Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important Atlantic seaport. It is Georgia’s fourth largest city and third largest metropolitan area.
Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors, who enjoy the city’s architecture and historic buildings: the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low (founder of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America), the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (one of the South’s first public museums), the First African Baptist Church (one of the oldest African American Baptist congregations in the United States), Temple Mickve Israel (the third oldest synagogue in America), and the Central of Georgia Railway roundhouse complex (the oldest standing antebellum rail facility in America).
Savannah’s downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District and 22 parklike squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States (designated by the U.S. government in 1966). Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
Beyond its architectural significance as being the nation’s largest, historically restored urban area, the City of Savannah has a rich and growing performing arts scene, offering cultural events throughout the year. Savannah’s cultural events includes the Savannah Music Festival, Savannah Children’s Theatre, Savannah SketchCrawl, Savannah Dance Theater, The Savannah Film Festival and the Savannah Jazz Festival. Savannah has also long been famous and recorded on film for television and movies. Home of the television show Ruby and often featured in Paula Deen’s cooking shows, Savannah has become known on TV. Many highly regarded movies have been filmed here including Glory, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Conspirator and Forrest Gump. Tours of film sites are available daily for tours, as are haunted ghost tours.
Savannah Points of Interest-
Savannah’s architecture and history are internationally known, as is its reputation for Southern charm and hospitality; for example, the city’s former promotional name was “Hostess City of the South,” a phrase still used by the city government. An earlier nickname was “the Forest City”, in reference to the large population and species of oak trees that flourish in the Savannah area. These trees were especially valuable in shipbuilding during the 19th century. Each year, Savannah attracts millions of visitors from across the country and around the world. Savannah’s downtown area is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States.
The city’s location offers visitors access to the coastal islands and the Savannah Riverfront, both popular tourist destinations. Tybee Island, formerly known as “Savannah Beach”, is the site of the Tybee Island Light Station, the first lighthouse on the southern Atlantic coast. Other picturesque towns adjacent to Savannah include the shrimping village of Thunderbolt and three residential areas that began as summer resort communities for Savannahians: Beaulieu, Vernonburg and the Isle of Hope.
The Savannah International Trade and Convention Center is located on Hutchinson Island, across from downtown Savannah and surrounded by the Savannah River. The Belles Ferry connects the island with the mainland, as does the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge.
The Savannah Civic Center is located on Montgomery Street and is host to over 900 events each year, including the Southern Home and Garden Show, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus and the Savannah Tire Hockey Classic.
Savannah’s historic district has 22 squares (Ellis Square, demolished in 1954, was fully restored in early 2010). The squares vary in size and personality, from the formal fountain and monuments of the largest, Johnson, to the playgrounds of the smallest, Crawford. Elbert, Ellis, and Liberty Squares are classified as the three “lost squares,” destroyed in the course of urban development during the 1950s. Elbert and Liberty Squares were paved over to make way for a realignment of U.S. highway 17, while Ellis Square was demolished to build the City Market parking garage. The city restored Ellis Square after razing the City Market parking garage. The garage has been rebuilt as an underground facility, the Whitaker Street Parking Garage, and it opened in January 2009. The newly restored Ellis Square opened in March 2010. Separate efforts are now under way to revive Elbert and Liberty Squares.
Historic Churches –
Savannah is home to a number of historic houses of worship. Founded in 1733, with the establishment of the Georgia colony, Christ Church is the longest continuous Christian congregation in Georgia.Early rectors include the Methodist evangelists John Wesley and George Whitefield. Located on the original site on Johnson Square, Christ Church continues as an active congregation. The First Bryan Baptist Church is an African-American church that was organized by Andrew Bryan in 1788. The site was purchased in 1793 by Bryan, a former slave who had also purchased his freedom. The first structure was erected there in 1794. By 1800 the congregation was large enough to split: those at Bryan Street took the name of First African Baptist Church, and Second and Third African Baptist churches were also established. The current sanctuary of First Bryan Baptist Church was constructed in 1873. In 1832, a controversy over doctrine caused the First African Baptist congregation at Bryan Street to split. Some members left, taking with them the name of First African Baptist Church. In 1859, the members of this new congregation (most of whom were slaves) built their current church building on Franklin Square. The oldest standing house of worship is First Baptist Church, Savannah (1833), located on Chippewa Square. Also located near Chippewa Square is the Independent Presbyterian Church, which was founded in 1775. Other historic houses of worship in Savannah include: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Roman Catholic), Temple Mickve Israel (the third oldest synagogue in the U.S.), and St. John’s Church (Episcopal).
Historic Homes and Sites –
Among the historic homes that have been preserved are: the Pink House, the Sorrel Weed House, Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace, the Green-Meldrim House, the Owens-Thomas House, the William Scarbrough House, and the Wormsloe plantation of Noble Jones. The Mercer-Williams House, the former home of Jim Williams, is the main location of the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Colonial Park Cemetery (an early graveyard dating back to the English colony of Georgia), Laurel Grove Cemetery (with the graves of many Confederate soldiers and African American slaves) and Bonaventure Cemetery (a former plantation and the final resting place for some illustrious Savannahians). Other famous monuments include: Fort Jackson — near the historic district and Fort Pulaski National Monument — 17 miles (27 km) east of Savannah via the Islands Expressway. Other famous sites around town include: City Hall, Savannah Historic District and the Savannah Victorian Historic District, Forsyth Park, Juliette Gordon Low Historic District, Central of Georgia Railroad: Savannah Shops and Terminal Facilities and Central of Georgia Depot and Trainshed. The trainyard is a 33.2-acre (134,000 m2) historic district that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Riverfront Plaza and Factors’ Walk is River Street’s restored nineteenth-century cotton warehouses and passageways include shops, bars and restaurants. City Market is Savannah’s restored central market features antiques, souvenirs, small eateries, as well as two large outdoor plazas. Savannah State University campus and Walter Bernard Hill Hall — The Georgia Historical Commission and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources have recognized both the Savannah State campus and Hill Hall as a part of the Georgia Historical Marker Program. Hill Hall, which was built in 1901, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Telfair Museum of Art and Telfair Academy of Arts of Sciences — the South’s first public art museum. Many parks and state preserves exist such Bamboo Farm and Coastal Gardens, Ossabaw Island and the Ogeechee Canals. Pinkie Masters Bar which has been the site of presidential visits and political aspiration is downtown. Pinkie Masters (a local political figure) was a friend of President Jimmy Carter, who made several visits to the bar and the city. A recent edition tot he area is The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.
Savannah has historical entertainment areas such as Club One, home of The Lady Chablis made famous in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Pirates’ House, a historic restaurant and tavern located in downtown Savannah, has famous smuggling tunnels, long though to be the inspiration of Treasure Island’s scenes. Annually Savannah holds celebrations in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. The actual parade route changes from year to year but usually travels through Savannah’s Historic Park District, along Bay Street and is famously the second longest on the Eastern US coast. The Savannah Waterfront Association has many celebrations on Historic River Street that are reminiscent of Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Oatland Island Education Center is facility owned and operated by the Board of Education; it is a place to see animals that are or were found in this region. Tybee Island is a thriving, popular coastal city with public beaches and attractions.
Savannah has four colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and professional or doctorate degree programs: Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah State University, and South University. In addition, Georgia Tech Savannah offers engineering degrees, and Georgia Southern University has a satellite campus in the downtown area. Savannah Technical College, a two-year technical institution, and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, a marine science research institute located on the northern end of Skidaway Island, offer educational programs as well. Savannah is also the location of Ralston College, a liberal arts college founded in 2010.
Mercer University began a four-year doctor of medicine program in August 2008 at Memorial University Medical Center. Mercer, with its main campus in Macon, received additional state funding in 2007 to expand its existing partnership with Memorial by establishing a four-year medical school in Savannah (the first in southern Georgia). Third- and fourth-year Mercer students have completed two-year clinical rotations at Memorial since 1996; approximately 100 residents are trained each year in a number of specialties. The expanded program opened in August 2008 with 30 first-year students. Savannah is also home to most of the public schools in the Chatham County public school system, the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools.