Historic Beauty, Culture, and Charm: The Squares of the Savannah Historic District
What comes to mind when you think about Savannah, Georgia? Spanish moss? Southern hospitality? Historic beauty and charm? All of these and more are aspects of Savannah’s unique culture and heritage.
The Savannah historic district offers countless examples of the city’s culture and charm, from parks to architecture to good ol’ southern comfort food,visitors can find many different ways to enjoy all that the city has to offer. Perhaps better than any other aspect of the city, however, a stroll through some of Savannah’s many historic squares shows the personality, history, and intrigue of this southern gem. With 22 of these corners of culture and natural beauty honoring notable people of the past and representing at least 7 nationalities and people groups, it would take weeks to take in all of Savannah’s green spaces, so here’s a quick guide to the four Savannah “mini-parks” you cannot miss.
The first and largest of the 22, Johnson Square is named for Robert Johnson, colonial governor of South Carolina. Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene is also interred here with his son George Washington Greene. An obelisk at the center of the square commemorates the Greenes, though the funds to write the inscription were unavailable until 1886. Johnson square also contains two fountains and a bronze sundial set atop a marble base that features a 1734 map of Savannah. The Johnson Square Business Center, Savannah’s first “skyscraper” built in 1911, also resides in the square, marking this area as the city’s financial district.
Lower New Square, laid out in 1734, was later renamed for Captain John Reynolds. Although he served as the governor of Georgia in the 1750s, he was an extremely unpopular figure. Georgians claim that the only celebration that rivaled his arrival in the colony was the party held upon his departure. The square more prominently celebrates John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, with a bronze statue situated where his home is said to have been. Wesley started the first Sunday School in America and broke with tradition by teaching Native Americans outside – angering other leaders who held that the Bible should only be taught inside a church building.
Franklin Square was added to the city’s original layout in 1790 and named for Benjamin Franklin immediately after his death. He had served as an agent for Georgia from 1768 to 1778. The square previously held a 40-foot water tower, after the previous well system had been overwhelmed by the rising population in the Savannah historic district. Dismantled in 1935 to make way for US Highway 17, the square was restored in the 1980s and now includes a memorial honoring the Haitian volunteers who served during the Siege of Savannah.
Laid out in 1851, significantly later than the other squares featured here, Calhoun Square was named for the extremely popular South Carolina Statesman, John C. Calhoun, who served as Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and Vice President under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. It is a definite must-see as it is the only square in Savannah with all of its original buildings intact.
Created in 1837, Lafayette Square was named for the Marquis de Lafayette, the young Frenchman whose vision for an independent United States equaled that of his friend and fellow revolutionary war militant, George Washington.He passed through Savannah in 1825 to a hearty greeting from our grateful residents. The Nathanael Greene monument in Johnson Square was dedicated by Lafayette himself.
Surrounded by historical buildings, our favorite is of course the Hamilton-Turner House at 330 Abercorn which we’ve carefully restored to its original 1873 glory.
Other famous squares include Chippewa Square (of Forrest Gump fame), Ellis Square adjacent to the popular City Market, Oglethorpe and Pulaski squares honoring the heroes of Savannah’s past.
It is not hard to see why visitors and locals alike rate Savannah, Georgia as one of the most intriguing historical locations in the southeast. These four squares alone honor seven individuals and the Haitian volunteers while the 18 other gorgeous squares pay homage to a surprising array of different cultures and peoples. The Chippewa tribe is honored alongside european and Irish figures, US Presidents and military personalities. Nowhere is the charm, beauty, culture, and historic value of the southeastern region of the United States more clearly displayed than the Savannah historic district with it’s variety of intriguing places to explore, photograph or just relax in.