Touring Historic Savannah Georgia
Article by Warren Resen
Pre-Civil War Savannah was called the
most picturesque and serene city in America.
Today it is a reminder of what many consider to have been
the epitome of a society in gentler times as portrayed by
Savannah played a major part in this
country’s history and continues to do so today.
With its public squares and antebellum style homes (some
open for public tours) visitors to this city on Georgia’s
Atlantic Coast might consider it to be little more than a time
capsule of life in the old south before the Civil War. How wrong
A visitor to Savannah should definitely
consider parking the car and setting out on foot to visit this
most walkable city. Better
yet, take a 90 minute narrated tour of all things Savannah on
one of the hop-on-hop–off trolley tours, the best and fastest
way to get acquainted with the city’s history, architecture,
museums, and restaurants. A 90 minute sail on the Savannah River
is also highly recommended featuring sights and history not
obvious on land.
Savannah River Sightseeing
Savannah is a
small, intimate city much in keeping with the plans originally
drawn up by James Oglethorpe. It would not be
unreasonable to refer
to it as an early example of today’s gated communities since it
was surrounded by a stockade fence, had watch towers, and a
guarded entry gate.
Savannah is not a theme park. There is no entry fee nor are
there actors dressed in period garb at every turn. Savannah is a
modern, vibrant city demonstrating what is possible when people
care enough to save history from the wrecking ball of
Stroll along Jones Street considered by many as the most
beautiful residential street in Savannah. Visit the historic
1849 Andrew Low House
on Abercorn Street in which Juliette Low, the founder of the
Girl Scouts of America lived, and learn of its rich history.
Preservation of the
Davenport House on
East State Street, built in the 1820’s, was the catalyst for the
movement of the founding of the Historic Savannah Foundation
bringing about historic preservation of this historic city.
These and many other historic homes are open to visitors.
The history of Georgia and that of Savannah cannot be told
without including the exploits of the Englishman James
Oglethorpe. The Colony of Georgia, founded in 1732 by
Oglethorpe, was to provide a haven from religious prosecution
for Protestants, a way out of debt for some of England's poor,
and creation of a buffer between the French and Spanish for the
Savannah’s beginning was in 1733 when Oglethorpe and 120
passengers from the ship "Anne" landed on a bluff along the
Savannah River. He had with him a plan for the future city
giving Savannah the honor of being called "America's
first planned city.” The Colony of Georgia was named by him in
honor of King George II of England.
laid the city out in a series of grids that allowed for wide
open streets intertwined with shady public squares that served
as town meeting places and centers of business. Savannah had 24
Twenty-two are still in existence.
James Oglethorpe chose Savannah to be the first city in Georgia. He took an unofficial
role as the colony's governor and directed most decisions about
the new colony's local administration and defense and was so
deeply imbedded in the affairs of the city that the settlers
took to calling Oglethorpe "Father."
this bastion of freedom originally banned Catholics, Jews,
slaves, spirits, and lawyers.
Georgia was one of the original 13 original American Colonies
and during the American Revolution, the British captured
Savannah in 1778.
They held it into 1782.
After its independence from British occupation Savannah
flourished and with the wealth brought by cotton residents built
lavish homes here.
With the invention of the
cotton gin on a plantation outside of Savannah, the city rivaled
Charleston as a commercial port. Many of the world's cotton
prices were set on the steps of the Savannah Cotton Exchange
which is still in existence.
The Civil War, also referred to as The
“War of Northern Aggression” or “The Unpleasant Times” by some,
ended for Savannah when it surrendered to Union General William
Tecumseh Sherman on December 21, 1864. Luckily for the world,
General Sherman refrained from burning Savannah to the ground
while moving south on his “March To The Sea” from Atlanta.
He was so impressed by the city’s beauty that he could
not destroy it and on December 22, 1864 sent his famous telegram
to President Abraham Lincoln, offering the city as a Christmas
is living history mirroring this county’s growth from Colonial
Times. Its place in our
history continues on through World War II, highlighted by the
founding of the 8th Air Force, (the Mighty 8th)
in 1942 and the Liberty Ships turned out just south of the
downtown. Today it ranks as the fourth largest containership
port in the United States after California and New York.
Savannah’s port is the most western deep water port anywhere on
the Atlantic Coast.
Actress Marilyn Monroe was a big fan of
Savannah, visiting here whenever she could.
Merchants of the city have returned the favor by
featuring likenesses of Marilyn in some unexpected places like
this famous rendition of her at Savannah’s Market Place in the
Visiting with Marilyn Monroe
Visitors standing on the bank of the
Savannah River can watch massive container ships constantly
moving up and down the river barely a stone’s throw from where
they are standing. Recently
the Port was visited by one of the first new monmouth container
ships to transit the expanded locks of the Panama Canal..
Even the steps are historic
In the olden days of sailing ships,
rocks used for ballast in the ship’s holds were off-loaded and
left behind while cotton, lumber and other goods were on-loaded.
Over time the mounds of rock grew and disposal became a problem
until it was decided to use them for street paving, building
material for retaining walls, and warehouses.
Preservation of Savanna’s past began in
earnest in the 1950’s when citizens banded together to preserve
historic structures threatened by developers. The group formed
the Historic Savannah Foundation, which is credited with saving
the beautiful architecture that is the foundation of Savannah's
charm. This in turn led to the establishment of Savannah's
Historic District which was designated a National Historic
Landmark in 1966. It is one of the largest historic landmarks in
Visiting Savannah and staying in a
lookalike chain motel could be considered sacrilegious. There
are so many unique historical hotels and B&Bs from which to
choose and so much history to absorb when staying local.
RIVER STREET INN
Booking a room at the historic River Street Inn
facing the Savannah
River gave us a perspective about the life on this water highway
we never imagined. Container ships glided past our hotel room
windows day and night giving us front row seats to the parade
and time to view and appreciate these huge ships while taking
some amazing photos of them as they slowly made their way up and
View of Container Ship
from my window
The River Street Inn was built on the
Savannah River in 1817 from ballast stone and was originally a
two-story cotton storage warehouse. In 1853, three more floors
were added to accommodate the expanding cotton industry.
levels of hotel showing ballast stone construction
Today the upper stories feature 86 guest
rooms furnished with period pieces but with all modern
provide guests with views of the Savannah River to the north and
Savannah’s Historic District to the south. Lower floors house
restaurants, pubs, and meeting rooms.
The River Street Inn is in the center of
Savannah’s Historic Riverfront Plaza within easy walking
distance of museums, galleries, shops, land and water tours and
everything that makes Savannah the unique gem that it is. The hotel is a member of the
Hotels of America.
Nighttime favorite on River
Savannah’s Chamber of Commerce claims
that “in the last 10 years more than 50 million people came to
visit the city, drawn by its elegant architecture, ornate
ironwork, fountains and green squares, and magnificent centuries
old oak trees. Savannah's beauty is rivaled only by the city's
reputation for hospitality and has become one of the country's
most popular vacation spots.”
Visit the web sites of the City of
Savannah, the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitor’s
Bureau, and the River Street Inn to start your tour of this most
delightful of cities.