From our base in Hilton Head, we took a quick trip to old Savannah. We first jumped on a trolley tour, then walked the city to catch the top spots in and out of the Victorian Historic District and learn a few new tidbits.
For example, Savannah is the 4th busiest seaport in the country. (Any guesses for 1,2 and 3? LA, Long Beach, then NY&NJ). We saw a huge container ship head under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River on our tour while the cranes in the background looked like Star Wars giants.
Savannah was built on a ridge along the river, with an eye on defense. It has a long, fascinating heritage (the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was based on real residents!), dates from 1733, and has earned the title of most beautiful city in the USA. It’s been a home to pirates, had key roles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the first of the Cotton Gin and steamship were built here, plus it’s the home of songwriter Johnny Mercer (Moon River), Flannery O’Connor and Conrad Aiken.
Along River Street is an area known as Factor’s Walk, the original center for cotton trading through the port beginning in 1817. (“Factor” was the name given the men who estimated the amount of cotton in a shipment.) With bottom floors along the river and additional storage warehouses rising up to the cliff behind, the upper floors were accessible by the web of narrow iron pedestrian bridges.
The long wall built along the cliff at the edge of the river was made from the ballast stones discarded from trading ships. It stands as a beautiful mosaic snaking along the river.
This bustling area is now the home to all types of shops and restaurants.
At the northeast end of the riverfront, we passed the Waving Girl Statue. Florence Martus waved a hankie or lantern to greet each and every ship entering and leaving the port for 40 years, until 1943. According to legend, she fell in love with a young sailor and wanted to be there when he returned. Guess hope really can spring eternal…
Currently Paula Deen, and her restaurant, are really big draws here. We opted to eat at a more rustic local haunt–if you make it here, check out Clary’s Cafe. Great food and lemon meringue pie like Mama used to make. Terrific!
Another hot spot is the premiere Savanna College of Art and Design. We saw SCAD mentioned in many of the projects preserving historic areas. It’s ornate brick style was eye catching.
As we toured the city, we learned there is a building COLOR code in the historic district. These two homes sit just across the line and obviously relish the opportunity to flaunt their independence.
The city is laid out in a series of 22 immaculately manicured squares, creating a canopy of spectacular ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss. Most have monuments to Revolutionary or Confederacy heroes and beautiful fountains.
This one, at one end of Forsythe Park was created for performances and has a flat area to encourage kids to gather.
The most famous is probably the Forsyth Park fountain.
We found this was a city of layers, what you see and the history and story beneath. No exception, this beautiful icon of Savannah was originally ordered from the Sears Catalogue and located here in 1854. Sears Catalogue…REALLY?
The Mercer-Williams House is preserved in Monterey Square. The family home of Johnny Mercer, this was the setting for the fact-base novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
And Jim made himself comfortable as Forrest Gump look-alike (remember the Savannah bench scene…Life is like a box of chocolates?)
The Telfair Academy of Arts and Science is housed in the old Telfair Hospital, the original women’s hospital—the only way a male could get inside was to be born there. And then they had to get out in three days.
Great old churches were everywhere. No expansive grounds, they are in the neighborhoods, often on the edges of the Squares.
Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church, first established in 1807, was the first Methodist church in the city. This building was completed in 1890 and patterned after Queen’s Kirk in Amsterdam.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist has a history from the 1700s and the “new” building was dedicated IN 1839. Beautiful inside too.
Mickve Israel, the third oldest Jewish congregation in America, was built in 1876 in neo-Gothic style.
And anyone an old Girl Scout? Savannah was the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.
Great historic homes were everywhere…
The Sorrel-Weed House is another famous example.
The famous Bonnaventure Cemetary, featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is a was the original home of the Bird Girl sculpture and is the final resting place of notables like Mercer and Aiken.
Leaving town, the City Hall building glowed in the afternoon sun.
Crossing the Talmadge Bridge was a perfect way to say say good bye.
Heading back to Hilton Head, we stooped in Bluffton, SC and the Church of the Cross.
As usual, we ended the day at the beach…and found a horseshoe crab, brilliant in the setting sun .
Our favorite time of the day!
Next, we’ll head to historic Charleston as we begin our trip north to Canada.
Hope to catch you next time.