Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Savannah-area attractions. Skirting major damage in
the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War and persevering through both
Reconstruction and the economic wrench of King Cotton's demise, Savannah brims with southern
cultural allure, drawing throngs in search of history, art, architecture and tradition,
with emphasis on great houses, black heritage, ghosts and the Civil War era. Margaret
Mitchell's “gently mannered city by the sea,” as described in Gone With The Wind, also
draws those seeking locales within the bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,
depicting house-proud Savannah as an eccentric grande dame truly emerging well after dark,
in clubs and mansions where lust and libations interspersed with a touch of voodoo churn
away until sun-up. The inspiration for Hard-Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah does
indeed feature an eclectic mix of nocturnal attractions from jazz and blues, cigar bars,
salsa clubs, to piano bars, big on tunes written by Savannah's son Johnny Mercer, songs
like Moon River and Autumn Leaves. Other amusements include sunny afternoons on Tybee Island's
tranquil beach, deep sea fishing, golf or exploration of the riverfront and area fortifications.
In 2002, Savannah tourism promoters decided to officially brand Savannah as
“Georgia's First City,'' given that it became the first city in the state after
Gen. James Oglethorpe founded the southernmost English colony with 120 settlers
on high ground above Savannah River. Billed as First in Fare (for the food);
First in Follies (for a blossoming calendar of events and festivals) and First
in Earthly Delights (acknowledging a reputation for indulgence), Savannah boasts
quite a line-up of other firsts: America's first Sunday school, founded in 1736;
America's first orphanage in 1780; America's first black Baptist congregation in
1788 and America's first golf course in 1796. John Wesley (founder of Methodism
and minister of Savannah's Christ Church) wrote a hymn book that became the first
hymnal used in the Church of England. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin at Mulberry Plantation,
and it was here that Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America. Savannah delights
as a walking city, with vehicles not really necessary for exploration, except for excursions
to outlying forts and beaches.
Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Savannah Metropolitan Area,
with links to more details when available.
- The 24th Infantry Division/Fort Stewart Museum
The Fort Stewart Museum has the largest collection of captured Iraqi weapons and equipment in the nation along with exhibits of division and post war-related roles.
Wilson Avenue and Utility Street, in Building 814, at Fort Stewart. (912) 767-7885
- Andrew Low House
Built for Andrew Low around 1848, guests have included Gen. Robert E. Lee. It was here in 1912 that Juliette Gordon Low organized America's first Girl Scout troop. The house stayed in the family until her death in 1927, and was then acquired by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America as a Georgia headquarters.
329 Abercorn Street. (912) 233-6854
- Chatham County Jail
Erected in 1887, Chatham County's four-story jail ranked among the east's most humane, with inmates divided by gender in well-ventilated blocks. It had 118 cells, an infirmary, and an attached external crime lab. A 93-foot clock tower was surmounted with a Byzantine-style dome, although a fire resulted in a new tower with a Moorish dome. Inmates were first locked up in 1888 and the prison remained active until 1976 when a larger jail was built on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Vagrants took over the old jail until 1986 when it was donated as a preservation project to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Renamed Habersham Hall, the crime lab has been replaced by a parking lot, but the tower still marks the skyline.
235 Habersham Street.
- Civil Rights Museum
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum showcases Savannah's dynamic role in progress. The museum is named after the late Dr. Gilbert, serving for 16 years as pastor of the historic First African Baptist Church on Franklin Square. He spearheaded formation of the colored USO/YMCA with an integrated board of directors, the Greenbriar Children Center (an orphanage for black girls), and the political Citizens Democratic Club. He also reorganized the Savannah branch of the NAACP, served as president for eight years, and helped make sure some of the first black policemen in the deep South were hired by the Savannah P.D. in 1947.
460 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (912) 231-8900
- Cotton Exchange
When Savannah reigned as the world's leading cotton port, locals dubbed the Cotton Exchange as “King Cotton's Palace,” a testament to city wealth reaped from the lucrative white fluff. Established in 1872, the Cotton Exchange's permanent home wasn't erected until 1876 because directors insisted that (despite lack of available land) only a site on Bay Street in the port district heart would do. Georgia's General Assembly was successfully petitioned for air rights to construct a building above the Drayton Street slip. The red brick Queen Anne-style building, by architect William Gibbons Preston, is notable for stubby pilasters, intricate classical detailing, low relief decorative terra cotta work and steep gables.
100 East Bay Street, on Factors Walk.
- Davenport House
Constructed circa 1815-1820 by master builder Isaiah Davenport, the residence has a spiraling, open-well, cantilevered staircase and ranks as one of the great Georgian houses of America. By the 1930s, its interior had been cut up into apartments. Earmarked for demolition in 1955, the house was saved by the Historic Savannah Foundation Inc. and restored to reflect middle-class living of the 1820s. Its garden was created and maintained by the Trustees Garden Club.
324 East State Street.
- Factors Walk
Noted for iron bridges, Factors Walk is a historic walk spanning Bay Street to River Street, and many of the 19th century buildings once housed offices where cotton merchants (called factors) transacted business. Streets, now lined with shops, restaurants and night spots, are paved with cobblestones brought as ballast by early sailing ships.
- Flannery O'Connor House
This was the childhood home for Savannah-born (Mary) Flannery O'Connor, author of short story collections such as A Good Man is Hard to Find, And Other Stories (1955), and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). Her first novel, Wise Blood (1952), explored, in O'Connor's words, the "religious consciousness without a religion." Its ear for common speech, caustic religious imagination, and flair for the absurd characterized her subsequent work. O'Connor's father succumbed to Lupus, and a 10-year struggle with the disease also proved fatal for O'Connor, living modestly writing and raising peafowl on her mother's ancestral farm in Milledgeville until death, at age 39, in 1964. The three-story home features restored and refurbished parlor-level rooms as well as photos and mementos of O'Connor.
207 East Charlton Street. (912) 233-6014
- Fort McAllister State Historic Park
On the Great Ogeechee River's south bank, this park acreage of live oaks and salt marsh is home of the best preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy. The fort's sand and mud earthworks were attacked seven times by Union ironclads, but held until captured in 1864 during Sherman's March to the Sea. A Civil War museum has a historical movie and the park provides for picnics, hiking, fishing, and camping.
Nine miles east of Richmond Hill. (912) 727-2339
- Fort Pulaski National Monument
General Robert E. Lee was an engineer on construction of this coastal fort. In 1862, defense strategy changed worldwide when Union rifled canon first overcame a masonry fortification. Although the success of this experiment surprised military strategists, accuracy and range of the rifled cannon rendered brick fortifications obsolete. After capturing the fort, Union Maj. Gen. David Hunter ordered release of area slaves. Many were recruited into the Union Army's First South Carolina Colored Regiment. The park, where moss drapes from trees and vegetation includes cabbage palms and various wetland grasses, has a visitor center, book store, exhibits, programs, picnic area and trails.
Highway 80 East heading for Tybee Island. (912) 786-5787
- Green-Meldrim House
Erected in 1850 for prominent lawyer Charles Green, eager to show off his wealth on high-profile Madison Square, the Green-Meldrim House is regarded as a rare example of a Gothic Revival house within urban context. Architectural details include cast iron oriel windows, crenellation of the roofline and stone hooding around windows. Green's taste for opulence is reflected in a pair of fireplace mantles of Carrara marble with custom-made mirrors from Austria. In 1864, Gen. William “War is Hell” Sherman used the house as his headquarters, and it was from here that he sent Abraham Lincoln the famed telegram announcing Savannah as his Christmas gift to the White House. After being owned by only two families, the Greens and the Meldrims, the house was sold to John's Episcopal Church in 1943. Open to the public, it also is a parish house.
14 West Macon Street.
- Hamilton Turner Museum
Once a magnet on the Savannah social circuit, this residence is referred to as the Odom party house where “Mandy” lives in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Apart from guided tours of the house, walking tours of the downtown historic district start at the house and ghost tours take place from here on Fridays and Saturdays at around 8:30 p.m.
330 Abercorn Street. (912) 233-4800
- Henry Street School
Serving as one of Savannah's most imposing examples of Queen Anne architecture, the three-story Henry Street School was built in 1892 to handle the influx of students from the city's newest wards south of Forsyth Park, which is today's Victorian District. The red brick, terra cotta and limestone building's main entrance has been interpreted as a triumphal arch, glorifying education offered within. Serving as an elementary school for K-8 except for a while in the early 1900s when it was a junior high, it closed as a public school in 1975. The Savannah College of Art and Design acquired the building in 1986, and it is now called Henry Hall.
115 West Henry Street.
- Historic and Victorian Districts
The Historic District, a feast of Spanish moss-draped trees, cobblestone streets and flower bedecked entranceways, encompasses the original city, now a city within a city about 20 blocks long and a dozen more wide. It is laid out in a grid of separately named squares with 21 of Oglethorpe's original 24 still going strong. The Victorian District, Savannah's first suburb, is just south, with wood frame houses dating from the 1870s and 1880s in a mix of Victorian styles and architecture and the Victorian Telfair Hospital on Park Avenue.
Historic District, bounded by Savannah River, East/West Broad and Jones streets.
Victorian District, bounded by Gwinnett Street, Anderson Street and lines just beyond Montgomery Street and Price Street.
- Historic Railroad Shops
Just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near the Visitors Center is a 130-ton diesel locomotive on a turntable with the roundhouse. Savannah's Historic Railroad Shops – a National Historic Landmark -- are the nation's oldest, most complete antebellum railroad manufacturing and repair facilities still in existence. Construction by the Central of Georgia Railway started in 1845, and 13 of the structures still stand. The Roundhouse Railroad Museum's permanent exhibits include steam engines, belt-driven machinery, locomotives and rolling stock.
- Hodgson Hall
Headquarters of the Georgia Historical Society, Hodgson Hall was built in 1874-75 as a memorial to scholar William Brown Hodgson. A priceless collection of historical documents within serves as the font for most research on Savannah.
501 Whitaker Street.
- John P. Rousakis Riverfront Plaza
This multi-million dollar restoration has preserved and stabilized the historic waterfront with atmospheric charm. The nine-block brick concourse is ideal for strolling, picnicking and ship watching. More than 75 boutiques, galleries, artist studios, restaurants and pubs are sheltered in restored, renovated cotton warehouses. First Saturday Festivals are staged each month.
- Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace
Birthplace of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, known as “Daisy,” this house built in 1821 is in the heart of the Savannah Historic District and has been elegantly restored to reflect the 1880s with many Gordon family pieces, including Juliette's artwork. Guided tours provide a taste of Victorian family life at the Wayne-Gordon house, notable for stylish Egyptian Revival and classical details. Originally owned by Savannah Mayor James Moore Wayne (who later became an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), in 1831 he sold the house to Juliette Low's grandfather. The Girls Scouts of the USA bought the house from the Gordon family in 1953, turning it into a museum.
Corner of Bull Street and Oglethorpe Avenue. (912) 233-4501
- King-Tisdell Cottage
Intricate gingerbread ornamentation on the porch and dormers are hallmarks of this cottage built in 1896. The museum displays art objects and documents relating to black American history, and furnishings represent the type of furniture typical to a Savannah coastal black residents of the 1800s.
514 East Huntington Street.
- Mercer House
On Monterey Square, this Italianate mansion is the centerpiece for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, providing the setting for Jim Williams' Christmas parties. It also was the shooting death scene of his assistant, with Williams tried four times before acquittal. The house already had a violent history, according to Williams. As the story goes, in 1913 a former resident had tripped on the stairs, fracturing a hip and suffering a concussion that proved fatal, while in the 1960s a boy met his demise while chasing pigeons and slipping off the roof to impale himself on iron fencing below.
429 Bull Street.
- Mighty 8th Air Force Heritage Museum
This 90,000 square foot facility honors the more than one million men and women serving in the 8th Air Force, established in Savannah in 1942. Features include a 100,000 volume capacity library, archives, memorial gardens, an art gallery, meeting and study rooms, a gift shop and snack bar.
Intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. 80 (Exit 18).
- Mulberry Grove, Home of the Cotton Gin
At Mulberry Grove on a bluff overlooking the river, Mulberry Plantation stood for nearly a century until torched by Union troops. Remaining are big, moss-covered chunks of brick and mortar. The site is not presently open to the public, although that will change if the Mulberry Grove Plantation Foundation, working to resurrect the plantation house, has anything to do with it. Mulberry (Oglethorpe had named this outpost Joseph Town) is where Eli Whitney arrived in 1793 as a plantation tutor, moonlighting on the side to perfect the mechanical gin for taming raw cotton. Seized by Georgia as a Loyalist property, hosting President George Washington during his southern tour, and changing hands over and over since 1733, Mulberry in 1986 was part of a 2,200-acre parcel bought by the Georgia Ports Authority. Since then, the Foundation has developed its restoration plan with backing from Augusta's Barry Whitney (fifth cousin to Eli Whitney four times removed); John Berendt (author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil); Savannah's Richard Glendinning (seventh-generation descendant of Revolutionary War hero and plantation resident Nathanael Greene). In 1999, Mulberry got the nod for membership in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while the GPA was authorizing selective logging on the property. In 2000, a Foreign Trade Zone application was filed with the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking to include Mulberry Grove property. In 2001, Mulberry was looted by relic collectors. After much public ado, the FTZ application was amended to remove a portion of Mulberry. Since then, a landfill company has applied to rezone of Oak Grove, north of Mulberry Grove, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service wants to expand the Savannah Wildlife Refuge by obtaining Mulberry Grove and the adjacent Drakie Plantation. The vision includes a visitors center off Highway 21, if the GPA can be persuaded to sell. Preservationists hope this rich piece of Savannah history can be salvaged before it gets paved over and forgotten.
Port Wentworth, off Georgia Highway 21.
- Old Fort Jackson
Part of the chain of nine forts built along the Savannah River, Old Fort Jackson was constructed in 1808 and occupied during the War of 1812 and again by the Confederates during the Civil War. It has a maritime museum and often provides “blast sound” demos from a 32-pound cannon, the largest black powder cannon still fired in America.
One Jackson Road. (912) 232-3945
- Owens-Thomas House and Museum
Designed by 24-year-old architect William Jay and completed in 1819 for cotton merchant Richard Richardson and his wife Francis Bolton (Jay's sister-in-law), the Richardsons soon lost the home in the 1820 depression. After a stint as an elegant boarding house – Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette delivered his two Savannah addresses from the home's south side cast iron balcony -- George Welchman Owens bought the home for $10,000 in 1830. It remained the Owens family until his granddaughter Margaret Thomas bequeathed it to what is now the Telfair Museum of Art, which has a gift shop.
124 Abercorn Street. (912) 233-9743.
- Savannah City Market
Restored shops, restaurants, studio/art galleries, and taverns are on the site of the old City Market that was demolished in the 1950s. Destruction of the Old City market spurred foundation of the Historic Savannah Society.
West St. Julian Street.
- Savannah History Museum at the Visitors Center
Situated on the site of a famous Revolutionary War battle, the 1779 Siege of Savannah, this 20,000 square foot museum covers history of Savannah from its founding by James Oglethorpe in 1733.
301 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (912) 238-1779
- Savannah River
Water is an indelible part of Savannah's history, and assorted riverboats including the Georgia Queen and the River Queen offer afternoon or evening sojourns on the Savannah River past landmarks and other point of intrigue.
The River Street Riverboat Company. (800) 786-6404, (912) 232—6404
- The Savannah Theatre
Built by eminent architect William Jay, the Savannah Theatre is the nation's oldest theater in continuing operation. After debuting in 1818 with a comedy production, Soldiers Daughter, and a farce, Raising the Wind, the theater was granted a perpetual charter in 1838. It has burned several times over the years, but has been rebuilt and reopened successfully each time, including a conversion for motion picture presentations, and parts of the rear wall still contain bricks and foundation of the 1818 theatre. A prime example of the 1940s Art Deco movie venues, the 452-seat theatre, long held by the Weis family, was sold in 1981 to The Little Theatre of Savannah, now operating as The Savannah Theatre Company to match its historic home.
222 Bull Street. (912) 233-7765
- Scarbrough House
Designed by William Jay and built for wealthy merchant William Scarbrough in 1819, this house became a National Historic Landmark in 1974. Scarbrough was a principal investor in the SS Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, and he hosted President James Monroe on the occasion of the maiden voyage. Grounds include the largest garden within the historic district. Visitors often arrive by walking along a fig-covered wall to the garden gate. Housed within Scarbrough House is the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, with a large collection of models and maritime artifacts on display.
41 West Broad Street. (912) 232-1511
- Telfair Mansion and Museum
Paintings, prints, sculpture and decorative arts are housed in the Telfair Mansion, built in 1818-1819 for Alexander Telfair, son of Georgia Governor Edward Telfair. In 1875, the home and furnishings were bequeathed by Mary Telfair to the Georgia Historical Society for a museum.
121 Barnard Street. (912) 232-1177
- Temple Mickve Israel
As the third oldest synagogue in the U.S., it was consecrated in 1878. This temple is the nation's only purely Gothic Revival synagogue.
On Monterey Square, across from Mercer House.
- Tybee Island Lighthouse, Museum and More
The circa 1773 Tybee Lighthouse is the nation's oldest active lighthouse, and has exhibits, a gift shop and a great view. The museum, in the Battery Garland of Fort Screven, has military and resort history. Tybee ( "salt" to Native Americans) is a low-key seaside barrier island resort 18 miles east of Savannah, boasting a wide, 3-mile long beach backed by sea oat-covered sand dunes. The south-end pier and pavilion is prime for strolling above the ocean and listening to live band music. Tybee has its share of colorful local characters along with a range of restaurants and accommodations, from hotels, motels, and luxurious condos to quaint inns and cottages.
U.S. 80, east on Tybee Island. (912) 786-5801
- U.S. Customs House
Constructed in 1852 by John Norris, the structure is noted for its Greek Revival style and six monolithic granite columns. Across the street stand cannons presented to Chatham Artillery in 1791 by George Washington.
At Bay and Bull streets.
- Vietnam Memorial
Dedicated on June 29, 1991, the City of Savannah and Chatham County Vietnam Veterans Memorial design and layout is in the shape of Vietnam. Names of the 106 who died from Greater Savannah are engraved in marble. At the apex is a salute to fallen comrades with rifle, helmet and combat boots.
Emmet Park on Bay Street.
- Washington Guns
A pair of bronze cannons, taken at Yorktown, were presented to the Chatham artillery as a “bread and butter” gift by George Washington when he stopped by Savannah in May, 1791.
On Bay Street, between Drayton and Bull streets.
- Wormsloe Historic Site
Ruins are all that remain of a colonial fortified home built by Noble Jones, an English physician and carpenter. Jones came to Savannah with James Oglethorpe in 1733 and commanded a company of Marines charged with Georgia's coastal defense. As all colonists, Jones received a town lot in Savannah and land. By 1736 he requested and received the lease of 500 acres on the Isle of Hope, about 10 miles south of Savannah. He dug a well and began construction of a fortified house facing the Skidaway Narrows on the land he called "Wormslow." Wormsloe is the only surviving remains in Savannah from the Oglethorpe years. A museum and picnic facilities are near the trail to the ruins.
7601 Skidaway Road. (912) 353-3024