as a renowned company from Key West slowly rolled the building on massive steel rollers west on Oglethorpe, then made a U turn on Barnard and proceeded easterly
to the present location. The cost of the move exceeded $250,000. Not a crack appeared in the building. The building looks as if it has been sitting there for almost 200 years.
Gil,Do you happen to know where I might be able to come across information/photos on this move? I am actually researching the building for a project and I cannot seem to find any information on the moving of the building but I have been informed of it from locals.
Gil speaks of Corps of Engineer building. Isn’t that on Telfair Square, not Orleans?
The Samuel Bryant house is equidistant between the two squares, but slightly east. While standing at Barnard and Hull, the northern part of Orleans, the back of the house is visible across parking lots from Orleans. The Corps building occupies an entire city block bounded by York, Barnard, Whittaker and Oglethorpe.
While it is true that Orleans Sq is presently full of eyesores, that was definately not the case in the nineteenth century (up to 1950). At one time, the Champion McAlpine (Harper Fowlkes) house had the gorgeous company of two of William Jay’s (now demolished) classical Villas, including the Bullock house with its stunning hexastyle circular staircase just inside the front door. Records indicate there were also two additional homes by Charles Clusky and Jay facing the square. This square makes me sad to visit now, since the overall look of the square is such a dimished quality now.