Savannah is a unique city of sorts. With the still-intact Oglethorpe Town Plan, its downtown area is home to numerous picturesque squares that have been abundantly blessed with architectural wonders belonging to the 1700s, 1800s, and the early 1900s.
While it is also home to one of the country’s biggest National Historic Landmark Districts, there are many other amazing aspects to it as well. There are over a dozen historic districts located in the city and the county, with each one of them retaining their own charm and character.
Savannah remains in close contact with its extensive history. It has been a historical preservation & research center since the early 19th century. In 1839, the state of Georgia voted to officially charter the Georgia Historical Society, which had been previously founded by 3 Savannah residents. The headquarters for this society was later set up in Hodgson Hall in Forsyth Park’s northwest corner in 1875.
The Beginnings of Preservation
Savannah’s reputation took a bit of a nosedive during the 1950s. Concerned about this, citizens decided to launch a preservation campaign, which attracted the attention of national media. Anna C. Hunter eventually teamed up with 8 other leading female residents in Savannah to protect the 1820 Davenport House from being destroyed. As a result of this effort, the Historic Savannah Foundation was set up, which has protected numerous old buildings located in this historic district from demolition over the last 50 years.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded a $45000 grant to the historic Lincoln Street community in 2005 to protect the neighborhood residents from being economically displaced due to the increased valuations of renovated properties in the district.
Savannah, GA in the 1990’s
The 90s saw over 50 million tourists visiting Savannah, thanks to the city’s natural beauty, historic district, cultural amenities, and its beautiful portrayal in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, an NYT bestseller by John Berendt, which was later made into a movie and shot in Savannah. The city has been the backdrop of numerous famous movies since the 70s, including Roots (1976), Glory (1989), Forrest Gump (1993), and The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000).
Today’s Top Tourist Spots
Today, tourists pour in from all corners of the country to take in the district’s historic ironwork and elegant architecture, including the Central of Georgia Railway Museum (which is the oldest American antebellum rail facility). Other impressive architectural works include the 3rd oldest American synagogue Congregation Mickve Israel, one of America’s oldest Black Baptist congregations, and one of the earliest public museums in the South – Telfair Museums. Savannah is also home to Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace, who is the founder of the Gil Scouts organization.
There are numerous other structures as well, such as the Wage Earners Savings and Loan Bank building, which was one of the country’s biggest African-American banks and currently home to the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. The Independent Presbyterian Church (constructed 1890); the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (1876) and the Pink House (constructed 1789) are two other Historical must-see buildings.
If you are a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island then visiting the Pirates House (1754) is a must. The Pirates House inspired the old seaman’s lodge from his novel. The Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters and the Telfair Academy were designed by the English architect William Jay between 1818 – 1825.
The Bamboo Farm features over 140 varieties of the bamboo species, is also a prime attraction. The center is operated by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences of the University of Georgia and primarily researches turf and ornamentals while also conducting educational programs for the general public.